Kerry lifts hold on cash promoting Cuba democracy
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- A senior U.S. senator says the Obama administration has
agreed to review its democracy promotion programs in communist Cuba.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts had been blocking $20 million in
funding for the programs. Frederick Jones, who is Kerry's spokesman,
says Kerry on Wednesday lifted his hold. But the funds still face a hold
from fellow Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Jones has said the State Department and USAID have agreed to report
results of their review to lawmakers.
Kerry has said he was seeking to ensure the effectiveness of the program
to promote human rights and basic freedoms. Established in 1996, the
Cuba Program has been beset with reports that some grantees misused
funds and the government provided little oversight.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the chairman of the House Foreign
Affairs Committee who was born in Havana and fled with her parents
following the Cuban Revolution, praised Kerry and expressed
disappointment with Leahy.
"The people of Cuba certainly don't deserve to be victims of this type
of political wrangling or manipulation," Ros Lehtinen said. "Each day
this hold remains is another day that those seeking freedom and
democracy on the island are denied the critical assistance these
programs would provide."
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