Saturday, December 20, 2014
Young Cuban hip-hop musicians have been sucked into a USAID secret operation aiming at regime change in Havana. Rappers from underground circles were unwittingly supposed to promote anti-government sentiments, but the operation was haplessly executed.
A new AP investigation has exposed a secret program by America’s Agency for International Development (USAID) to infiltrate Cuba’s underground hip-hop scene to form a movement of “socially-conscious youth” opposing the Communist authorities. The operation lasted for over two years, in 2009-2011.
USAID has denied the allegations, claiming “Any assertions that our work is secret or covert are simply false,” in a statement on Wednesday. It stressed that its programs are aimed at strengthening civil society, “often in places where civic engagement is suppressed and where people are harassed, arrested, subjected to physical harm or worse.”
The agency’s principal contractor, Washington-based Creative Associates International, associated with a Serbian team to promote Cuban rappers and get the underground hip-hop subculture to stir political dissent in Cuba.
Previously, the same team headed by contractor Rajko Bozic was used to organize student protest concerts, attempting to influence Serbian youths to turn against the President Slobodan Milosevic and contribute to the overthrow of his government back in 2000.
According to documents obtained by the AP, the Serbs operated under the guise of a Panama company financed via a Liechtenstein bank to cover the operation up. USAID's efforts were so classified that the money trail was successfully hidden from Cuban authorities. This effectively raised the suspicions of the US Treasury Department, which surmised a possible US embargo violation and froze a transaction.
Promoters of a political change in Cuba recruited a number of musicians, the most prominent of them Los Aldeanos, already restricted to performing at home for their anti-government lyrics.
Los Aldeanos got political training while doing a concert tour in Serbia, but allegedly never suspected that the US government had paid the bills during their tour.
The rappers assisted in producing an underground TV project on Cuban youth culture entitled ‘Viva Cuba Libre: Rap is War’.
Filmed with hidden cameras, the film was supposed to bring viewers to the streets of Havana and hear“the sound of struggle and the voice of a new revolution.”
The protest movement planned by the USAID contractors was organized as a social network based onTalentoCubano.net website promoting Cuban amateur musicians. The movement numbered about 200 “socially-conscious youth.”
USAID operated rather clumsily in Cuba, AP reports, as there were at least six incidents in which contractors or their Cuban associates were detained or interrogated. On a number of occasions Cuban authorities managed to seize computers with data linking the program to USAID. But despite those blatant failures, the contractors continued worming their way into the Cuban musical underground.
Yet instead of forging Cuban hip-hop into a revolutionary movement, the USAID contractors compromised the very musicians they tried to promote.
Los Aldeanos had to leave the country due to pressure from the Cuban government and moved to South Florida, where their lyrics became much softer.
“I never imagined that a program like this could exist ... When you find out you could be surrounded by a conspiracy, it's shocking,” legendary Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez told AP.
Back in April, AP reported that the leaders of the Roots of Hope, the largest nonprofit organization for young Cuban-Americans, which explicitly refused to accept US government funds, in fact supported Washington’s secret ZunZuneo program. Also known as the ‘Cuban Twitter’, it was aimed at toppling Cuba’s government.
A further AP investigation revealed in August that the US secretly sent young Latinos to Cuba to trigger political unrest.
One month ago, the US government prohibited the Agency for International Development from acting in countries that reject its help, or from taking on dangerous or risky projects.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the nation's global development agency said Wednesday he will step down from his post in February, following an announcement by the U.S. government that it would start talks toward restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Rajiv Shah, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, gave no public reason for leaving the agency he's led since 2000. In a statement released Wednesday morning, he said he had "mixed emotions" but did not elaborate.
Shah's announcement also came hours before U.S. officials confirmed on Wednesday that USAID contractor Alan Gross was freed from a Cuban prison. He was arrested in December 2009 and later sentenced to 15 years after Cuban authorities said he tried to smuggle illegal technology into the country.
USAID, under Shah, drew intense criticism from some U.S. lawmakers and the Cuban government for its Cuba programs. An AP investigation this year revealed the agency — with the help of another Washington-based contractor — created a Twitter-like service, staged a health workshop to recruit activists and infiltrated the island's hip-hop community.
Shah was confirmed Dec. 24, 2009, three weeks after Gross' arrest. At the time, the AP found, a USAID-run program in Cuba continued despite internal warnings that travel was dangerous because of Gross' detention.
Following the AP's disclosures, the agency prepared internal rules that would effectively end risky undercover work in hostile countries. The AP found USAID and its contractor, Creative Associates International, concealed their involvement in the Cuban programs — setting up front companies, routing money through overseas bank transactions and fashioning elaborate cover stories.
That subterfuge put at risk the agency's cooperation with foreign governments to deliver aid to the world's poor. USAID recently pledged more than $140 million to fight Ebola in West Africa, part of its $425 million effort against the epidemic.
"For the past five years, Raj Shah has been at the center of my administration's efforts to advance our global development agenda," President Barack Obama said in a statement Wednesday. Obama said the administrator "embodied America's finest values by proactively advancing our development priorities, including ending global poverty, championing food security, promoting health and nutrition, expanding access to energy sources, and supporting political and economic reform in closed societies."
USAID describes itself as the lead U.S. government agency working to fight poverty and promote democracy around the world. Shah said Wednesday he was "more confident than ever in the lasting effect of our work."
