Tuesday, March 31, 2015

$5 million for text messages, programming

The U.S. government on March 27 awarded $654,726 to the Maryland company that designed and operates Piramideo, a social network aimed at sending millions of text messages to Cuba.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors has paid Washington Software a total of $5,058,354.92 since July 1, 2011.
The BBG, which oversees the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, hired the company to send email and text messages to Cuba.
See graphic.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Going to the mat for Charlie Hill

Jason Flores-Williams
Defense lawyer Jason Flores-Williams plans to travel to Cuba this week to meet his new client, Charlie Hill, a former New Afrika militant accused, along with two others, in the 1971 shooting of a New Mexico patrolman.
In December, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez wrote a letter calling Hill a "cop killer" and member of a "terrorist group" and demanding that U.S. authorities press for his extradition from Cuba.
Flores-Williams said the governor used "every damning buzz word available to appeal to the forces of law and order, which also happens to be her political base." She politicized and prejudiced Hill's case and violated his constitutional rights, the defense lawyer said.
Flores-Williams said he's fighting on "the side of democracy justice and our constitution," but his decision to take the case has not been popular.
He said he's gotten a stream of harassing phone calls, including one from a man who said:
Why don’t you go fuck yourself you scuzzball piece of shit….
The defense lawyer replied:
Does this mean you want to retain my services?
See below for more from my interview with Flores-Williams:

Why did you decide to represent Charlie Hill? Why is his case important to you?
The forces that control the past, control the future….Susana Martinez’s letter to Holder and Kerry wasn’t just about the law, but demonizing the 1960’s and the social justice movements that have ultimately enabled a person like her to be elected Governor of our State.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

USAID's delicate secrets

USAID regrets delay
In 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced a multimillion-dollar Cuba project called “Creating Networks and Empowering Communities," or CNECT.
Contractors hoping to run the program submitted proposals to USAID. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the proposals in March 2011.
Months later, USAID released a heavily redacted 33-page document that revealed little information about the project, not even the name of the winning contractor.
I appealed the ruling.
Now, four years later, USAID has denied my appeal.
Luis F. Garcia
In a March 18 letter, Luis F. Garcia, acting director for USAID's Office of Management Services, rejected my appeal and described public interest in the disclosure of such information as "minimal."
In my 2011 appeal, I wrote that USAID had refused to say who submitted the winning proposal even though the name of the contractor - Loyola University - was clearly visible in publicly available contract records.
Garcia said I failed to prove that. After reading his letter, it dawned on me: There was a second CNECT contract. And it doesn't show up in publicly available contract records.
USAID, as far as I can tell, is keeping the contractor's identity secret.
Garcia cited several reasons why the information was withheld. Documents, he said, were redacted to protect "confidential commercial information."
He said release of contractors' names could lead to the identity of employees working in Cuba and that could violate their right to privacy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

U.S. blacklist targeting Cubans shrinks

Dozens of individuals and companies once banned from doing business with the U.S. government have been removed from the blacklist, the Office of Foreign Assets Control announced Tuesday.

The list of those entities removed from the list is below:

ABASTECEDORA NAVAL Y INDUSTRIAL, S.A. (a.k.a. ANAINSA), Panama [CUBA].

ANAINSA (a.k.a. ABASTECEDORA NAVAL Y INDUSTRIAL, S.A.), Panama [CUBA].

ABDELNUR, Nury de Jesus, Panama (individual) [CUBA].

AGENCIA DE VIAJES GUAMA (a.k.a. GUAMA TOUR; a.k.a. GUAMATUR, S.A.; a.k.a. VIAJES GUAMA TOURS), Bal Harbour Shopping Center, Via Italia, Panama City, Panama [CUBA].

VIAJES GUAMA TOURS (a.k.a. AGENCIA DE VIAJES GUAMA; a.k.a. GUAMA TOUR; a.k.a. GUAMATUR, S.A.), Bal Harbour Shopping Center, Via Italia, Panama City, Panama [CUBA].

