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Congressman Sires’ Statement on USAID’s Cuba Twitter Program

Apr 4, 2014
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.)-  Congressman Albio Sires issued the following statement regarding USAID’s Cuba Twitter Program:

“Democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech are amongst the basic rights and freedoms the Cuban government denies its people.  The Cuban government has near complete control of communications, commerce, and mobility on the island, and utilizes fear, intimidation, incarceration, and unwarranted force to maintain that control over the Cuban people.  Given Cuba's oppressive environment, by its very nature, any activity that is counter to Cuba’s policy of control and censorship would have to be carried out carefully while being sensitive to the individuals involved who fear government reprisal.  While I personally hope for the day the Cuban people will no longer be subject to the Castro regime and instead be able to freely exercise basic human and democratic rights without reprisal, the Zunzuneo program was not an effort to subvert the Cuban government.  

Moreover, this program was far from covert let alone carried out without the consultation of Congress. In fact, in January 2013, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report reviewing U.S. Cuba activities including this program which found it to be consistent with U.S. law.  There is nothing new here.  Rather, what we have is a story whose attempt to add mystery and intrigue to USAID’s human rights and democracy promoting initiatives grossly exaggerated the facts.  It would be a shame if the intent of this story was rooted in an effort to air grievances with current U.S. policy or to discredit the hard working men and women of our foreign diplomatic and aid agencies for non-related matters.   It is also unfortunate that some in the media are far more worried about a program that dares to provide the means for the Cuban people to freely communicate instead of highlighting the abhorrent economic and deficient human rights conditions the Cuban government imposes on its people.   

I am dumbfounded that some find it entirely acceptable to carry out similar programs halfway across the globe but find it wrong to provide a medium for Cubans to communicate amongst themselves especially when uncensored means of communication are severely limited or nonexistent.   On the contrary, I commend and wholeheartedly support USAID's democracy promotion efforts in Cuba and wish we could do more to support the fearless, freedom-loving Cubans that yearn for a democratic future.”

Congressman Sires serves as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere within the House Committee on Foreign Affairs for the 113th Congress.