As media assails another U.S. democracy program in Cuba, Castro regime suddenly becomes dangerous and repressive
It seems the mainstream media cannot make up its mind when it comes to Cuba's repressive apartheid regime. Most of the time they portray the Castro dictatorship as a benevolent grandfather figure who selflessly and generously provides free healthcare and education to Cuba's unwashed masses. That glowing portrayal, however, can change in the blink of an eye if a U.S. democracy program aimed at freeing Cubans from the yoke of tyranny is discovered. That is when the Castro regime suddenly becomes a dangerous and repressive beast that will devour anyone who attempts to challenge its grip on power.
US reportedly dispatched Latin Americans to foment Cuba political change
WASHINGTON – An Obama administration program secretly dispatched young Latin Americans to Cuba using the cover of health and civic programs to provoke political change, a clandestine operation that put those foreigners in danger even after a U.S. contractor was hauled away to a Cuban jail.
Beginning as early as October 2009, a project overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development sent Venezuelan, Costa Rican and Peruvian young people to Cuba in hopes of ginning up rebellion. The travelers worked undercover, often posing as tourists, and traveled around the island scouting for people they could turn into political activists.
In one case, the workers formed an HIV-prevention workshop that memos called "the perfect excuse" for the program's political goals -- a gambit that could undermine America's efforts to improve health globally.
But their efforts were fraught with incompetence and risk, an Associated Press investigation found: Cuban authorities questioned who was bankrolling the travelers. The young workers nearly blew their mission to "identify potential social-change actors." One said he got a paltry, 30-minute seminar on how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no safety net for the inexperienced workers if they were caught.
"Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you," read a memo obtained by the AP. "Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them."
In all, nearly a dozen Latin Americans served in the program in Cuba, for pay as low as $5.41 an hour.
The AP found USAID and its contractor, Creative Associates International, continued the program even as U.S. officials privately told their government contractors to consider suspending travel to Cuba after the arrest of contractor Alan Gross, who remains imprisoned after smuggling in sensitive technology.
"We value your safety," one senior USAID official said in an email. "The guidance applies to ALL travelers to the island, not just American citizens," another official said.
The revelations of the USAID program come as the White House faces questions about the once-secret "Cuban Twitter" project, known as ZunZuneo. That program, launched by USAID in 2009 and uncovered by the AP in April, established a primitive social media network under the noses of Cuban officials. USAID's inspector general is investigating that program, which ended in September, 2012.
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