Cuba: USAID Versus the Culture of Internationalism

By Javier Gómez Sánchez, published on Resumen English, October 27, 2022

The announcement issued last October 18 that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), after the devastation of Hurricane Ian, will make a donation of humanitarian aid valued at two million dollars to Cuba through the International Red Cross, immediately generated a media hullabaloo and a flurry of opinions in various digital networks.

The headlines of the different international press media ran the gamut of possible positions from the perspective “U.S. Government sends…”, to “Cuban Government accepts…”, depending on the interest of where to place the emphasis.

Clearly, some circulated the calculation of the insignificant amount in comparison with the losses that the Cuban economy suffers every year due to the blockade; a nuance that makes the offer look like an act of cynicism, and which most of the main stream international media preferred not to mention.

There was no shortage of those who, accustomed to betting on a “win-win” scenario, said that the acceptance of the donation was a humiliation of the Cuban government before the U.S. government. These are the same people who, had they not accepted it, would have accused the Cuban side of arrogance.

The question floated in the air, moved in networks and formulated in some press conferences, as to why the Cuban government, which on other occasions has fought and denounced projects financed by the USAID, now accepts an amount of money from that same entity. The answer is very simple: now, for the first time in a long time, the USAID -whose acronym is a play on the word aid, which in Spanish means help- is playing in Cuba the real role it should have, as other international collaboration agencies do.

The scholarship programs and projects of different types, which at some point have been confronted, do not constitute assistance or aid, but acts of interference for subversion and regime change.

It would be worth remembering the World Learning scholarship program of summer courses for the formation of leaders for political change oriented to young people of pre-university age, between 16 and 18 years old, whose intentions were exposed in a cycle of denunciations in the Cuban media and schools in 2016.

But long before that, the USAID was operating in Cuba. From 1998 to 1999 alone, it gave Cuban opposition groups more than six million dollars in the form of computer equipment, communication, audiovisual recording, publications and other resources. Between 2001 and 2006, USAID allocated more than 61 million dollars to the subversion in Cuba, through 142 projects. Between 2007 and 2013, $120 million were distributed to 215 projects with ramifications in various NGOs. In the last two decades, the total figure handled by the agency for political financing in Cuba is estimated to be around $300 million. During Donald Trump’s administration, according to the Cuban Money Project website, some 50 groups of different political operation character in Cuba received money from the USAID.[1]

In 2009, the Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI), which belongs to USAID, created a program of support to the Cuban “civil society” that they presented at an event in San José, Costa Rica. The program of actions paid a lot of attention to mass communication through the cell phone network in Cuba. The San José program included criteria based on the experience of the Serbian group OPTOR, which was based on the realization of soft strikes. This led to the Zunzuneo project, consisting of sending mass SMS messages, which were attempted between 2009 and 2011, and which is estimated to have reached more than 45,000 Cuban users, with the aim of reaching 400,000. This network would try to promote the call for civil disobedience through the organization of demonstrations[2].

This has historically been the type of “aid” that the US has offered Cuba.

But the U.S. offer of financial aid after the passage of Hurricane Ian is reflected in a much deeper dimension between the concepts that move both countries. It comes shortly after the fire at the Matanzas supertanker base, which Cuba managed to put out with the help on the ground of specialists and equipment from Mexico and Venezuela, who ran the same risk as the Cuban firefighters. While the United States, only 90 miles from the fire, limited itself to offering technical assistance by telephone.

There is a fundamental difference between the culture of assistance to which the United States responds to and the culture of internationalism that is part of Cuba’s revolutionary character. This has  been evidenced in the international actions of both countries.  Assistance is quantifiable, internationalism is not.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed part of the United States, being considered one of the greatest weather disasters in the history of that country. The city of New Orleans was hard hit, where 80% of its urban center was flooded. More than 1,800 deaths were reported throughout the United States. A huge number of people remained isolated for days on the roofs of their flooded homes until they were rescued and taken to evacuation centers. The impossibility of accessing medical services weighed heavily on the poor and the population areas of the black majority, which suffered the most.

Faced with the situation, Fidel summoned 10,000 Cuban doctors to create the Henry Reeve Brigade, an organized health force with the capacity to send immediate aid “to any corner of the world”, alluding to the way in which U.S. President George W. Bush had announced the possibility of his country’s armed forces attacking “any dark corner of the world” after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. When Hurricane Katrina hit, the United States was already engaged in two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the U.S. Navy and USAF bases that were to help the National Guard evacuate the people of New Orleans had most of their helicopters and personnel in those “dark corners”.

Cuba offered to send doctors to the affected areas, along with a quantity of medicines. The U.S. Government declined the offer.

It would be difficult to quantify what it cost Cuba to train those doctors, and to do so under the conditions of the blockade that the U.S. government itself has imposed on us for decades. But the main value of that offer is that it is the result of the formation of an internationalist culture as a characteristic of the Cuban national identity. According to that idiosyncrasy, sending aid is not a distant, formal, simply material gesture, but an act of shared destiny. This is the substantial difference between international assistance and internationalism.

One can only welcome the small palliative sent to the blockaded country by those who blockade it. When the use of the last of the two million dollars has been accounted for, and no one remembers the headlines they generated, the blockade and the other USAID programs for Cuba will still be there.

*Featured Image: From, They can get a good photo but that doesn’t mean they have any interest in providing aid.


[1] Los caminos del dinero para la subversión en Cuba, November 18, 2021,
[2] Hevia Frasquieri, Manuel: “CD Archive: instigating a ‘Cuban spring’”, Cubadebate, July 9, 2022.

Source: Cuba en Resumen

Share the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
20 ⁄ 5 =