According to an investigation by the Associated Press, the U.S. sent Latin American youths to Cuba to provoke rebellion, beginning in 2009. The workers—all Venezuelan, Peruvian, and Costa Rican—entered the country by posing as tourists, and in some cases, HIV educators.
The undercover youths were overseen by USAID and its contractor Creative Associates International. (CAI was involved in creating "Cuban Twitter," another ploy to incite rebellion.) Their goal was to identify possible revolutionaries in college and then expose them to the joys of democracy. They weren't exactly successful.
This was a strategy that the travelers hoped to spread across the island: The newly organized young people would tackle a community or social problem, win a "small victory" and ultimately realize that they could be the masters of their own destiny.
Workers may have had difficulty picking the right marks. Cuban college student Hector Baranda, who was identified as a potential convert, told the AP that the workers "were our friends." Baranda thinks that "the visitors may have mistaken typical Cuban griping as dissident tendencies. Cuban authorities have little tolerance for counterrevolutionary opposition, but letters to the Communist Party newspaper Granma complain about unfilled potholes, uncollected garbage and Cuba's impenetrable bureaucracy."
Baranda continued, "A Cuban always says 'aggggh,' whether [the problems are] big or small."
The undercover youths were paid about $5.41 per hour for their work, which wasn't safe. USAID continued the program after U.S. contractor Alan Gross was arrested for trying to set up internet access in Cuba. (Gross, who's still in prison, recently said goodbye to his family and said he no longer wants to live.) CAI simply instructed workers to remain calm if ever interrogated by Cuban authorities: " ...nothing that you have done during your trip is illegal, in any way, in any open and democratic society. In this way, you can maintain a calm demeanor during the interrogation."
USAID has accused the AP of making "sensational claims against aid workers for supporting civil society programs and striving to give voice to these democratic aspirations." In a statement released this morning, the organization insisted, "In the end, USAID's goal is to continue to support democracy, governance and human rights activities in multiple settings, while providing the maximum transparency possible given the specific circumstances."
[Image via AP]