Media statement – Fundación Operación Gaya Internacional refuses AP statements on Cuba spying

Publicado: agosto 7, 2014 en
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Logo Fundación Costa RicaOperation GAYA International Foundation


Official Statement

Santo Domingo de Heredia – August 4, 2014


Due to the recent news related to the dispatch of young Latin Americans to Cuba by the government of the United States, published by the Associated Press (AP) on August 4, 2014, which mentions the president, founder and executive director of FundaOGI, Fernando Murillo, we would like to clarify the following:


Regarding FundaOGI


  1. FundaOGI is a Costa Rican non-governmental organization with no political or religious affiliation. Founded in 2009, the organization was created with the objective of empowering youth to become architects of their own realities by providing them with knowledge and methodological tools on topics including: human rights, the environment, collaborative leadership and social entrepreneurship.


  1. FundaOGI is an apolitical organization that works principally with civil society, namely with youth groups. In no country where FundaOGI has implemented project has the organization tried to generate any type of political destabilization or interference against a government.



  1. On the contrary, FundaOGI has been – since its creation – an organization focused on providing assistance in the implementation of cultural, artistic and educational initiatives in favor of generating collaboration among youth, their communities and their local governments to identify problems in their immediate environment and propose comprehensive solutions to improve the quality of life of youth and all of those in their community.


  1. FundaOGI has conducted training programs, activities, projects and initiatives with youth and other social organizations in Costa Rica and Brazil as well as Cuba. It has also had representation and participated in activities in Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.  Over 70 volunteers from 18 different countries have worked with FundaOGI to develop materials and methodologies in the development and formation of youth, including youth volunteer programs.



  1. Every social organization and public institution that has participated in some capacity in activities, events or initiatives with FundaOGI can attest to the goodwill of the organization regarding its work to promote youth activism so that they can become agents of change in the improvement of their own realities.


Regarding the article published by AP


  1. It is eminently necessary to clarify that FundaOGI never tried to create any type of political destabilization in Cuba. We want to dispel the false claims there were covert intentions to produce a political impact with our activities in Cuba.  FundaOGI became involved with Creative Associates (CR-CREA) to work in Cuba under the same principles that it adheres to in any other country around the world: in an apolitical manner with the youth and their respective communities being the focus of its activities.


  1. The information published by AP is deliberately distorted. They manipulated information to create the appearance that FundaOGI had instructions to conduct cultural and artistic activities as part of covert efforts to provoke political instability, which is categorically false.  FundaOGI conducted cultural, artistic and educational activities regarding health and human rights of youth because it is part of the organization’s core operating model.  FundaOGI has carried out activities such as these not just in Cuba, but in various countries, including Costa Rica.  These activities are simply an efficient mechanism to work with youth and raise awareness of topics including human rights, the environment, collaborative leadership and social entrepreneurship in order to help them solve problems in their immediate surroundings through social actions and volunteerism.  
  1. It is categorically false that FundaOGI utilized individuals as “mules” to deliver money to Cuba. Individuals who participated in activities with groups of Cuban youth were fully aware of their actions, of the apolitical focus of FundaOGI and that the money taken to Cuba was strictly for the organization’s expenses related to the cultural, artistic and educational activities of the program.  At no time were program funds directed toward destabilizing efforts in Cuba.  In addition, the claim that “a childhood friend” of Fernando Murillo was used unwittingly to carry money to Cuba is completely false.  This statement must be due to an erroneous interpretation of the facts by AP reporters.
  1. It is categorically false that FundaOGI worked in a covert nature in Cuba. In Cuba and before all program beneficiaries, FundaOGI always presented itself as a Costa Rican non-profit organization that works with youth in different parts of the world.  Furthermore, collaboration agreements were signed between FundaOGI and Cuban organizations to coordinate efforts in the implementation of cultural, artistic and educational activities.