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pan caliente: Cuba summit sells out

MarketSite Tower
Assistant Secretary of State Roberta S. Jacobson is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at Cuba Opportunity Summit in New York City on April 1.
The event is sold out, but organizers are trying to increase capacity and have set up a waiting list.
Standard registration went for $1,495 per person and on-site registration was $1,695.
The summit will take place at MarketSite Tower in Times Square. Organizers planned the event after the U.S. and Cuba in December announced the renewal of diplomatic ties. The summit website states:
What will this historic change mean for economic relations between the U.S. and Cuba? What opportunities — and risks — should American companies consider as they explore the business potential of one of the largest markets in the Caribbean?
In order to answer these questions, Knowledge@Wharton in partnership with The Lauder Institute and Momentum will bring together the leading business, political, policy and legal experts who have real-world experience with the Cuban economy and government with renown thought leaders from the world’s leading business school, Wharton at the Cuba Opportunity Summit on April 1.
Other speakers include:
  • Stefan M. Selig, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade
, U.S. Department of Commerce
  • Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator, Small Business Administration

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

ATM Interactive

Screenshot showing how to drill down to see underlying data
I've been experimenting with new ways to display data. As part of that effort, I created a new site called ATM Interactive, where I'll post interactive visual graphics that make it easier to see and understand where the money goes.
I have been using Tableau, amazing software that makes databases and spreadsheets easier to comprehend and visualize.
Tableau allows you to click on individual elements, then drill down to see the underlying data. Try it out!
Total amount
Underlying data

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

$0 listed for Cuba

USAID grants by country
Cuba is shown as receiving $0 in grant money from the Agency for International Development so far in fiscal 2015.

CountryAmount
AFG$418,391,057
LBR$304,161,568
USA$201,869,882
JOR$171,100,000
SYR$170,757,943
GHA$134,831,377
PAK$104,402,703

USAID grants so far in fiscal 2015

USAID grants
The Agency for International Development, or USAID, has spent $3,036,391,602 in grants so far in fiscal 2015.
The list of recipients is below. In the No. 1 spot are undisclosed foreign contractors.

RecipientAmount
MISCELLANEOUS FOREIGN CONTRACTORS$340,717,237
WORLD BANK OFFICE OF THE PUBLISHER$339,945,064
WORLD FOOD PROGRAM$199,249,106
UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN'S FUND$103,174,784
CRS.ORG$97,298,248
FHI 360$94,847,862
R T I INTERNATIONAL$90,255,913
JHPIEGO CORPORATION$73,580,837
MANAGEMENT SCIENCES FOR HEALTH, INC.$63,969,293

USAID contracts so far in fiscal 2015

USAID contracts
The Agency for International Development, or USAID, has signed $1,798,101,361 in contracts so far in fiscal 2015. In some cases, the contract amount is for 0 dollars. In other cases, contractors are returning funds to USAID. The net amount spent is $1.7 billion.
The numbers are straight from USASpending.gov. You can see the difference that a comma makes. Chemonics International, Inc. is listed in the No. 3 spot with $158,432,158 in contracts. Chemonics without the comma is in the No. 7 spot with $50,048,172 in contracts. The total: $208,480,330 - good enough for No. 1.

ContractorAmount
PARTNERSHIP FOR SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT, INC$217,590,355
JOHN SNOW INCORPORATED$209,324,494
CHEMONICS INTERNATIONAL, INC$158,432,158
DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVES, INC.$126,421,216
AECOM INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, INC.$88,554,776
PAE GOVERNMENT SERVICES, INC.$86,249,157
CHEMONICS INTERNATIONAL INC$50,048,172
ABT ASSOCIATES INC$46,645,340
ARD, INC.$43,185,734
DOMESTIC AWARDEES (UNDISCLOSED)$29,259,128
MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS INTERNATIONAL, INC.$28,474,830
MISCELLANEOUS FOREIGN AWARDEES$27,499,272
RESEARCH TRIANGLE INSTITUTE$24,276,480
INTERNATIONAL RESOURCES GROUP LTD.$23,318,844

