USAID Financed the Cuban Rap Scene*

USAID Financed the Cuban Rap Scene*

U.S. officials confirmed Thursday that the government financed a four-year effort to promote Cuba’s rap music scene, as part of a program to undermine the island’s government.

The Serbian team hired by Creative Associates International, a Washington-based contractor, used a Panama front company and a bank in Lichtenstein to hide the money trail from Cuban authorities. USAID’s effort was so covert that it even surprised the U.S. Treasury Department, which froze a transaction under suspicion that it violated the U.S. embargo.


“It seemed like a good idea to support civil society,” said Matt Herrick, spokesman for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which financed the secretive program.

“It’s not something we are embarrassed about in any way,” he added.

The program built a social network of Cuban artists called A Cuban working for the contractors identified about 200 “socially conscious youth” and connected them on the site that managers hoped would spark a “social movement.”

The program which ended in 2012, was revealed by the Associated Press on Thursday describing it as a largely unsuccessful, “covert” effort run by U.S. government contractors to undermine Cuba’s government.

A number of documents, including contracts, emails, chats transcripts, budgets, expense reports, power point documents, photographs, and passports, revealed that USAID, through the Washington D.C.-based company Creative Associates International, financed a program to create a subversive rap and hip-hop movement against the Cuban government.

USAID said in a statement it “supports civil society programs in Cuba and other restrictive environments as part of the U.S. government’s overall effort to promote resilient, democratic societies.”

The agency also denied that the program was covert, noting that Congress was briefed on it.

However U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the subcommittee which handles USAID’s budget, described the program in a statement as “misguided and mismanaged.”

USAID never informed Congress about this and should never have been involved with anything so incompetent and reckless. It was appallingly stupid,” he said.


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