Why is AP Only "Outraged" by USAID's Cuba Democracy Programs?

Sunday, December 14, 2014
Last week, the AP released its latest attack against USAID's Cuba democracy programs -- full of spite, smears and hyperbole.

But why doesn't it harbor similar outrage towards USAID's democracy programs in Syria, Iran, North Korea, Burma or other authoritarian regimes?

This hypocrisy is shared by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who always feigns "outrage" about USAID's Cuba programs, while appropriating tens of millions of dollars for similar programs in other closed societies.

Critics of USAID's Cuba democracy programs -- namely, the AP and Senator Leahy -- also like to ignore that they were largely modeled after similar democracy programs aimed at South Africa's apartheid regime.

USAID's South Africa democracy programs were created by the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, while the Cuba democracy programs were created by the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996.

Here's what USAID's own documents had to say about the South Africa programs (H/T Cuban-American author Humberto Fontova):

"U.S. policy was to help bring an end to apartheid and establish a nonracial, democratic government. In response to this policy and the Act, USAID/South Africa was responsible for financing projects that apartheid victims viewed as critical in promoting social, political, and economic change through peaceful means."

"No funds or consultation could be provided to or through the government. This led to great suspicion and attempts to delegitimize our activities."

"Suspicion of USAID was palpable. We made it clear that the American people had, in effect, created a trust fund for the anti-apartheid forces and that funds would only be disbursed when we received clear guidance from their leadership. Only through dogged persistence and building one-on-one relationships were we able to win the confidence of community leaders."

"The English-language Citizen newspaper -- favorable to the ruling National Party -- published articles alleging that U.S. Government assistance was more threatening to South Africa’s self-determination than were sanctions, and that we were financing terrorist and leftist organizations."

"There was a great deal of concern that the South African Government would directly curtail the work of USAID, which it ultimately did by investigating organizations that we were funding, including detaining leaders without charges. We created a legal framework for assisting organizations under attack."

"The early work of USAID/South Africa successfully laid the groundwork for the much larger programs that followed. Key accomplishments were reversing the deeply held belief of the South African anti-apartheid leadership that the United States was opposed to regime change; quickly identifying and cultivating the current and future political, economic, and social leadership of a nonracial South Africa; putting in place a program framework that was perceived by anti-apartheid leadership and the Congress as responsive to the needs of the struggle; and, most importantly, effectively implementing the will of the American people as expressed by the [Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986]."

Imagine that. And yet, no AP investigative "Big Story."

USAID should be commended for its past democracy programs in South Africa, as it should for its current programs in Cuba, Syria, North Korea, Iran and other authoritarian regimes.

After all, as Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Prize recipient for Economic Science, famously wrote:

"The main purpose of development is to spread freedom and its 'thousand charms' to the unfree citizens."