Monday, March 16, 2015

Q&A: Cuba and journalism

Below is a Reddit conversation with Carlos García-Perez, director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and Lisandra Diaz, a reporter for Radio Martí.

submitted 19 days ago * by CarlosGarciaPerezCARLOS GARCÍA-PÉREZ
Top of Form
About Us: We have a unique view on how Cubans on the island are reacting to recent U.S. policy changes and news of loosening restrictions. We also report on Cuba to Cuba every single day.
Carlos García-Pérez is responsible for the strategic planning and direction of TV Martí, Radio Martí and martinoticias.com. Under his leadership, the Martís have transformed into a multimedia operation that encompasses radio, television, Internet, mobile and social media.

Sudden secrecy at NED

NED's Where We Work page for Cuba no longer shows grantees
Names of the recipients of Cuba-related grants no longer appear on the National Endowment for Democracy's website.
Just last week, clicking on this link led to the 2014 grant recipients. Early this morning, the link led to a page that asked for a user name and password. It now leads to NED's Latin America/Caribbean page.
It could be that NED is re-organizing its site and the sudden secrecy is temporary. Or it could be that the organization has changed its practice of publishing the names of grant recipients from the previous year.
Links for the latest annual reports weren't working this morning, either. Hours later, they were repaired, but the 2014 report was no longer listed.
The U.S. government gave the NED $829,294,446 from 2007 to 2015. It's a non-profit organization, but might as well be a government agency - 99.92 percent of its funding came from the U.S. government in 2012, according to the latest tax records available.
The NED spent $10,425,644 in salaries in 2012. Its president, Carl Gershman, earned $246,692, plus $39,193 in other compensation.
Below are links to NED grant recipients for Cuba-related work by year:

NED grant recipients, 2010

National Endowment for Democracy grant recipients, 2010

Cuba
Afro-Cuban Alliance, Inc.
$110,000
To continue the publication of the journal “Islas,” which seeks to inform Cubans of African descent on the island and in exile about civil rights, the hidden history of racial discrimination in Cuba, the experience of civil rights movements, and tools to organize and bring about change. ACA will continue providing humanitarian assistance to a committee of individuals in Cuba that work to promote greater public discussion about the racial issues on the island.

Asociación Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana
$91,000
To promote a culture of democracy and uncensored dialogue among different actors in Cuba and in the Diaspora on culture, history, art, national reconciliation; encourage their participation in online discussions; and to diminish the isolation of independent Cuban activists. Encuentro will publish its journal and strengthen the virtual Cuban community.

NED grant recipients, 2011

National Endowment for Democracy grant recipients, 2011

Cuba
Afro-Cuban Alliance, Inc.
$124,466
To encourage greater discussion and academic analysis about racial issues in Cuba. Afro-Cuba Alliance will publish a quarterly journal to inform readers on the island and in the international community about racial issues in Cuba, the experience of civil rights movements, and the efforts of civil rights activists towards greater racial equality

Center for a Free Cuba
$55,000
To provide additional humanitarian assistance to political prisoners, their families, pro-democracy and human rights activists, and victims of repression in Cuba. In addition to humanitarian assistance, the Center will provide independent, democratic activists with important material support that will permit them to carry out their work in a more effective manner.

NED grant recipients, 2012

National Endowment for Democracy grant recipients, 2012

Cuba
Afro-Cuban Alliance, Inc.
$132,701
To encourage greater discussion and academic analysis about racial issues in Cuba. Afro-Cuba Alliance will publish a quarterly journal to inform readers on the island and in the international community about racial issues in Cuba, the experience of civil rights movements, and the efforts of civil rights activists towards greater racial equality.

Center for a Free Cuba
$117,500
To provide humanitarian assistance to political prisoners, their families, human rights activists, youth activists, lawyers, teachers, artists and victims of repression in Cuba. In addition to humanitarian assistance, the Center will provide independent, democratic activists with important material support that will permit them to carry out their work in a more effective manner.

