Thursday, November 16, 2006
Poof - Up in Smoke
At minimum, the funds were supposed to make life a little easier for Cubans living on the island--not the Cubans living in Miami.
U.S. funds intended to promote democracy in Cuba have been used to buy crab meat, cashmere sweaters, computer games and chocolates, according to a U.S. congressional audit published on Wednesday.
The survey by the Government Accountability Office found little oversight and accountability in the program, which paid out $76 million between 1996 and 2005 to support Cuban dissidents, independent journalists, academics and others.
It also found that 95 percent of the grants were issued without competitive tenders.
Interestingly, President Bush has requested an increase by $80 million to the Cuba-related programs. But as Reuters observes, "Critics have long charged the grants are aimed more at winning votes in Miami than triggering political change on the communist island."
It seems that folks running the show happily paid themselves $$$ out of the general funds, took personal vacations on the dime of taxpayers and sold merchandise that had been earmarked for free distrubition for personal gain.
Howling Latina has always suspected that grease, graft and gravy flavor the juices of Dade County politics. As for the needed medicines, books and other staples for my poor 'hermanitos' in Cuba, like my long lost suitcase in transit from Cuba to America, some high-ranking henchman, this time in Little Havana, enjoys the fruits of the ill-gotten booty.
The audit was ordered by U.S lawmakers opposed to the 44-year-old U.S. economic embargo embargo on Cuba, and they said the findings confirmed the need for a thorough review of U.S. policy.
"Let me just say that, to continue a current level of funding, given the results and given the disarray this program seems to be in, would be a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars," Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, told reporters in Washington.