Kerry took a direct hand in Cuba issues last year, when he put a “hold” on $20 million for the pro-democracy programs for two months in order to push for changes that would make them more efficient and less “provocative” to Cuba.
“There is no evidence that the ‘democracy promotion’ programs, which have cost the U.S. taxpayer more than $150 million so far, are helping the Cuban people,” Kerry said. “Nor have they achieved much more than provoking the Cuban government to arrest a U.S. government contractor.”
Gross was arrested in late 2009 for delivering sophisticated communications equipment to Cuba’s Jewish community under a democracy program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The equipment would have allowed Internet access outside the control of the government’s telecommunications monopoly.
Kerry released his hold on the money after some of the programs were changed and Menendez stepped in to defend them. Claver-Carone said this week that a senior Democratic staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and not Kerry, bore the main responsibility for the “hold.”
Miami radio commentator Max Lesnik, who calls Fidel Castro a friend and opposes all U.S. sanctions on Cuba, wrote Friday that if Kerry “does what he says … there will be no puppets left in the so-called ‘dissidence.’”
As the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, Kerry endorsed the U.S. embargo but called the wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which allows Cubans who set foot on U.S. territory to stay, “uneven” because if does not apply to other nationalities.
The Center for Democracy in the Americas, which favors more engagement with Cuba, noted last week that Obama also may nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who favors lifting the U.S. embargo entirely, as Secretary of Defense.
If the two men are confirmed, the center wrote in an email, it will mean that “seasoned figures who urged the country to dump its Cold War baggage and normalize relations (with Cuba) would be at the table when critical strategic decisions are made.”