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Report: US used HIV-prevention program as political cover-up

The Associated Press disclosed a secret U.S. program in Cuba that used HIV-prevention workshops as a front for political activism against the communist country.
A man walks past a building with an image of revolutionary leader Che Guevara in Havana, Cuba on April 12, 2014.
A man walks past a building with an image of revolutionary leader Che Guevara in Havana, Cuba on April 12, 2014.

International health officials and congressional leaders criticized a U.S. program in Cuba that secretly used an HIV-prevention workshop to advance political activism for putting health programs at risk around the world, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in October 2009 stationed almost a dozen young Latin American individuals in Cuba to draft activists, according to an investigation led by the AP. Documents obtained by the news agency show that leaders of the program attempted to recruit a new generation of opponents to Cuban President Raúl Castro, paying them as little as $5.41 an hour.

Non-governmental aid groups this week spoke out against the operation, condemning U.S. efforts to boost an intelligence goal by forfeiting basic health plans. A few supporters of the strategy, however, said its existence is significant for human rights in Cuba.

The Obama administration defended its activity for advancing Cuban democracy-promotion efforts, but denied the project was a front to recruit protesters against the island nation's communist government.

The AP's most recent investigation comes just months after the news service disclosed "Cuban Twitter," a USAID communications plan also launched in 2009 that was meant to stir political unrest by circumventing the communist country's restriction of Internet access. The White House continues to respond to criticism about the social media program. Both strategies are among other attempts by American leaders to destabilize the communist government and eliminate its one-time leader, Fidel Castro, who first took power in 1959.

Castro's brother, Raúl, succeeded him as president in 2008.