EspañolFernando Murillo, a Costa Rican citizen and founder of Fundación Operación GAYA Internacional (FundaOGI), released a statement on Wednesday accusing Associated Press (AP) journalists Alberto Arce and Trish Wilson of distorting the work of his foundation. Murillo says the AP misrepresented the work his organization carries out in order to fit a predetermined narrative of a “clandestine” USAID operation.
The AP reported on Monday that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) employed Murillo and other young Latin Americans to travel around Cuba and establish HIV prevention workshops as a front to recruit anti-Castro activists.
“[The AP] manipulated information in order to make it look like FundaOGI had instructions to set up cultural and artistic activities in an undercover way for destabilizing ends, which is totally false,” Murillo expressed in a statement published on his foundation’s website on Monday.
In the same press statement, Murillo later added, “Our goal was to educate people on HIV prevention and establish conversations with local stakeholders on sensitive issues and the rights of young people. As a foundation, we seek to promote volunteering as a means of improving the community social environment.”
The AP’s story involving Murillo and FundaOGI was the second in a series about Washington, D.C.-based NGO Creative Associates International and their work in Cuba. In April, the news agency reported on the role USAID and the NGO played in the creation of the “Cuban Twitter” ZunZuneo program.
In response to Murillo’s accusations of media distortion, the AP’s director of media relations, Paul Colford, contacted the Tico Times via email. “Mr. Murillo, secretly funded by the US government, knew full well he was engaging in activity that was intended to help bring social and political change to Cuba. The evidence is clear,” he said. “Mr. Murillo is listed on an internal security protocol whose focus was to keep his activities on the island secret, including code language for how to communicate with contractors if he or his workers landed in trouble.”