Yet Another USAID Effort To Promote Regime Change in Cuba

On August 4th, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had funded and implemented a program in 2010-2012 to attract young Cubans for purported civic programs on the island with the real purpose of recruiting them to anti-government activism.

We will look at the AP’s account of this program, and subsequent posts will examine reactions to this account from the U.S. government and others.

According to the AP, USAID through a private contractor, Creative Associates International,[1] recruited nearly a dozen young people from Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela to go to Cuba as purported tourists. Once there, they conducted a HIV workshop and visited Cuban universities. Their mission, says the AP, was “to recruit [young Cubans] with the long-term goal of turning them against their government.”

The purported tourist who organized the HIV workshop said in a report that it was “the perfect excuse” for the treatment of “the underlying theme” of generating “a network of volunteers for social transformation.”

After visiting two universities in two cities, the purported tourists identified a “target group” of students they thought both opposed the government and had organizational skills.” Their report about these visits “describe the students and their facilities in great detail, noting complaints and fairness issues that might be exploited. Potential recruits were listed by name, and then profiled, their leadership qualities assessed in a spreadsheet.” This report also described “the political culture of the university, including the role of the Union of Communist Youth, and . . . student gripes.” The “students were constantly criticizing the regime,” which, the trip report said, “assures us of having beneficiaries with a clear mind as to the objectives that we are pursuing.”

In a week’s prior training in Costa Rica, Creative Associates International told the purported tourists not to mention the company in Cuba and to keep calm if they were interrogated by Cuban officials. Their written instructions stated, “Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you. Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.” Creative Associates provided the young people with a set of security codes for communicating with the company, but instructed not to use encrypted flash drives stamped conspicuously with the word “IronKey” and to bring personal photos and information in their laptop computers.

After there were indications that the Cuban authorities were at least suspicious about these activities, Creative Associates cancelled the purported tourists’ visits and instead decided to recruit some of the Cuban contacts to obtain Cuban exit permits so that they could go to another country for training, to pay other Cuban “beneficiaries” on the island to run the programs and to have “mules” bring the necessary cash to the island. This approach, however, was not successful.

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[1] Creative Associates also was the private contractor for USAID’s social media program for Cuba that was discussed in a prior post, a re-posting from the Latin American Working Group and another post about a Senate hearing regarding that program.

Netherlands Court Awards Monetary Damages to Palestinian for Libyan Torture

Dr. Ashraf Al Hajuj

This March a court in the Netherlands awarded 1 million euros to a Palestinian plaintiff against 12 Libyan officials for torture and inhumane treatment over eight years in a Libyan prison.

The plaintiff, Dr. Ashraf al-Hajuji, who now lives in the Netherlands, along with five Bulgarian nurses had been charged in Libya in 2000 with deliberately infecting over 400 children with HIV-AIDS. In 2004 they were convicted and sentenced to death by a firing squad.  A year later the convictions were overturned and a new trial was ordered after Bulgaria agreed to establish a fund for the families of the infected children. In December 2006, however, Dr. Hajuji and the nurses were again convicted and sentenced to death, but in July 2007 their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment after the children’s relatives agreed to accept compensation of $1 million per child. In 2007 the doctor and nurses were pardoned and released after French President Sarkozy negotiated with Col. Muammar Gaddafi . Gaddafi admitted they had suffered horrible torture in Libyan prisons.

This may be the first time another legal system has granted a civil monetary damages award to a foreigner due to violation of international human rights norms by other foreigners in a foreign country similar to the awards made by U.S. courts in civil lawsuits under the Alien Tort Statute.

In the meantime, Bulgarian prosecutors are still investigating what happened in Libya for a possible criminal prosecution of those responsible for the torture.