U.S. agency infiltrated Cuba's hip-hop scene, U.S. taxpayers paid millions for “stupid” covert op

A 2008 photo by Melisa Riviere shows Bian Rodriguez, left, and Aldo Rodriguez, right, members of Los Aldeanos in Havana. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that a U.S. agency infiltrated Cuba's hip-hop scene, recruiting unwitting rappers to spark a youth movement against the government.


A 2008 photo by Melisa Riviere shows Bian Rodriguez, left, and Aldo Rodriguez, right, members of Los Aldeanos in Havana. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that a U.S. agency infiltrated Cuba's hip-hop scene, recruiting unwitting rappers to spark a youth movement against the government.

Don't miss the big Associated Press investigative feature out this week on USAID's massive, costly, unethical hip-hop covert op flop.

“For more than two years, the U.S. agency secretly infiltrated Cuba's underground hip-hop movement, recruiting unwitting rappers to spark a youth movement against the government, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.”

USAID, or The United States Agency for International Development, is the federal agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid.

The idea was to manipulate Cuban hip-hop artists into breaking "the information blockade," and to build a network of youth seeking "social change," the documents reveal. “But the operation was amateurish and profoundly unsuccessful.”

The hip-hop operation was conceived by one of USAID's largest contractors, Creative Associates International, 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 Twitter text-messaging service and an operation that sent in young, inexperienced Latin American "tourists" to recruit a new generation of activists.

That USAID contractor, Creative Associates International, was paid millions to try and pull off this wacky plot.

Here are the documents, here's the investigation, and here's the reaction from the Cuban government.

The U.S. plan called for contractors to recruit dozens of Cuban musicians for projects disguised as cultural initiatives but really aimed at stoking a movement of fans to challenge the government. They filmed TV shows and set up a social network on the island to connect some 200 musicians and artists who would be encouraged to start a social movement. Artists were flown to Europe ostensibly for concerts and video workshops, but the real aim was to groom them as activists.

USAID's sneaky infiltration of Cuba's hip-hop subculture to spark a youth movement against the Cuban government was "reckless" and "stupid," Senator Patrick Leahy said after the AP revealed the operation.

Yep.

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