A range of reactions to US secret travelers ploy

The Associated Press

An Associated Press investigation released Monday disclosed that the U.S. Agency for International Development secretly sent travelers from three Latin American nations to Cuba to do political work under the guise of civic and health programs, including an HIV-prevention workshop. The program was run by Creative Associates International, a Washington-based company.

A sample of reaction from across the Americas:

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“It may have been good business for USAID’s contractor, but it tarnishes USAID’s long track record as a leader in global health.” — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

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“We must continue to pressure the Castro regime and support the Cuban people, who are oppressed on a daily basis.” — U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a Cuban native and vocal supporter of pro-democracy programs there.

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“USAID and the Obama administration are committed to supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future. USAID works with independent youth groups in Cuba on community service projects, public health, the arts and other opportunities to engage publicly, consistent with democracy programs worldwide.” — USAID.

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“I don’t know what to tell you. It’s one of so many imperialist agressions. … They’ve been trying all kinds of things for 50 years to bring down the revolution, and it hasn’t fallen.” — Elio Morales, a 19-year-old refinery worker in Havana.

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“Good for USAID! The world must foster the rights of the Cuban people, abolished by the Castro regime and their allies.” — Orlando Luis Pardo, a Cuban dissident writer and photographer, via Twitter.

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“Again, the U.S. government violated the sovereignty of Cuba and other countries committing young people and their relatives to risky missions without their informed consent or proper training for some covert missions.” — Arturo Lopez-Levy, research associate, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.

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“My initial reaction is like the old lady in the TV advertising complaining about a hamburger: ‘Where’s the beef?’… (But) if Creative Associates had been forced to put their own money on that project, I bet they would have been a lot more careful with how they spent it.” — Francisco “Pepe” Hernandez, director of the U.S. nonprofit Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, noting that U.S. law expressly authorizes democracy-building efforts on the island.

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“How would you feel if you offered your sincere friendship and received this kind of news?” — Hector Baranda, a former college student in Cuba who was surprised to hear that a group of Venezuelans he met years ago compiled a profile of him on behalf of the U.S. program.

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