HAVANA TIMES — The Associated Press (AP) news agency seems intent on making all of the United States plans in Cuba public. It first great revelation was that Alan Gross – the US citizen currently imprisoned in Havana – had smuggled communication systems so sophisticated they were used by the Pentagon and CIA.
In addition, it revealed that, to conduct these operations, Gross had been paid hundreds of thousands of Washington’s dollars, tearing apart the image of the altruistic Jewish humanitarian who risked his freedom to give his community on the island greater Internet access.
Sometime later, the agency revealed the existence of Zunzuneo, a kind of Twitter especially designed to steer Cuba’s internal political situation through cell-phone text messages. The United States reached some 40 thousand people on the island this way.
The plan consisted in sending interesting but politically innocuous information to users in order to gain in credibility among a public to whom materials aimed at impacting Cuba’s internal situation (with a view to “promoting democracy”) would later be sent.
Now AP brings up for discussion the fact the US government also infiltrated groups of young Latin Americans (from Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela) into Cuba in order to bolster the opposition movement – and that they did so using health programs as cover.
Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the commission that supervises USAID’s budget, declared that the façade used was “worse than irresponsible” because “the U.S. government should never sacrifice delivering basic health services or civic programs to advance an intelligence goal.”
However, the young Latin Americans were a very good deal, because they could be paid infinitesimal wages and would not become a problem for the White House if they ended up in prison. Better still, they would create conflicts between Havana and governments in the region.
Even though Cuban-American politicians consider him “soft,” Barack Obama has been one of the most actively anti-Castro presidents of recent history. He has already set a record – both global and individual – in fines applied to foreign companies that have dealings with Cuba, imposing billions of dollars in penalties on these.
His “batting average” in terms of covert operations is also impressive, though it’ll be hard for him to outdo his predecessors from the 60s, who hatched Operation Mongoose and conspiracies to commit murder and supported internal armed groups and a direct invasion.
The Obama administration looked for an alternative way of supporting and bolstering dissident activities in Cuba after Congress confirmed that the money sent to anti-Castro groups in Miami was being spent in the city to buy chocolates, leather coats and electric saws.
The government had to skip over the Cuban-American community if it wanted its resources to actually reach the dissidents. That is how the idea of hiring other US citizens and Latin Americans to smuggle communications equipment and financial resources into Cuba probably arose.
Since his electoral campaign, it’s been clear that Obama is a man who knows how to move about cyberspace and use social networks to advance political ends. No one should be surprised that the “Arab Spring” took place and that the United States tried to use that same tactic against Havana.
The President, however, should not be blamed for the failure of this plan in Cuba. He had very few chances of succeeding from the word go. Trying to unleash a cyber-war in a country that has next to no Internet connectivity is like tasking the US Navy with the invasion of Bolivia.
What’s more, he went in without considering the changes that are taking place on both shores of the Strait of Florida: Raul Castro’s reforms and the rapprochement of some of the most important and influential Cuban-American entrepreneurs, such as Fanjul, Bacardi and Saldrigas. Today, dissidents have lost most of their influence on the island because they spend far too much time outside Cuba, be it to study journalism in Florida or going on propaganda tours around Europe.
Even Miami’s anti-Castro press acknowledges that “following the migratory reforms of Raul Castro’s government, we’ve seen a tendency towards the development of a traveling dissidence which has managed to broaden its international horizons but has seen its influence on the island reduced.”
As though that weren’t enough, the White House must now confront its own, rapidly-growing internal opposition – from Hilary Clinton, who does not support the US embargo, to those who tell the press where USAID has buried its skeletons.
(*) Read the blog of Fernando Ravsberg.