You can’t log on to ZunZuneo anymore; the social network with the hummingbird logo (and the onomatopoeic name referencing its hum) is now an ex-parrot. Can you believe, though, that the US State Dept., working through its USAID arm, tried to position it as a “Cuban Twitter”, an alternative that would eventually foment a counter-revolution?
Yeah, that went well.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Kornbluh, you met with Alan Gross. He has been in prison in Cuba for, what, now I think he’s in his fourth year of prison. This is back in 2010, about the time that this program was starting, and he was arrested by the Cuban authorities for setting up a satellite communications network in Cuba as part of USAID’s Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program. Is there a link?
PETER KORNBLUH: Yes. This is all part of a broader USAID effort to use the Internet, to use modern social media communication systems, to both network Cubans and then have an independent communications vehicle to Cubans on the island through which messages can be sent when unrest occurs, both to spur unrest and then to basically be able to communicate with leaders of the opposition to the Cuban government. And Alan Gross’s project was very similar, although it was—it had a different technological dynamic than the Twitter account, but it was the same idea: You create a network, you build a base of independent communications, and then later you can have people use those communications and receive communications from the United States in a way that gets around the controls of the Cuban government.
Alan Gross was arrested in December of 2009. I believe that this program probably was in the works, this Twitter program, all throughout 2009 also and may well have derived from the very end of the Bush administration. The Bush administration really wanted to help the Republican Party and help Jeb Bush in Florida, eventually, by pushing forward with covert operations and pro-democracy operations, and they started throwing even more money at USAID to do this. But one of the elements that we’ve learned here is that even after Alan Gross was arrested and Congress began to very forcefully scrutinize these types of surreptitious, certainly clearly covert operations being run out of USAID, USAID did not stop them. They continued and escalated this very Twitter-like program that we’re now learning about.
I think it’s very important, though, Amy, that we recognize one thing. Like the Alan Gross gambit, this Twitter operation failed miserably. It was a waste of money in the end, and now, with the revelations of it, are hurtful to the effort to kind of rebuild a U.S.-Cuban relationship, solve the problem of Alan Gross in prison in Cuba and the three Cuban spies that are still in prison in the United States, and get on with a relationship with Cuba that is a modern relationship that meets the national interests of the United States of America. And these regime change programs are only hurtful to those national interests.
Meanwhile, it’s not like the government of Cuba was unaware of what was really going on:
The denunciations of Cuban president Raúl Castro over the destabilizing efforts of the government of the United States against Cuba were corroborated with the revelation on Thursday of a plan to push Cuban youth toward counterrevolution, with participation of a US agency.
Washington planned the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” to undermine the authorities on the island, promoted by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), with shell corporations constituted in secret and financing from foreign banks.
The Associated Press (AP) stated on April 3 that it had access to over a thousand documents over the communications network ZunZuneo, whose proposition was to make itself popular with Cuban youth and later “push them toward dissidency”.
The AP stated that users never knew that the project was created by an agency of the US State Department, nor that US contractors were gathering personal data on them with the hope that the information could be used toward political ends.
On January 1, on the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, president Raúl Castro denounced “attempts to subtly introduce platforms of neoliberal thinking and the restoration of neocolonial capitalism” in Cuba.
“They tried deceptively to sell to the youngest people the supposed advantages of disregarding ideologies and social conscience, as if those precepts did not precisely represent the interests of the dominant class in the capitalist world,” said the head of state in the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba.
He then emphasized that with such efforts, they were trying “to introduce a rupture in the historic direction of the Revolution and the new generations, and promote uncertainty and pessimism about the future, all of that with the marked intent of dismantling from within the socialism in Cuba.”
So you can see that the Brothers Castro have been watching this situation and keeping their people vigilant. I bet they feel vindicated by its failure, as they should. Cubans on the island neither want nor need a “Cuban Twitter”; the government isn’t barring them from using the real thing. How do I know? Because I’m following several Cuban tweeters myself. They can and do communicate freely with the outside world. The only real thing standing in the way of Cuban internauts is the lack of a budget for that, but that’s already changing; as part of the ALBA, Cuba is collaborating with Venezuela to improve Internet access for its citizens. Undersea cables are already being built, connecting Cuba with South America. ALBA will also help improve Internet service within the island itself.
So there’s really no place for USAID in all this, and they’ve blown a big wad of cash for nothing, on people who have no cause to sympathize (and who are constantly being informed by their own government and media as to why THAT is). Good job, State Dept., good job. When do you plan on removing that silly blockade, which is the only real barrier to normal relations between the US and Cuba? Because until you do that, all these propaganda campaigns are going to fizzle just like ZunZuneo.
BTW, the Democracy Now headline is a bit beside the mark. No, USAID is not the “new CIA”. It’s not a new agency at all. And it’s been working hand in glove with the CIA’s spooks for a very long time, as my translation of Raúl Capote’s interview shows. He, too, was a selected “beneficiary” of that big-budget “democracy promotion” shell game, at least until he blew the whistle and got the spooks and “aid” functionaries edged out of what he and his fellow Cubans worked so hard to build. That, too, is an object lesson in how not to win friends and influence people in Cuba!