[Ed. – Oh, gee. America’s never done that before.]
Over at least two years, the U.S. Agency for International Development — best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid — sent nearly a dozen neophytes from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru to gin up opposition in Cuba. The danger was apparent to USAID, if not to the young operatives: A USAID contractor, American Alan Gross, had just been hauled away to a Cuban jail for smuggling in sensitive technology. He remains there still.
USAID hired Creative Associates International, a Washington-based company, as part of a civil society program against Cuba’s communist government. The same company was central to the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” — a messaging network revealed in April by The Associated Press, designed to reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans.
According to internal documents obtained by the AP and interviews in six countries, USAID’s young operatives posed as tourists, visited college campuses and used a ruse that could undermine USAID’s credibility in critical health work around the world: An HIV-prevention workshop one called the “perfect excuse” to recruit political activists, according to a report by Murillo’s group. For all the risks, some travelers were paid as little as $5.41 an hour.
The travelers program was launched during a time when newly inaugurated President Barack Obama spoke about a “new beginning” with Cuba after decades of mistrust, raising questions about whether the White House had a coherent policy toward the island nation.