USAID Used Undercover Youth to Foment Opposition in Cuba

EspañolOn Monday, an investigative report by the Associated Press (AP) revealed the US government secretly sent young Latin Americans to Cuba under the guise of a USAID program, with the purpose of influencing political changes on the island.

The AP report highlights the fact that the undercover mission put the operatives’ lives at risk due to their age and lack of experience, and even after US contractor Alan Gross had been sent to a Cuban prison for smuggling sensitive technology.

Over the course of at least two years, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sent almost a dozen inexperienced youth from Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Peru to help strengthen the political opposition in Cuba. They worked undercover, sometimes posing as tourists, traveling across the island in search of people they could turn into activists.

It was also recently discovered that USAID hired a Washington D.C. firm called Creative Associates International as part of a civil society program to disrupt the Cuban government. The company played a key role in creating ZunZuneo, a text-messaging network known as the “Cuban Twitter,” devised to reach millions of Cubans and ratchet up potential opposition.

According to internal documents and interviews conducted in six different countries, the young USAID recruits traveled Cuban university campuses and held HIV prevention workshops as a front to enroll political activists for their cause. For their trouble, these Latin-American operatives were compensated US$5.41 an hour.

The Obama administration responded on Monday by defending the USAID program, even though it acknowledged the HIV workshops served a dual purpose and were done “discreetly.”

The programs “enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the US Senate subcommittee that overseas USAID, stated: “It may have been good business for USAID’s contractor, but it tarnishes USAID’s long track record as a leader in global health.”

Sources: Associated Press.

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