Migration exodus has hurt dissident groups, U.S. says

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have left the island over the past few years, which has weakened dissident and human rights groups, U.S. officials say.
In response, the State Department last year offered up to $1.5 million for projects aimed at helping recently exiled Cuban activists to “continue to work with their networks and counterparts in Cuba to rebuild and restore an active independent civil society on-island.”

The May 11, 2023, project announcement stated:

In 2022, nearly 250,000 Cubans left the island, more than two percent of its population. A number of these migrants are human rights defenders, including independent artists, activists and journalists, who were either forced into exile by government authorities, or decided to relocate in response to the regime’s harassment and the inability to participate in civic life. For those independent voices who are still on-island, the situation continues to worsen as they face continuous repression and harassment from Cuba state security. This wave of migration has weakened independent civil society groups, which have lost leaders and prominent members resulting in a loss of institutional memory, organizational capacity, and lowered morale. Additionally, the worsening economic situation on-island limits the ability of Cuban activists to dedicate time and energy to organizing around issues in their community. Consequently, Cuba is facing declining civic participation from independent voices, as activists either self-censor, are exiled, or are unable to reach and engage with new actors.
In exile, democratic actors face a number of barriers to continuing their activism, including fundamental resettlement needs, such as legal and psychosocial support. These groups have immense potential to continue their advocacy and support the partners networks left in Cuba who have the potential to rebuild and restore an active independent civil society.

The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor expected to award one to two awards worth as much as $750,000 each. The deadline for applications was June 2023. I can’t find records showing who received the money, but found it interesting that the State Department is working with exiles.
In 2022, the State Department announced a similar initiative to strengthen coordination between exiled activists and those still in Cuba. See March 30, 2022, announcement.
Public records show that the State Department’s other areas of interest include projects that address:

  • Gender-based violence, freedom of expression and association, memorialization and reconciliation initiatives, and independent journalism. See March 5 announcement.
  • Labor rights and entrepreneurship. See Feb. 21, 2023, announcement.
  • Civil, political, religious and labor rights. See March 31, 2022, announcement.

You can browse State Department’s funding opportunities here. Deadlines have passed for all open opportunities, but more will be posted once they’re available.

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