Regarding HIV prevention workshop     


  1. This one-time workshop (not clinic, not program, not a series of activities) was conducted in a government school in the presence of observers from the Sais Brothers Association (Asociación Hermanos Saís, AHS) in addition to representatives from other officially sanctioned entities including: the Deputy Director of the Manuel Ascunse Domenech School for Art Instructors (Escuela de Instructores de Arte Manuel Ascunse Domenech), members of AHS International Relations, the Provincial Director of Culture, AHS President of Santa Clara, and members of the Union of Cuban Artists and Writers (Unión de Artistas y Escritores Cubanos, UNEAC). The presence of these individuals was designed to promote the development of healthy relations between the youth group “Revolution” (who was carrying out the workshop, not Gaya) and other important social actors in their community, including local authorities, to enable the group to carry out its activities without conflict (as was clarified with AP Editor Trish Wilson in an email correspondence on August 3).
  1. As explained in a document drafted by FundaOGI: “This module seeks to provide the conceptual tools and methodologies designed, in part, to contribute to the processes of analysis and reflection of the experiences, beliefs, thoughts, attitudes and practices of young people regarding sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention. On the other hand, this module is also designed to contribute to the informative process and education of youth in these same areas from a human rights and youth focus.” The Cuban government’s openness to the subject of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases was taken into consideration in the selection of this topic as a means for addressing human rights with special emphasis on eight such rights with strong relevance to youth.  These rights were selected as the cross-curricular theme during all workshops conducted in response to the expressed interest of Revolution.
  1. The eight human rights mentioned were: (1) the right to liberty, security and personal integrity, (2) the right to information and education, (3) the right of equality and non-discrimination, (4) the right to privacy, (5) the right to liberty of thought, (6) the right to protection of health, (7) the right to physical and psychic integrity, and (8) the right to freedom of association and participation.
  1. These are youth rights that the Cuban government promotes in conjunction with other entities, such as UNICEF. In this specific case, FundaOGI approached the topic with a focus on the Ibero-american Youth Rights Convention signed by the Cuban government (  The supposition that FundaOGI was engaged in covert actions to destabilize the Cuban government is nothing more than a subjective interpretation on behalf of AP, which is completely unsubstantiated by the facts or documents in this instance.
  1. To offer a specific example, AP’s extraction of the phrase, “the perfect excuse,” from a project document is completely out of context. This phrase was used to express the suitability of HIV/AIDS and youth rights workshops as a means to establish dialogues regarding human rights, such as the right to health, culture, and freedom of participation among others, in a manner in which participants didn’t feel threatened or uncomfortable and become defensive.  This is important considering the sensitivity of the subject on the island, even though the Cuban government has signed various accords on human rights.  Therefore an appropriate vehicle was necessary to facilitate the conversation between the distinct actors.
  1. Clearly, with the presence of pertinent authorities (AHS, the Provincial Director of Culture, among others) these activities had no destabilizing agenda or anything of a similar nature. Our goal was to educate youth in the prevention of HIV, establish a space for dialogues between local actors around the sensitive topic of youth rights, and foment volunteerism as an instrument to improve the communal social environment.
  1. Regarding what AP refers to as FundaOGI’s mission “to find people that were against the government” is another example of AP’s subjective and distorted interpretation of the facts. AP has a list of the individuals that FundaOGI interacted with, none of whom were persecuted by the Cuban government as counter-revolutionaries or even considered dissidents for that matter. It is not true; therefore, that FundaOGI sought to work with individuals who were against the government for destabilizing purposes.  All the individuals who participated in artistic, cultural and educational activities had good relations with government agencies.
  1. What is true is that the youth with whom FundaOGI interacted did seek to improve their communities, some through music, some through recycling and others through dance. These individuals were promoters of comprehensive human development in their communities, which is consistent with what Raul Castro urges of his citizens: that they stop waiting for the government to solve all the problems and become actors promoting change in their communities.  Therefore, to accuse these youth of being counter-revolutionaries is incorrect.


Regarding the conduct of AP in relation to obtaining information and the publication of the news


  1. The documents relating to the activities that FundaOGI carried out in Cuba, which AP has in its pocession, were not obtained legally. It’s important to clarify that the documents relating to the project were confidential and that there was a non-disclosure agreement between CR-CREA and FundaOGI and the project participants.  This was not because the project activities conducted were designed for political destabilization or with “ulterior motives,” but in response to the socio-political reality of Cuba, which is different from the majority of countries in the world.  Any activities conducted independent of the government can easily be distorted (as AP has done) and generate negative consequences for Cuban citizens.  It was precisely for this reason, to avoid misunderstandings and distortions, that the program information was handled with this degree of confidentiality.
  1. The AP reporter, Alberto Arce, utilized extortion tactics to coerce members of FundaOGI into an interview with messages such as: “you’re better off if you talk to us, it’s the only way to limit what we publish,” and “it’s in your best interest to meet with me off the record and that we come to an agreement about the information.” Furthermore, Mr. Arce broke his word and professional due process when he published photographic and video images of the president, founder and director of FundaOGI, Fernando Murillo, without his prior consent. These images were obtained after FundaOGI, as an organization, agreed to meet with Mr. Arce for an interview in San Jose, Costa Rica, during which time Mr. Arce assured Mr. Murillo that without his prior consent he could not publish such images.  During this meeting, Mr. Murillo was explicit in his denial of consent to Mr. Arce who nevertheless published the images.  Not only were the images published without the proper authorization, they were captured in a covert manner, unbeknownst to Mr. Murillo.  In addition, though FundaOGI clarified the information regarding which they were consulted by both Mr. Arce and Ms. Wilson, the organization’s comments were ignored and AP published the version of the facts they interpreted as most suitable to their interests.
  1. FundaOGI reiterated on various occasions to Mr. Arce and Ms. Wilson that the organization’s interests in Cuba were never to generate political instability, but simply to fulfill its mission of empowering youth to work in their communities and that given the socio-political reality of Cuba the publication of names was not recommended. Nevertheless, they omitted FundaOGI’s clarifications and published a distorted account of events, subjectively focused on their own interests.  Testament to this was Mr. Arce’s mention, during the interview in San Jose, Costa Rica, that “[AP] believed that the government of the United States manipulated Latin American youth and sent them to Cuba to effect political change.”   FundaOGI informed Mr. Arce that that was an erroneous interpretation.  In addition, during a telephone conversation with Mr. Murillo, AP editor Trish Wilson stated that her interest with the report was “to damage the government of the United States,” which demonstrates that the AP reporting team was biased from the start.  With no objectivity whatsoever, their interests centered on the publication of a report based on their own fabricated narrative and not an accurate account of the facts.

Considering the above, in order to protect the good reputation of FundaOGI and its founder, Fernando Murillo, as well as all those individuals who have collaborated and volunteered with the organization to create initiatives and projects designed to raise awareness among the youth and educate them to be good citizens, regardless of their country of origin, race, creed, religion or political affiliation, we request that media outlets and other interested consider this official statement before publishing any reports with respect to this issue.




Fernando Murillo Meza


Operation GAYA International Foundation


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