Miriam Leiva is sorry if she doesn't seem grateful for U.S. aid aimed at helping dissidents. But "it's difficult to give thanks when this money leads to us being jailed," she explained. Authorities arrested her husband, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, in March 2003 on accusations of accepting money from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Chepe spent two years in prison before his release.
The impact of the U.S. pro-democracy funds "has been very negative," Leiva claimed, because it has given Cuban authorities an excuse to arrest dissidents. "I've always opposed American money for the supposed dissidence. There are other ways to help families of prisoners."
Under Cuban law, it is illegal for Cubans to accept money or material aimed at undermining the socialist government. Some critics call the law unnecessarily harsh, yet supporters of the Castro regime are unapologetic. "What right does someone else have to change a foreign government?" asks Reinaldo Taladri, a Cuban journalist who appears regularly on state-run television. "How is it that no one asks if it's legal? A government could be very bad, but does the United States have the right to change it? Why not launch troops against Saudi Arabia? Why Cuba?"
Unfortunately, Taladri said, mainstream media continually reinforces to Americans that "Cuba is bad, bad, bad." He points to popular culture for an example--just trace the history of James Bond films and you'll find five featuring bad guys in Cuba. "Americans are told everything is bad in Cuba," Taladri continued, so if the U.S. government says it's going to spend $50 million to try to topple the government, no one blinks.
"What would happen if the Cuban parliament got together and passed a law approving $50 million toward regime change in the United States? "What threat is Cuba to the United States? An economic threat? No. Military? No. In 51 years, not a single bullet has been fired from Cuba toward the United States. No one here has done anything against the United States."