Friday, December 19, 2014
Marvin X at his Academy of da Corner, 14th and Broadway, downtown Oakland--the most dangerous classroom in the world: the Oscar Grant rebellion, Occupy Oakland and protests against police murders under the color of law in Ferguson and New York City occurred in his classroom. Academy of da Corner will be part of the Black Arts Movement District the City of Oakland will declare in January, 2015. Noted author Ishmael Reed says, "If you want to learn about motivation and inspiration, don't spend all that money going to workshops and seminars, just go stand at 14th and Broadway and watch Marvin X at work. He's Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland." On February 7, Oakland's Laney College will hold the first Bay Area celebration of the Black Arts Movement's 50th Anniversary. A book fair will begin at Noon, Open Mike Poetry, 2pm, Panel on Black Arts/Black Power Babies, 4pm, 6pm Reception in the Art Gallery, 8pm, Performance in the Odell Johnson Theatre of Marvin X with the Black Arts Movement Poet's Choir & Arkestra, with special guests from the BAM. For more information, please go to www.blackbirdpressnews.blogspot.com or the Oakland Post News Group. The second leg of the BAM 27 City Tour will be at Merritt College, Feb 11-13, 2015. BAM is planning celebrations in Berkeley, Richmond, Palo Alto and San Jose. If you or your institution or venue would like BAM 27 to visit your city, please call 510-200-4164 or email a letter of invitation to email@example.com.
photo Adam Turner
Marvin X thanks the medical team of Dr. Soraya Rofagha and Dr. Leonardo Dacanay who removed a dislocated lens and implanted a new one in his left eye. We also thank the nurses for their kind treatment at Alta Bates Hospital, Berkeley CA. We thank all those who prayed for me to have a successful operation. Al Hamdulilah!
Peace and Love,
Marvin X, Project Director
Black Arts Movement 50th Anniversary
27 City Tour
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
There will be a book fair at Laney College as part of the Black Arts Movement's 50th Anniversary, We are especially interested in authors with writings that express Black consciousness or radical themes such as the liberation of North American Africans from the addiction to white supremacy mythology. If you are an author interested in participating, let me hear from you at the earliest. The vendor fee is $50.00 for self published authors and a donation of five copies for give-away to the needy, including the incarcerated behind walls and those mentally incarcerated out here in the big yard. Institutional publishers fee $200.00 and donation of fifty books for the poor. Contact Marvin X at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call 510-200-4164. Our last book fair was the San Francisco Tenderloin Black Radical Book Fair, 2004.
THE CUBAN FIVE
This morning, breaking news on all news agencies says that our three brothers, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, and Antonio Guerrero are free!!! According to the news, Alan Gross is flying back to the United States now, and President Obama will be speaking at about noon today, Eastern time, to announce that and further developments.
INCREDIBLE NEWS! This is a very short notice, just to let everyone know of this GREAT GREAT VICTORY!
Stay tuned for more details!
This victory is possible because of the years of struggle of the strength and determination of our brothers Gerardo, Antonio, Ramon, Fernando and Rene, and all the Cuban people, the struggle of people in the United States and around the world, of all the efforts to demand justice and freedom for the Cuban FIVE! The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five congratulates our brothers and the Cuban people in their victory! 16 Years of imprisonment could not break their spirit!
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Laney College President Elnora Tena Webb, Ph.D., in partnership with Black Arts Movement 50th Anniversary
Laney College President Dr. Elnora T. Webb and BAM producer Marvin X
Marvin X secured a partnership agreement with President Elnora T. Webb, Ph.D., of Oakland's Laney College to produce the opening leg of the 27 City Tour of the Black Arts Movement's 50th Anniversary. The gala opening will be Saturday, February 7, 2015, featuring an exhibit of art by San Quentin Prison inmates, in partnership with BAM and the Post News Group's Isaiah 61 Project. The Laney College event will include a performance by the BAM Poet's Choir and Arkestra, with special guests from the Black Arts Movement. There will also be a book fair with local authors associated with the Black Arts Movement. The event will include a panel discussion with BAM babies and parents. For more information, please call Marvin X 510-200-4164, email@example.com.
Protesters chain themselves to Oakland police HQ; 25 arrested
The demonstrators were protesting killings by police in New York and Missouri, including the slayings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
A live-stream video via Blackout Collective shows demonstrators blocking a doorway outside the headquarters and singing, “Calling out the violence of the racist police” as they were taken into custody by officers.
Oakland police said Monday afternoon that 25 people had been arrested on suspicion of obstructing and blocking a public safety building and delaying a police officer.
One protester climbed a flagpole and raised a banner, which protesters said commemorated men and women killed by police. Protesters chained shut four of the building's entrances and then chained themselves to the doors.
"Three of these doors are our main ingress and egress for the public and Oakland Police Department personnel," police said in a statement. "As a result, the public could not access important police services, such as reporting crimes, obtaining public records, accessing necessary paperwork for vehicle impound releases and property releases."
Using a pair of cutters, officers cut chains from the protesters and removed them from the front doors of the police headquarters, which had been sealed shut.
A woman filming the demonstrations said on live video that 100 protesters had been marching through the rain-soaked streets of Oakland since 7:30 a.m. She tweeted, "I repeat OPD is shut down!!!"
Elsewhere, Oakland police said a dozen protesters were chained to one another and were blocking the intersection of Broadway and 7th Street. Protesters also were chained together on the northbound Interstate 880 at Broadway, closing access to the freeway ramp.
The Oakland police's hostage negotiating team was on hand to deal with protesters.