WASHINGTON (AP) — Fernando Murillo was typical of the young Latin Americans deployed to Cuba by a U.S. agency to work undercover. He had little training in the dangers of clandestine operations — or how to evade one of the world's most sophisticated counter-intelligence services.
Their assignment was to recruit young Cubans to anti-government activism, which they did under the guise of civic programs, including an HIV prevention workshop. Murillo was instructed to check in every 48 hours and was provided with a set of security codes. "I have a headache," for instance, meant the Costa Rican thought the Cubans were watching him and the mission should be suspended.
Over at least two years, the U.S. Agency for International Development — best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid — sent nearly a dozen neophytes from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru to gin up opposition in Cuba. The danger was apparent to USAID, if not to the young operatives: A USAID contractor, American Alan Gross, had just been hauled away to a Cuban jail for smuggling in sensitive technology. He remains there still.
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