U.S. journalist Tracy Eaton recently documented that the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) paid almost $700,000 over eight years to journalists and other opinion molders in Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America in return for their dissemination of anti-Cuban propaganda. The object, he suggests, has been an "attempt to shape international opinion." Eaton's report garnered considerable attention in Cuba.
Taking data from the Federal Procurement Data System, Eaton reports that the taxpayer-funded OCB project paid out $122,435 in 2008, nothing over the next two years, $41,890 in 2011, $198,477 in 2012, $189,055 in 2013, and $112,985 so far in 2014. He notes that, "Average payments [to individuals] jumped from $866.71 in 2012 to $1,643.96 in 2013. They have continued to rise in 2014, averaging $2,054.27 so far this year."
Earlier Eaton had shown that the OCB paid "$6,781,861.30 to writers, artists, journalists, analysts and others from Jan. 15, 2001, to Nov. 21, 2012." That money was funneled to Cuba through "venders" mostly in Southern Florida. "I suspect," he added, "that only a tiny fraction of this money reaches journalists and others in Cuba."
That OCB provides the names of recipients is an approach, Eaton says, that differs from that of the Agency for International Development which does not identify anti-Cuban agents in its employ. He indicates that "the OCB is an important and growing force" among U.S. agencies carrying out anti-Cuban activities.
The OCB has paid Florida based journalists to disseminate anti-Cuban material in that state, thus "violating the law against domestic dissemination of U.S. propaganda," according to one critic. OCB-funded prejudicial newspaper reports and television presentations flooded the Miami-area media market during the trial of the Cuban Five anti-terrorist agents that ended in 2001. That became the central issue in the late stages of appeals on behalf of those political prisoners.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), based in Miami, operates Radio and Television Marti, charged with broadcasting U.S. propaganda messaging to Cuba. Cuba successfully blocks such transmissions, although they reach southeastern United States and many parts of Latin America. The OCB budget for 2014 was $27 million.
In February Eaton, using data from FedsDataCenter.com, noted that, "the Office of Cuba Broadcasting has lavished big salaries on its employees in Miami. Its 119 employees earned an average of $99,275 in 2012. Their salaries totaled $11,813,725, which was 42 percent of the OCB's $27.9 million budget." He adds: "Salaries for the advisory board alone totaled $728,505. Appointments are for three years and members may serve multiple terms."
The list of OCB employees appearing on Eaton's report includes Feliciano M. Foyo who received $145,701 in 2012. Foyo, an accountant, was one of five employees with a "Job Category" calling for "Miscellaneous Administration and Program." Luis Posada-Carriles, implicated in deadly terror attacks against Cuba, "has said Foyo was one of his financial backers," according to Eaton.
As their names signify, almost all OCB employees are of Hispanic heritage. That they work in Miami, epicenter of Cuban resettlement in the United States, suggest Cuban national origins. Asked for his reaction to what looks like U.S funding for an exclusively Cuban-American counter-revolutionary project, Steve Burke of the Maine Cuba solidarity group Let Cuba Live suggested looking for answers in Washington. "Taxpayer money is being used to malign and to undermine a sovereign state. Cuba incurred the wrath of the U.S. government by maintaining a steadfast commitment to the health and well being of the Cuban people."
Photo: The CIA paid journalists to defame Cuban leaders like Raul Castro (pictured). AP