Fernando Ravsberg*

Some 40,000 young Cuba received text messages, written abroad, intended to create a network that would ultimately promote anti-government protests

HAVANA TIMES — An investigation by the Associated Press has revealed that Washington created a Cuban Twitter called “Zunzuneo” to destabilize the island’s government. They intended for the text messages to spark off a “tropical spring.”

Days later the Cuban government announced that a similar program, “Piramideo”, is in full operation with the same goals. It appears that the White House insists on trying to influence Cubans to provoke a rebellion.

Actually this is nothing new; this is the digital version of TV Marti and it’s having similar results: millions of US taxpayer dollars spent to exert negligible influence within Cuba, reaching only 40,000 people.

The slow opening in Cuba will not be stopped by the covert programs in Washington, said officials of the Ministry of Communications.

Washington’s laments about Cubans’ lack of Internet access would have much more resonance if we didn’t know that two years ago a $2 million fine was levied against the Ericsson Corp. for selling mobile network equipment to Cuba.

Senator Patrick Leahy said that it is the economic embargo which prevents US companies from providing Internet service legally in Cuba, which would have better results than USAID’s efforts, and without putting Cubans at risk.

Seeking a Cuban Spring

White House spokesman, Jay Carney, swears it’s only “a development program” of USAID, which he says “is not an intelligence agency.” He denied that the program is secret but paradoxically declined to give technical details of the project.

Even today a covert US program, called Piramideo, is in operation. It promotes youth networks in Cuba through bulk SMS.

However, the Associated Press revealed an official USAID document clearly directing that “there should be absolutely no mention of the involvement of the US government.”

It isn’t secret but they hide the details; it is legal but they hide the role of Washington. It only serves to help Cubans talk to each other, but the messages are processed abroad. It seems they are throwing stones and then hiding their hand.

This time even the [usually anti-Cuban government] El Pais newspaper of Spain acknowledges that the network “was secretly conceived and financed by the US government in order to cause a change on the island through the texting of political content that would inspire a “Cuban Spring.”

The newspaper says that the USAID operation was performed “through front companies with bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and computer servers in three countries” and almost mockingly adds that “Washington denies that it was a covert operation.”

The Trojan Horse rides in Cuba

The USA takes advantage of Cuba’s limited internet access. Even today no home Internet service is available and the Internet cafes have a total of some 300 computers nationwide for a population over 11 million.

A few days ago Israel Rojas, of the popular duo Buena Fe, was virtually burned at the international stake for saying that Internet could become Cuba’s “Trojan Horse”. Who would have thought that it would be a US news agency [Associated Press] that would prove him right.

Israel did say that despite the risks, “we want a fully computerized Cuba. A country in progress. A nation where the new technologies not only accepted but also become tools for development.”

He agrees with officials of the Ministry of Communications who confirm that an opening to the access to the Internet will continue to expand regardless. It is the wiser choice, because closing the small window will only contribute to isolating Cuba and frustrate its youth.

The bombs that exploded in hotels in 1997, causing one death and several injuries, reached the island in the suitcases of “innocent” tourists and and no one thought to ban international tourism as a means of preventing further attacks.

The main target of these covert operations are young Cubans.

The path forward is to provide infinite point of access and to lower prices, making it possible to go in and out of cyberspace on our own networks, and thus avoiding the minefields so graciously offered by Washington.

The country’s resources should be utilized: thousands of IT specialist, hundreds of cybercafes and several educational TV channels capable of teaching people all about browsing. There is nothing to fear; Cubans are smart and educated.

But the challenge is also practical, the general population, and especially young people, will not learn to navigate cyberspace if they are not allowed the freedom to browse, exercising their capacity to discern between good and evil, right and wrong, the truth and lies.

No one should ignore Cuba’s unique situation in cyberspace, where thousands of “USAID” ships are ready to attack. But even then the worst answer is fear because nothing kills dreams more than fear.

No one can ignore the particular Cuba’s unique situation that Cuba has in cyberspace, where thousands of ships “USAID” ships are ready to attack. But even then the worst answer is fear because nothing kills dreams more than fear.
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(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg’s blog.


16 thoughts on “Cuba and the Killer of Dreams

  • What? No Facebook, Twitter or Internet access for Cuban teenagers? Now that is one sad country…

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