Kerry lifts hold on cash promoting Cuba democracy

AP News
Posted: Jul 27, 2011 9:45 PM
Kerry lifts hold on cash promoting Cuba democracy

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."