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Following the Money: The United States Agency for International Development

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The USAID provides financial assistance to a hundred countries worldwide. 

There have been recent criticisms directed at the United States Agency for International Development, better known in and outside America by the acronym USAID.  Many American citizens still don’t know why the United States would allocate money to help out other countries at a time when America is sixteen trillion dollars in debt and their safety net is being threatened by spending cuts. The agency has also received criticism from some senators and members of the House of Representatives, but more recently CNN reported that senator Rand Paul (R) called for USAID to make cuts to Israel’s military assistance program upon returning from a trip to that country. What surprises many ordinary Americans about this statement is the association between “military assistance” and the Agency for International Development.

USAID is a federal agency that was founded by president John F. Kennedy in 1961 by executive order. Today the agency spends less than 1% of the Federal Budget, or in other words it spends 53 billion dollars annually out of a Federal Budget of 2.627 trillion dollars. USAID defines itself as “furthering America’s interests while improving lives in the developing world” (…) it also “helps to expand stable, free societies.” The truth is that the USAID is not giving tax-payer money away to developing countries around the world for no reason; the agency is responsible for stabilizing some regions like Africa and the Middle East with the aim of allowing the United States to operate businesses and trade freely with other nations.

USAID is not welcome in many countries around the world and it has been accused of funding subversive activities infringing on other state’s sovereignty.  The more recent example to point out was Putin’s decision to expel the USAID out of Russia and to declare all USAID activity within Russia illegal. But Putin is not the only one who feels threatened by the USAID; Alan Gross has been imprisoned in Cuba for over three years now for being working “against the Cuban state and at the service of a subcontractor of the United States Agency for International Development.”

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                                                  Alan Gross is an American citizen jailed in Cuba for working    for a subcontractor of the USAID.

Then, the question follows: What does USAID really do? We know through their website that the agency allocates 38 million dollars to “economic assistance programs” and 15 million to “military assistance.” The country that receives the most aid from the agency is Afghanistan, which gets 5 billion dollars and topping the list is also Israel, getting mostly military assistance from the agency. But something seems to be at odds here because the agency says that it only provides assistance to “developing nations.” Israel, however, is a developed economy with an annual GDP surpassing 243 billion dollars. USAID is still providing countries like Russia and Cuba with aid, despite their decision to reject the aid. But how can someone say reject it and take it at the same time? Well the answer is they are not taking it, someone else is.

USAID works with other state agencies like the State Department and the Defense Department and of course its budget has to get approved by Congress. Congressional Committees on Foreign Policy like the House Committee on Foreign Affairs led by Florida Representative Ileana Ros- Lethinen (R) play an important role in determining where the money goes, how much money, and who is going to get the money.  For example, the agency designated 370 million dollars in aid to Russia, but the people getting the aid are opposition political groups and groups supporting “a more transparent democratic Russia” like the NGO Golos. USAID represents a threat to Russia because the agency provides enough money to allow opposition groups to run a successful campaign to oust Putin from office.

In Venezuela, the agency is also the cause of hysterical assaults by Hugo Chavez to “imperial America” because the agency funded Súmate, a very successful grassroots civilian organization focused on watching electoral processes in the country and imparting classes on civil engagement through the US embassy. The former head of Súmate is the parliamentarian Maria Corina Machado who headed the Democratic Unity Table Coalition that put Henrique Capriles to run against Chavez last October. Lastly, the USAID assigned 20 million dollars to Cuba for the fiscal year 2011-2012 and most of the money never left American soil. More than half of the money funded Radio and Television Marti from Miami and the Cuban American National Foundation. The money that made it to Cuba was used to support dissidents and to send clandestine technology into the country with the goal of improving communication within the opposition. Alan Gross was imprisoned for sending advanced technology to the Havana Jewish Community and providing laptops to anti- Castro dissidents.

Now that we know where the money goes, we can talk about why it is important to keep this agency running properly. It is primordial to understand that because the agency is a development agency and not an intelligence one, it can carry out clandestine operations without legislative oversight. Under “The freedom of Information Act”, any citizen can request the spending reports from the agency; however, the agency refuses to disclose all information regarding aid recipients and subcontractors hired for activities involving the promotion of democracy (1.7 billion dollars) or foreign military assistance (4.8 million dollars).  Most of the agency’s economic relief assistance goes to Sub Saharan Africa and just a tiny portion is given to Latin America. On the other hand, the agency allocated bigger amounts to ally states that are not too needy like Colombia while leaving out others with little aid and greater need.

Fellow Americans, The USAID advances the national interests of the United States of America over the humanitarian needs of any country in the world. The aid is not given away to our enemies but to our enemies’ fighters. Ally sates like Israel and Colombia receives support from USAID because Israel is a country of strategic significance for maintaining American control and influence over an unstable region and Colombia hosts the biggest U.S military base in South America. Without USAID military assistance to Israel, the Israelis would not be able to maintain the military might that keeps Iran checked and other states cautious to form alliances with Iran. Your tax money is not been used to help others unconditionally or in feeding dictators around the world. Actually, you may want to look up the reports on Syria and maybe you will get an understanding of why the Syrian opposition has been so successful in getting food, cloth and shelter, (some out there even say weapons) and all thanks to the not very well known United States Agency for International Development.

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