State Department grants so far in fiscal 2015

State Department grant recipients so far in fiscal 2015
Below are State Department grant recipients so far in fiscal 2015. None of the grants explicitly target Cuba. The National Endowment for Democracy, which has dozens of programs related to Cuba, is No. 5 on the list.
The grants total $737,847,972.

RecipientAmount
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)$132,000,000
United Nations Relief & Works Agency$110,000,000
United Nations Development Programme$80,000,000
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION$33,773,500
National Endowment for Democracy$26,615,383

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Showering in style

State Department spending outside the U.S. so far in fiscal 2015
A $3,640 shower, $6,270 in LED bulbs and a $248 calendar are among the State Department's most recent purchases in Cuba, records show.
Officials reported spending $309,607 so far in fiscal 2015, which began Oct. 1, 2014. Much of the money paid for fuel.
That was a tiny fraction of the $1,298,884,493 in contracts that the State Department signed. Spending was highest in the following countries:

  • Afghanistan: $198 million
  • Iraq: $128 million
  • Brazil: $36 million
  • Yemen: $33 million
  • Pakistan: $17 million

A breakdown of the $309,607 spent in Cuba is below.


AmountDescription
$31,550USINT FUEL CARDS FOR JANUARY 2015.
$6,270LED BULBS TO BE PURCHASED IN U.S.A.
$4,000GARZA FUMIGATION FOR RESIDENCES ON FY-2015
$4,800CLEANING SUPPLIES LIQUID #1
$4,286ENGINE OILS AND LUBRICANTS FOR USINT FLEET.
$30,550USINT FUEL CARDS FOR MARCH 2015.
$248PD-EOFY14 CALENDAR(LOCAL ORDER)
-$1,798IGF::OT::IGF CRANE SERVICE
$3,198NEWSPAPER SUBSCRIPTIONS 2015
$7,000REFILL THE GAS CARD FMS.
$31,550USINT FUEL CARDS FOR FEBRUARY 2015.
$33,810IGF::OT::IGF
$6,044PAYMENT OF CAR INSURANCES FEBRUARY 2015
$4,620SPS MAIL STORAGE
-$6SUPPLIES CLEANING 3/T
$48,000IGF::OT::IGF
$1,189IGF::OT::IGF
$5,307MATERIALS FOR FACILITY (PALCO).
$5,900PAINT FOR OFFICE BUILDING.
$5,245REQUEST AIRCONDITIONER (SPLIT UNIT) FOR THE HOUSES.
$5,200THINNER AND PAINT. LOCAL PURCHASE PA
$3,827MATERIALS TO INSTALLS THE NEW CENTRAL AIRCONDITIONERS
$31,550USINT FUEL CARDS FOR DECEMBER 2014.
$31,550USINT FUEL CARDS FOR NOVEMBER 2014.
$885IGF::OT::IGF
$3,640SHOWER FAUCET, MONO BLOCK, MOUNTING OUT THE WALL, 8 INCH.
$3,929PAYMENT OF CAR INSURANCES MARCH 2015
-$23,191DE-OBLIGATION OF UNUSED FUNDS ON PURCHASE ORDER FOR ELEVATOR SERVICES IN HAVANA, CUBA.
$7,560NEW MEDICAL FORMS FOR IV/PAROLE MIGRANTS
$5,083IGF::OT::IGF TRUCK RENTAL
$4,113PAINT VINYL, WATER BASE, FOR THE OFFICE BUILDING.
$3,700LOCAL PURCHASE. ITEMS FOR PAINTING.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Below the surface

Cuba and the Internet
This Submarine Cable Map shows two cables linking Cuba to the Internet. One goes to Caracas, Venezuela, and the other to Kingston, Jamaica. For more information, see Vox.

