Senator: USAID’s Cuba Project ‘Reckless’

HAVANA (AP) -

A U.S. agency’s secret infiltration of Cuba’s underground music entertainment scene to spark a youth movement against the government was “reckless” and “stupid,” Sen. Patrick Leahy said Thursday after The Associated Press revealed the operation.

On at least six occasions, Cuban authorities detained or interrogated people involved in the program; they also confiscated computer hardware that in some cases contained information that jeopardized Cubans who likely had no idea they were caught up in a clandestine U.S. operation.

“The conduct described suggests an alarming lack of concern for the safety of the Cubans involved, and anyone who knows Cuba could predict it would fail,” said Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. “USAID never informed Congress about this and should never have been associated with anything so incompetent and reckless. It’s just plain stupid.”

The plan called for contractors to recruit scores of Cuban musicians for projects disguised as cultural initiatives but really aimed at stoking a movement of fans to challenge the government.

The operation was conceived by one of USAID’s largest contractors, using a team of Serbian music promoters. The Washington-based contractor also led other efforts aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government, including a secret Cuban text messaging service and an operation that sent young Latin American “tourists” to recruit a new generation of activists.