Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing
Heather Nauert Spokesperson Department Press Briefing Washington, DC February 13, 2018
MS NAUERT: Cuba. We’ll take Cuba.
QUESTION: Thank you. I – regarding the budget.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: The assistance given to human rights and pro-democracy groups, supporting human rights and pro-democracy groups within Cuba has been halved from 20 to 10 million in this proposal for the budget. Given the treatment of, for example, religious people in Cuba, the persecution, the increase in harassment to religious groups, et cetera, how can you – what is the judgment made to be – to halve that type of assistance to the human rights groups?
MS NAUERT: Well, I think as we look at putting the budget together and our numbers come from OMB, and then we negotiate and work with Congress, so we’re not an endpoint; we’re at sort of a middle to a starting point phase right now as we look at our overall budget.
As it pertains to Cuba, to your question, last year for the year 2018 – right now, we’re looking at the budget for 2019. So last year for 2018, it was actually zero for democracy promotion in Cuba. The President then undertook his Cuba Policy Review and made some changes about how this government views the Government of Cuba and how we want to handle our relations with Cuba. This year, we’ve come with the number of $10 million for democracy promotion, so up significantly from zero last year. Okay? Okay.
QUESTION: But Heather, when (inaudible) – when you were discussing the – the Cubans had raised some complaints about the Cuba Internet Task Force that held a meeting here recently, saying that basically that the State Department is trying to subvert Cuba’s government. I think you called that ridiculous and maybe ludicrous, but I mean, if we have money built into our budget to promote a different system of government in a country than what the system they currently have – I mean, how can you say that that’s not attempt to subvert their government?
MS NAUERT: Well, the internet task force that you’re talking about was a pulled-together group sponsored here at the State Department – a group of NGOs, but also people from the private sector, because we believe that the Cuban people should have free and full and unfettered access to the internet. They don’t. It’s cost-prohibitive in many places; people don’t have the access that a government should give them. So we’re doing what we can with the budget that we have, and determining where we can best use our resources. And some folks putting that together felt that that was the right dollar amount for that. Okay.
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