Top 10 BBG contractors

Top 10 BBG contractors
Nearly a quarter of the Broadcasting Board of Governors contracts awarded since 2000 have gone to just 10 companies.
The companies won $432,741,013 in contracts from 1999 to 2015.
The biggest winners were the NLT Corp. of Springfield, Va., and Technologist Inc., of Vienna, Va. Each signed $84 million contracts on Sept. 25, 2014, for "marketing consulting services."
NLT Corp. scored another $84 million contract just five days later.
Both companies contracts state that they were hired for "Various Contracting Services Needed for VOA" (Voice of America).
The three contracts totaled $252 million, which represented nearly 14 percent of all BBG contracts awarded from 1999 to March 2015.


ContractorAmountNumber of Records
NLT CORPORATION$172,223,1239
TECHNOLOGIST INC.$85,027,6924
INTERMEDIA SURVEY INSTITUTE$44,773,18089
ASIA SATELLITE TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANY LIMITED$22,956,12519
ROME RESEARCH CORPORATION$20,586,55332
GALLUP, INC.$19,462,607213
NEW SKIES SATELLITES N.V.$18,827,94545
CGI FEDERAL INCORPORATED$17,513,80829
GLOBECAST AMERICA INCORPORATED$16,148,94428
ASIA SATELLITE TELECOMMUNICATI$15,221,03510

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Beltway bandits cash in (revised)

BBG contracts by state.
Contractors in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., have snagged $1,235,279,993 in Broadcasting Board of Governors contracts since Sept. 15, 2000, records show.
All 50 states grabbed a piece of the BBG pie, but the Beltway bandits won the lion's share - nearly 75 percent.
Florida contractors, fueled by Radio and TV Martí, have raked in a respectable $70,541,804.
Virginia won more contracts than any other state, taking in $797,011,721. Washington, D.C., was second with $308,063,605, and Maryland was third, at $130,204,668.

Beltway bandits take 75 percent of BBG contracts
The numbers are based on an analysis of 75,380 records listing a total of $1,826,663,263 in contracts.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Cuba Broadcasting seeks 12 percent budget increase

Office of Cuba Broadcasting budget request
The Broadcasting Board of Governors on Tuesday released its fiscal 2016 budget request, asking for three-quarters of a billion dollars "to increase global engagement, move more aggressively into television and digital media, and support high priority audiences."
The $751.5 budget request includes $30.3 million for the Office of Cuban Broadcasting, nearly a 12 percent - or $3,191,000 - increase over fiscal 2015.
Excerpts from the budget request are below:

In FY 2016, BBG will begin the process of creating a new grantee that will combine elements of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and the VOA Latin America Division and be responsible for all Spanish-language broadcasting. The new grantee will build on a legacy of success in the region. VOA Spanish works cooperatively with a network of major media outlets in the region to provide highly-valued news and information about the United States and the world to a measured weekly audience of more than 25 million people. OCB’s Radio and TV Martí have
succeeded in creating a network of journalists to report on developments in Cuba, one of the world’s most repressive media environments, providing a unique lifeline to the outside world.

NOTABLE FY 2016 PROGRAM CHANGES
This FY 2016 Budget request for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) and Voice of America (VOA) Latin America Division (LatAm) begins the process of establishing a new de-federalized
Spanish language international media organization that would merge the two entities (excluding the Creole language service). Under this plan and assuming regular appropriations order, the defederalization process will be completed in early FY 2017 and the new defederalized organization will be fully operational by mid FY 2017 and receive a BBG grant. OCB will lead the defederalization effort. The Radio and TV Martí and martinoticias.com brands will be prominent brands in the newly formed entity. BBG will continue its active, in-person engagement with authorizers and appropriators about this proposal. In the meantime, if there are specific or immediate questions, BBG will supply more information.

NED's new list of Cuba grantees

The National Endowment for Democracy has published a new list of grant recipients for its Cuba programs.
The information is taken from the non-profit organization's 2014 annual report.

Alianza Regional para la Libertad de la Expresión e Información
Democratic Ideas and Values
$39,680
Freedom of Expression in Cuba: Inclusion in Latin America’s Regional Agenda
To promote the participation and strategic inclusion of Cuban civil society organizations and activists into Alianza Regional's regional network on freedom of expression. Alianza Regional, will develop strategic mechanisms to include Cuba's freedom of expression and access to information agenda into its annual activities, advocacy work, and strategic litigation.

