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Havana assails U.S. program to recruit young Cuban dissenters

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba on Tuesday demanded the United States halt what it called subversive acts against the communist-ruled island, saying a recent report that Washington recruited young Latin Americans to promote dissent in Cuba confirmed a longstanding policy of destabilization.

The statement, issued by Josefina Vidal, Cuba's chief foreign ministry official for U.S. relations, came in response to an Associated Press report on Sunday that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sent emissaries to Cuba to foment opposition.

"These facts confirm that the U.S. government has not ceased its hostile and meddling plans against Cuba," Vidal said.

The Associated Press, citing USAID documents and interviews, said the U.S. agency sent young people from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru to Cuba under the guise of carrying out social programs when in reality their main goal was to find and encourage anti-government activists.

The program started as early as October 2009, instructing the young Latin Americans to work under cover, often having them pose as tourists, the AP said.

USAID called the AP report "sensational" and "wrong" to suggest aid workers supported civic programs and sought to give them a voice. The agency said the program was consistent with its goals of promoting democracy and human rights.

Cuba said the effort was a violation of Cuban sovereignty, saying it was consistent with a long U.S. history of attempting to undermine Cuba since its 1959 revolution.

"The U.S. government should end once and for all its subversive, illegal and undercover actions against Cuba, which violate our sovereignty and the will expressed by the Cuban people to perfect our economic and social model and to consolidate our democracy," Vidal said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Leslie Adler)