Cuban rapper denies receiving money from USAID
Cuban rapper denies receiving money from USAID
NORA GAMEZ TORRES
12/11/2014 10:08 PM 12/11/2014 10:21 PM
Cuban rapper Aldo Rodriguez Baquero, a member of the popular hip hop
group Los Aldeanos, said he has “never” received money from the United
States Agency for International Development (USAID), despite news
reports published Thursday in Cuba and Venezuela that say otherwise.
The publications cited an investigation by the Associated Press, which
contended the U.S. agency was trying to foment discontent among Cuban
Rodriguez Baquero said he didn’t know that Serbian promoter Rajko Bozic
was a subcontractor of Creative Associates International, which held a
contract with USAID. He said he was unaware the company was working on a
project to “recruit” him to “unleash a youth movement against the Cuban
government,” according to the AP.
“We didn’t even suspect that it could be that way,” Rodriguez Baquero
told el Nuevo Herald.
The rapper says he only met Bozic briefly and that he didn’t speak
Spanish. He was introduced to him by members of Grupo Matraka, who
organized Rotilla, the biggest electronic music festival in Cuba before
the government shut it down in 2011.
“We didn’t have performances in Cuba and the people from Matraka offered
to set up shows, not just for us, but for a lot of rappers that
performed together. We never made a single dollar. We only performed our
music and they helped us to have an arena to perform,” he explained.
“The songs we performed at the Rotilla festival, which they are now
claiming were paid for by USAID, were sung by us a long time before. We
even sang them at home because we didn’t have a place to perform.”
According to the AP investigation, Bozic was sent to Havana to “pump up
the volume” of the protest songs the group performed.
Rodriguez Baquero says Bozic never told them “to write songs with
“That Serbian man didn’t even know how to speak Spanish. Who can believe
that I would allow a man who doesn’t even live in my country to come and
tell me that I have to sing stronger, politically charged songs?”
Rodriguez Baquero insists the songs he performed during the years Bozic
was active in Los Aldeanos (2009-2010) had been written years before.
He confirmed that Bozic had cameras and the necessary technology to
record promotional videos. The project, called Raspadura Producciones,
also distributed videos by other artists in the hip hop and alternative
scene. The rapper also said that when Los Aldeanos was invited to the
EXIT Festival in Serbia, they were given classes on how to prepare
festivals. The AP classified this as “political capacitation.”
The AP report alleges censoring of the group increased after Cuban
authorities discovered the USAID project. After their performance in
Rotilla, the group was not allowed to perform in Cuba. However, an
exception was made for a concert Tropical in 2013, Bian Oscar Rodriguez,
the other member of the duo, told el Nuevo Herald in a previous interview.
According to Rodriguez Baquero, Los Aldeanos didn’t have authorization
to work before then because they weren’t associated with any state
regulated music label, which provides the permits to perform. The group
belonged to the Hermanos Saiz Association, which helped them obtain “an
exit permit” — a government permit eliminated in 2013 — to travel to the
Rodriguez Baquero said that in 2009 he used only a computer belonging to
his aunt to make music. The computer was later confiscated when the
police searched her house. The AP report mentions the arrest of the
rapper in November of that year for “illegal possession of a computer,”
a charge that existed in because Cuban citizens could only import
computers with a special permit.
“About six policemen entered my house and said that I sold movies. They
also took a computer that belonged to my cousin,” he added.
The AP report noted the efforts by singer songwriter Silvio Rodriguez,
father of rapper Silvito “El Libre,’’ who is only identified as a
“musical collaborator of Aldo,” to have the Ministry of Culture
intervene in the liberation of the rapper and the return of the computer.
The AP states that the rapper didn’t know “the depth of the topic” and
describes him as being “surprised to find himself” in the midst of a
The AP investigation also stated Los Aldeanos and Grupo Matraka were
unaware of the origins of the funds provided to them by the Serbian
“If everybody knows that no one paid me, then why are they mentioning me
so much?” asked Rodriguez Baquero about the AP report.
In a press release circulated on Thursday, Grupo Matraka warned that
“with these types of scandals national public opinion will be swayed
toward the idea that any subsidy is synonymous with subversion, and that
each person subsidized could be considered a subversive element.”
Grupo Matraka describe themselves as “artists, creators, intellectuals”
who are “absolute owners of the nation we live in, genuine heirs of the
past and creators of the future of the island.”
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres
Source: Cuban rapper denies receiving money from USAID | The Miami