Asociacion de Iberoamericanos por la Libertad
Democratic Ideas and Values
$90,000
Training for Cuban Leaders Project
To promote consensus building, dialogue and cooperation among civil society actors in Cuba and in exile. AIL will work to strengthen the ability of Cuban democratic activists to work together on points of common concern. AIL will also raise greater international awareness in Europe and Latin America about the lack of democratic values in Cuba.

Lawyer: Throw out charges against Charles Hill

Jason Flores-Williams
A New Mexico lawyer today asked a judge to dismiss the case against Charles Hill, accused in the shooting of a New Mexico patrolmen before fleeing to Cuba.
Lawyer Jason Flores-Williams' motion is below:

MOTION TO DISMISS DUE TO SEVERE, INCURABLE PREJUDICE CAUSED BY NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR SUSANA MARTINEZ’S INFLAMMATORY PUBLIC LETTER TO UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER & UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY

Defendant Charlie Hill, by and through counsel, files this motion to dismiss for violation of his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Further, for Governor Martinez’s violation of the Separation of the Judiciary and Executive Branches as clearly delineated in Articles II, III of the United States Constitution. Grounds are set forth herein:

RELEVANT FACTS
1. On December 18, 2014, Governor Susana Martinez wrote, signed and sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State John Kerry. (“Exhibit A.”)
2. The letter was under the imprimatur of the State Seal of New Mexico.
3. The letter makes grossly prejudicial statements regarding an open and pending prosecution, describing Mr. Hill as:
a. “Cop killer.”
b. “Patrolman Rosenbloom’s surviving killer.”
c. Member of a “terrorist group.”
Charles Hill
4. In an assault on the presumption of innocence, Governor Martinez repeatedly asserts Mr. Hill’s guilt, though there has been no verdict in this matter.
5. In stating that Mr. Hill is a member of a terrorist group, Governor Martinez makes unproven and false legal assertions.
6. In publicizing this inflammatory letter, Governor Martinez willfully prejudiced a pending adjudication.

Cuba Broadcasting seeks contractors

If you want to work as a journalist, editor, producer or writer for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami, now is the time to apply.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors on Monday asked prospective contractors to submit their resumes and other material for 21 different positions.
The BBG's request for proposals stated:
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) located in Miami, FL anticipates establishing Non-Personal Services Purchase Orders with Independent Contractors for Radio, Television and Multimedia services as described in the attached Statements of Work (SOWs) for Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) in Miami, Florida. Offerors may submit for more than one Statement of Work, however they must submit an individual quote i.e. technical and price for each SOW. The Offerors selected for an award must be able to successfully pass a BBG security investigation.

Cuban Interests Section: One-stop shop

Cuban Interests Section. Photo: Ismael Francisco
In 1959, the Cuban government had consul general offices in nine U.S. cities: New York, Tampa, Boston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Washington.
A 10th office was in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Cuba had consulate offices in 15 cities, including such spots as Savannah, Georgia, and Detroit, Mich., one study showed. And there were 22 honorary consuls scattered across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
At the time, there were only about 150,000 Cubans living in the U.S., according to CubaDebate.
Now there are more than 1.8 million Cubans in the U.S.
Even so, the Cuban government has just one facility for consular affairs - a building located at 2630 16th St. NW in Washington, D.C.
That building has a current value of $11,497,100 - $7,363,130 for the land, $4,133,970 for the building, records show.
Cuban officials enjoy some perks. Their building is exempt from U.S. property taxes, for instance.
But the U.S. government has not been quite so accommodating when it comes to such things as banking. Cuban officials say no banks want to handle the Interest Section's banking needs over fears of U.S. economic sanctions.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Applied Memetics expands its reach?

