Remember When USAid Created Fake Twitter in Cuba?
In December, 2014, the U.S. President Barack Obama announced his goal to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba which were severed in 1961. In April, 2015, President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba met in Panama City, Panama, to further discuss the two countries’ next steps forward to advance mutual interests.
The U.S. ended its diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 against the US-backed authoritarian government of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. In later years, President JFK would describe Batista regime as one of the bloodiest and most repressive dictatorships in the history of Latin America.
After several attempts by the CIA such as Operation Mongoose, Operation Northwoods, Operation Ortsac, to overthrow the Castro Government and over eight attempted plots to kill Castro between 1960 and 1965, tensions between two countries reached its peak at Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
In 2003, the United States Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba was formed to “explore ways the U.S. can help hasten and ease a democratic transition in Cuba.” In a 2004 meeting with members of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, then President Bush stated, “We’re not waiting for the day of Cuban freedom; we are working for the day of freedom in Cuba.”
The U.S. embargoes against Cuba continued to Obama Administration.
In April 2014, Associated Press published an article on ZunZuneo, a secret twitter like social media platform in Cuba created by the U.S. government, to stir unrest against Cuba’s communist government. To hide the network from the Cuban government, the U.S. officials set up a system of front companies in UK connected to Spain and using a Cayman Islands bank account for payment and tax purposes.
The project was paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAid), best known for managing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The agency’s programs and budget are authorized by the U.S. Congress.
Documents show the U.S. government planned to introduce political content after the number of users would reach a critical mass, to trigger a Cuban Spring or, as one USAid document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”
According to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, a Denver based company, one of the project’s contractors, “There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement. This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”
According to the AP report, Carlos Sanchez Almeida, a lawyer specializing in European data protection law, said it appeared that the US program violated Spanish privacy laws because the ZunZuneo team had illegally gathered personal data from the phone list and sent unsolicited emails using a Spanish platform. “The illegal release of information is a crime, and using information to create a list of people by political affiliation is totally prohibited by Spanish law,” Almeida said. It would violate a US-European data protection agreement, he said.
Ultimately the USAid realized that they could not conceal their involvement forever and to leave the stage the solution was founding a new management that could separate ZunZuneo from its U.S. origins and raise enough revenue for it to go “independent,” even as it kept its long-term strategy to bring about “democratic change.”
The project lasted more than two years and vanished abruptly in 2012, unable to raise revenue or replace management. Even with tens of thousands of users, it simply wouldn’t make enough money in a developing nation like Cuba.
Following the report, the U.S. government acknowledged that it funded the service but denied that it was a covert program. USAid also released a statement refuting the AP findings.
I am leaving it to our readers’ discretion to decide how giving Cubans a platform for communications not controlled by their government that was in fact controlled by the U.S. government and influenced by its agenda was a project to bring “democratic change”…
“I know Batista is considered by many as a son of a bitch… but American interests come first… at least he was our son of a bitch.” U.S. State Department adviser William Wieland
Video credit: AJ+