US Defends Its “Cuba Twitter”

Sunrise in Havana.  Photo: Juan Suarez
Sunrise in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — The US government said today that its now defunct program to create a “Cuban twitter” was not a covert action or intelligence gathering, but a properly supervised project for “strengthening civil society” in Cuba, implemented with “discretion” because of the political particularities of the island, reported dpa.

“The purpose of the Zunzuneo project (as the program was called) was to create a platform so Cubans could freely talk to each other, nothing more,” said USAID spokesman Matt Herrick, in a statement.

USAID is behind the “Cuban twitter” which made ??waves Thursday in the US and international media in the wake of an investigation released by the Associated Press.

According to the agency spokesman, this as well as other USAID Cuba programs “are consistent with US law and under proper supervision mechanisms.” Whether the program is legal in terms of Cuban law is not an issue for the US government and its agencies.

White House spokesman Jay Carney also defended the legality and opening of the program. “Those who suggest that it was a covert program are wrong. Congress funded democracy programs in Cuba to help the Cuban people have access to more information and to strengthen civil society and those allocations are public, unlike covert actions” Carney said in his daily press briefing.

According to the AP investigation, the “Cuban twitter” which no longer works, involved the massive sending of cell phone text messages to skirt information controls exercised by the Cuban authorities.

According to the report, The goal was to reach the hundreds of thousands of users, but never managed to exceed 40,000 in the intent to become a tool used for organizing “smart mobs” or concentrations of people for protests or social actions convened through new technologies.

USAID admitted in its statement that the service started by allowing the “sending of tech news, sports scores, weather and general topics to raise interest and attract Cubans” to the project. At a later stage, Cubans could communicate with each other through this system, the report adds without elaborating.

“We are proud of it. USAID is a development agency and works around the world helping people to exercise their universal rights and freedoms,” said the agency.

Regarding the secrecy with which this project was conducted, which despite having concluded two years ago was not known until today, USAID stated that “it is no secret that in hostile environments, governments take measures to protect the partners that working on the ground.”

“In a place like Cuba, you are discreet about how you implement (these programs) to protect those who use them. But that does not make it (a program) undercover”, said Carney.

Alan Gross

Another USAID “democracy building” program in Cuba, knowingly carried out in violation of Cuban laws, landed agent Alan Gross in a Havana jail with a 15-year sentence. He was arrested in 2009. For more on this case see:

Secrecy and Politics at the heart of Cuba Project

Alan Gross: A Soldier Left Behind in Cuba

 


29 thoughts on “US Defends Its “Cuba Twitter”

  • April 5, 2014 at 6:52 am
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    Silly program. A low cost way to invade Cuba with information is to drop the embargo and travel ban. It is time for the grumpy old men of Miami to get over the past. 50 + years is enough time to have tried a failed plan of regime change. Cuba.

  • April 5, 2014 at 1:31 am
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    One of the leaders is a Spanish citizens that lives in Cuba.

  • April 5, 2014 at 1:30 am
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    Why would you not want to improve the way people can communicate?
    As far as “reforming” goes: the regime is enhancing its grip on the future economy of Cuba and only allows some small reforms to squeeze taxes from the people. Lots of “cuentapropistas” have stopped or gone back to the illegality.
    This year records of arrests have been reported. under Raul the strategy has changed from long term imprisonment to repeated short term arrests. That is all.

  • April 4, 2014 at 12:37 pm
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    Are you saying all 2 million people were beaten by the police? That is quite an exaggeration.

    As you can see from these photographs (http://www.google.ca/search?q=spain+protests+march+22&client=safari&rls=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=w_g-U9DPFsW52AWE04G4AQ&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAg&biw=1168&bih=826), there were large numbers of protesters who engaged in violent actions directed against police and property.

    The Leftist protest movement today practices a deliberate policy in which a large peaceful protest is organized with smaller groups of violent activists hidden within the larger mob. At specified times and places, the violent activists will deliberately provoke police, smash window, throw molotov cocktails and set fires. The peaceful protesters will then help the violent activists to escape arrest. The protest organizers issue cynical statements denouncing police brutality. This practice even has a name, “diversity of tactics”. It was used in many of the Occupy protests, the Toronto G20 protests, and so on.

    One thing you will notice, the Spanish police did not have snipers shooting the protestors dead in the streets as the Russians did in Kiev and the Venezuelan National Guard did in Venezuela.

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