BBG grants awarded to Applied Memetics
Applied Memetics, a federal contractor that began managing a team of journalists in Cuba in 2012, has received more than $1.4 million in grants since 2012, records show.
The company says it has the ability to "create content on massive scale and deliver it when and where consumers want it."
Dan Gabriel, a former covert action officer for the CIA, heads the firm, based in Arlington, Va. (For background, see "Ex-CIA agent leads team of journalists in Cuba").

The company's WebStringers website lists the following "news portals":
  • Havana Spring: Cuba is one of the countries that, due to strict authoritarianism and pressure from government on media, remain practically a secret state for the rest of the world.
  • Venezuela Encendida: After many years of living under government pressure, the people of Venezuela started protesting.
  • Central Asia Caravan: The five Central Asian republics - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – have become independent more than 20 years ago, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet media remains under government pressure, and overall media resources are scarce.
  • Black Sea Crossroads: While Georgia is still rising up after the 2008 war with Russia, Ukraine is yet another victim of its imperial ambitions.
  • Central African Republic (CAR) Crisis. CAR_Crisis is a digital media platform covering the violence and unrest in the Central African Republic (CAR).
  • Maghreb Oasis: The Maghreb Region of North Africa countries - Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Mauritania – have recently been the epicenter for what became known as Arab Spring.
The website includes a graphic that refers to its "global reach." It says "350 journalists, 43 languages, six continents, 1 mission." In an earlier version of this post, I interpreted that to mean that Applied Memetics has expanded its operations and handles 350 journalists on six continents. I concluded that the company was now operating in such countries as Venezuela and Tunisia.
However, I haven't confirmed that with the company and don't know whether I was jumping to the wrong conclusion. I've asked Dan Gabriel if he could confirm the information - I'll post any new details once I have them.

Money and a mission

Source: IRS Form 990
The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba reported spending nearly $1.8 million in 2013, according to tax reports filed in 2014.
The Miami-based group's 2013 expenses included:
  • Other salaries and wages: $664,076
  • Payroll taxes: $51,946
  • Accounting: $11,000.
  • Other: $68,800.
  • Advertising and promotion: $286.
  • Information technology: $26,622.
  • Travel: $231,321.
  • Insurance: $77,304.
  • Aid, support, cash, equipment: $625,679.
  • Contracted services: $34,705.
  • Bank fees: $6,761.
  • Miscellaneous: $94.
Total: $1,798,594.
Total expenses in 2013: $1,798,594.
The organization's executive director, Yvonne Soler McKinley, reported a salary of $138,462.
Total revenue for 2013 was $1,703,786. That included $1,068,572 in government grants and $635,214 in other contributions and fundraising, including the group's Noche Tropical event.
The foundation reported receiving $4,167,087 in grants from 2009 to 2013. That included:

  • $342,680 in 2009
  • $503,120 in 2010
  • $791,303 in 2011
  • $1,119,920 in 2012
  • $1,410,064 in 2013
The foundation says its mission is:
To empower Cuban civil society to build a durable democracy in Cuba that is free of human rights violations by enhancing on-island civil society's awareness and effectiveness in nonviolent activism and by facilitating civic training materials, communication equipment, thematic 'know-how' manual (e.g. entrepreneurship, micro-financing, etc.) and financial support along with creating awareness and documenting, within the island and in the international community, human rights violations while collaborating with international and on-island nongovernmental organizations to provide for additional expertise and resources to provide humanitarian aid.
Related: "Democracy aid: Two radically different approaches"

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lawyer: Fugitive is "an American dissident"

