Hey kids, want to change the world? Make a difference? Topple Castro? In a new investigation, the Associated Press has revealed that the US sent young Latin Americans posing as health workers to Cuba, all in the name of instigating covert political change and gathering research.
In October 2009, the US Agency for International Development sent these spy recruits to the country under the cloak of medical aid programmes. One group even set up an HIV prevention workshop while looking for political activists to enlist in the US government.
While it's technically illegal to support and promote democracy in communist Cuba, that hasn't stopped the US government from trying to stir up unrest in the country. In April, it was revealed that Washington had created a fake social network in the country, hoping to trigger a Cuban version of the Arab Spring.
It is unclear when this new programme ended, but one thing is pretty obvious: these young so-called spies were getting a raw deal. The programme's participants were paid as little as $5.41 an hour for risking their lives. Many described the shocking lack of training they received – one said that he was only given half an hour of training on what to do if his cover was blown.
In order to evade suspicion from the Cuban authorities, the recruits' emails were encrypted and their laptops loaded with innocent material to hide their information-gathering data. They spoke in code, too – "I have a headache" translated to "I'm being monitored by the authorities", while "your sister is ill" was code for "you must cut your trip short".
Unsurprisingly, the Cubans befriended by these US agents feel pretty hurt about the whole thing. Upon being told by the AP that his Venezuelan buddies were actually spies, Hector Baranda said: "How would you feel if you offered your sincere friendship and received this kind of news?"
Sounds like the worst gap year ever.
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