Recently Cuba has been in the news. Once it became clear that the demise of the Soviet Union wasn't going to collapse the Cuban government, and Fidel Castro retired (which never occurred as a possibility to anyone in the extensive spy/analyst community), Cuba dropped off the radar, except for the every-15-year-or-so "young people are disillusioned with the revolution" campaign. But Cuba has popped up several time in the last few years, in circumstances embarrassing to the US government.
In several recent incidents USAID-funded programs have been caught trying to infiltrate Cuba and turn the rebellious youth against the government. But before that we have the case of Alan Gross, who has been working for USAID since at least 2004, when he delivered a video camera to a Cuban Freemason, who turned out to be a government agent. So when Gross came back to deliver various technologies to Cuba's Jewish community, the Cubans had been following him for years. One would think that Cuban DGI just got very lucky, but that isn't true.
We've been spying on Cuba since the Revolution in 1959, and they've been setting us up since 1959. And we know this. In 1987 a Cuban defector reported that every blessed agent the CIA thought it had recruited was a double agent. Some of the stories in the Cuban press at the time indicated that the Cuban government was sending out potential agents to be recruited. In one case the head of Cuba's medical operation in Maputo, Mozambique, was first approached when he went to a meeting in Mexico. He returned to Cuba and was "prepared for recruitment." Yeah, they dangled, we bit. The good doctor then headed off to Mozambique and spent his off-time hanging out in bars, complaining that the Cuban medical system required that he spend more time on Marxism-Leninism than on anatomy and physiology. Oh, puleese. Are we really that stupid? Apparently so.
Clinton tried to re-start our spying program in 1994, but it went so badly that it was shut down a few months later. Cuban agents videotaped alleged diplomats (and sometimes their wives) delivering radios and the like to drops at 3:00 A.M. I'm sure there was some reasonable explanation for this, but I've yet to hear it.
Time passes. In 1998 Ricardo Alarcon gave an interview in which he noted that dissidents could do anything they wanted except advocate for return of the exiles or take money from the US government. No more than two months after the interview, President Bill announced that the US would begin sending resources to the dissidents. And unless diplomats were going to carry cans of peas in their luggage, that meant we'd be sending money. Which we did. We sent the money through Canada to Marta Beatriz Roque, a well-known dissident, for distribution to others. Distribute she did, and her secretary kept records of the distribution. In 2003 when the dissidents were arrested and tried for taking money from the US, the secretary, a government agent, testified for the prosecution. The case was a slam dunk.
What this did, aside from getting a bunch of ineffectual people sentenced to long prison terms (most have since been released), was to entirely discredit the dissident movement, as many of them had claimed they had not, and would never, take money from the US government. So our government went looking around for other opportunities. And came upon Cuban youth.
First up was the ZunZuneo operation. Cuban youth liked it, not because it was a USAID project, but because it was very cheap. After some twists and turns, ZunZuneo was shut down, much to the consternation of the young people who used it. Then we moved along to our latest debacle, where we sent young people from other Latin American countries to sow dissent under the cover of of an HIV-prevention project. Now it's all well and good to engage in HIV prevention but, from what I can gather, there's hardly a 12-year-old kid in Cuba who doesn't know about HIV prevention and hasn't seen the condom-on-a-banana demonstration. There are lots of countries that could really use sex education assistance, but Cuba isn't one of them.
I wonder what they'll come up with next.