Charlie Hill
Police and state officials are "conspiring with bounty hunters to kidnap American political activists in Cuba," a New Mexico lawyer says.
Defense lawyer Jason Flores-Williams represents Charlie Hill, a former militant accused, along with two others, in the shooting of a New Mexico patrolman.
Hill and two other members of a militant group called New Afrika were traveling across New Mexico in a Ford Galaxie when Patrolman Robert Rosenbloom stopped them on Nov. 8, 1971.
Police say one of the three New Afrika members shot and killed Rosenbloom. The suspects hijacked a plane and fled to Cuba. (See "The Politics of American fugitives in Cuba."
Jason Flores-Williams
Flores-Williams describes Hill as "an American dissident" and says Hill's case "is about forcing America to confront its own history."
Flores-Williams writes:
For a black man in the 1960’s, America was a nightmare of harassment, subjugation and systemic oppression. The mere act of insisting on your dignity, working for the humanity of your people, meant that you would be labeled a militant, an extremist, a radical placed under constant surveillance, civil rights repeatedly violated by a country that was sending you to go die in Vietnam. For a black man who endured the 40’s and 50’s in America, there was no constitution, no due process, no equal protection of the law. You were three-fifths of a human being, and to have the audacity to insist on that last two-fifths meant being targeted by State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the infinite war chest of the United States Government.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ritzy flight for Cuban deportees

Falcon 50 jet
Some 34,500 Cubans living in the United States face deportation orders. Sending them back to the island would likely cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars if the case of Abraham Gonzalez set the precedent.
In 2010, U.S. authorities deported Gonzalez to Cuba because of a drug-trafficking conviction in 1982, according to a Miami Herald article about his case in 2011.
The Herald said Gonzalez "was put on a plane to Cuba on June 17, 2010."

Contract record
Date of travel: June 17, 2010
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hired Executive Fliteways, of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., to make an unscheduled charter flight to Havana, Cuba on June 17, 2010. I'll bet that's the plane that took Gonzalez back to Cuba.
The Herald said Gonzalez traveled with "several Mariel-era deportees."
Records show that ICE paid Executive Fliteways $44,538. Let's suppose there were three or four deportees, three or four federal agents, a pilot and a crew member. They could have climbed aboard Executive Fliteways' Hawker 800, which seats eight and costs $3,300 per hour.
Or maybe they flew aboard the Falcon 50, which seats nine and costs $4,300 per hour.
Whatever the case, Gonzalez traveled back to Cuba in style.
If the U.S. government were to send all 34,500 Cubans back to the island in similar fashion, the bill would be a cool $384 million.

Uncle Sam blows $2 billion in Cuba

The Department of Defense has spent about $2 billion at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base since 2000, contract records show.
The State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Broadcasting Board of Governors reported spending more than $46 million. But that money wasn't spent at GITMO. It went toward democracy programs and broadcasting.
The numbers are based on what each federal agency reports. Audits have shown that many agencies underreport or misreport spending.

AgencyAmount
DEPT OF DEFENSE$1,923,448,477
BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS$1,450,763
AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT$11,082,940
U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION$6,392
U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT$18,118,957
U.S. COAST GUARD$290,549
FEDERAL ACQUISITION SERVICE$8,471,666
VETERANS AFFAIRS$152,234
STATE DEPARTMENT$33,777,205
OFFICE OF POLICY, MANAGEMENT, AND BUDGET$7,289,887

Below are U.S. government contracts awarded to companies doing business in Cuba. Government agencies reported $2,004,327,264 in contracts from 2000 to 2015.
Most of the contracts are for work done at GITMO.

VendorAmount
BREMCOR JOINT VENTURE$131,432,707
A BRDC JOINT VENTURE$130,057,491
KELLOGG BROWN & ROOT SERVICES, INC$119,176,927
BURNS AND ROE SERVICES CORPORATION$112,423,273
KVAERNER PROCESS SERVICES, INC$109,247,858
BURNS AND ROE SERVICES CORPORA$107,730,756
ISLANDS MECHANICAL CONTRACTOR, INC.$96,963,568
BRDC, A JOINT VENTURE$72,805,516
EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION$66,533,785
PENTAD CORPORATION$55,046,062
KNIK CONSTRUCTION CO (INC)$49,166,438
KELLOGG BROWN & ROOT SERVICES,$46,334,252
URS GROUP, INC.$42,003,787
ISLANDS MECHANICAL CONTRACTOR,$39,317,211
RATCLIFF CONSTRUCTION, INC.$37,678,559
PRIME PROJECTS INTERNATIONAL L$33,214,268