So, you thought that Yoani Sánchez and her “popular” anti-Castro blog were all that and a bag of Doritos, did you? Well, you may want to think again. Because there is a connection between her and the dearly defunct ex-parrot that is ZunZuneo, and a real Cuban blogger, Norelys Morales Aguilera, has laid it out for us:
While US vice-president Joe Biden was talking about his meeting with his country’s Cuban-born blogger, Yoani Sánchez, the Associated Press (AP) was revealing the scandal of how the US government created a communications network designed to undermine the government of Cuba, using shell companies constituted in secret and financed by way of transactions with foreign banks, and in which the US Agency for International Development (USAID) participated: a “Cuban Twitter” called ZunZuneo.
CNN and other sites claimed that the meeting was to discuss topics related to freedom of expression on the Caribbean island, according to Biden’s official Twitter account. With the picturesque mystery that accompanies the US blogger, no details of the meeting have been revealed. A representative of the White House, in an e-mail to HuffPost Voices, stated that “I can only confirm that the Vice-President met with Yoani Sánchez, but beyond that information, there are no additional details.”
The links between Yoani and the Washington-designed network have collapsed under their own weight. The AP report did not mention by name whom Washington had assigned the task of interpreting the “buzz” of this illegal interference operation which as cost several million dollars of taxpayers’ money, which the Miami “Duende” immediately made vanish.
The blogger has always denied any relationship between herself and the US government, or its interests section on the island, but a cable from their diplomatic seat in Havana, on November 27, 2006, spoke of a meeting in the home of a US diplomat with young Cubans, to watch and discuss a documentary about the fall of [former Serbian leader Slobodan] Milosevic and the OTPOR movement. And on top of that, in 2011, information came to light of meetings with the then US interests chief Michael Parmly, although Obama never met with the blogger.
So we know that Yoani was more of a cyber-saboteur than a journalist, as is also demonstrated by her many travels and her lack of the journalistic rigor needed to tell true stories.
One would lack the most elementary logic if one denied the role of the made-in-USA blogger when the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives designed the plan to promote “democratic change in Cuba” in 2009, using text messaging to send political messages and call for massive demonstrations at short notice, or “flash mobs”.
An analysis of the data of Yoani’s Twitter account, @yoanisanchez, by the website Followerwonk.com, revealed an impressive amount activity in the account from 2010 onwards. Starting in June 2010, Sánchez was attracting over 200 Twitter followers a day, sometimes as many as 700 a day.
By the same means, it was discovered that some 50,000 followers of Sánchez were in fact fake or inactive accounts, to create the illusion that she enjoyed great popularity in the social networks. In fact, of the 214,063 followers of her account in 2012, 27,000 are “eggs” (no photo), and 20,000 have the characteristics of fake accounts with no activity (0-3 messages as of the account’s creation).
Of the fake followers of Yoani Sánchez at that time, 3,363 had no followers, and 2,897 only followed Sánchez. Some accounts had very strange characteristics: no followers, only Yoani Sánchez and yet they had sent more than 2,000 messages.
This operation, intended to create a fictitious popularity on Twitter, is impossible to perform without Internet access, which Sánchez swore up and down that she did not have. It also requires technical support, as well as a considerable budget. According to an investigation by the Mexican daily newspaper La Jornada, “They paid up to $2000 for an army of 25,000 fake followers, and for 500 profiles, managed by 50 persons, it would have cost between $12,000 and $15,000.”
And that’s not even getting into the vast budget it must have taken for Yoani’s blog to be translated, by human hands, into over a dozen different languages. Or the fact that it’s on dedicated servers in a country that is most certainly not Cuba. Machetera has all the details, so if you’re wondering, clicky through and happy reading.
Meanwhile, here’s CubaInformación’s take on the whole scandal:
US vice-president Joe Biden picked a bad moment to meet with his Cuban collaborator, blogger Yoani Sánchez. Almost at the moment the Zunzuneo scandal broke: a social network for sharing messages with cellphones on the island which was created by the US government to provoke social revolts in Cuba after the fashion of the “Arab Spring”.
As one can read in the journalistic investigation by the AP news agency, “strategic documents…show that Yoani Sánchez was one of the personalitites” who used the ZunZuneo messaging platform to transmit their microblog on Twitter.
To be sure, Yoani Sánchez — so critical of the supposed lack of transparency on the part of the Cuban government — refused to respond to the questions of the reporters who published said investigation.
Let’s recall what ZunZuneo is: In 2009, the so-called Office of Transition Initiatives, of USAID (the US Agency for International Development) designed a messaging network for Cuban mobile devices as part of its strategy for “democratic change in Cuba”. It functioned until 2012, when the funding ran out. There were thousands of messages, aimed at young people, about sports or fashion, meant to create a loyal public at whom the second phase would later be directed: that of political messages and calls to join protests against the government.
The assignment of a million dollars to this Washington program concided with the explosion of popularity of the twitter account of blogger Yoani Sánchez. At that time, Sánchez — supposedly from a slow connection from Cuba — managed to snag up to 700 different Twitter accounts a day, and tens of thousands of followers who — later — were found to be fake. Evidently, this strategy for artificial popularity has a structure with a whole lot of money behind it.
Riddle me this: if Washington had dedicated $200 million to similar anti-Cuba propaganda campaigns from 1997 to 2011, and ZunZuneo cost only $1 million, where did the other $199 million go?
‘Tis a pertinent question, no?
Finally, a little bonus, and this one comes with an ironic punchline:
Cuba plans to open social networks of its own to counteract the actions of platforms such as ZunZuneo, created by the US government, according to an announcement from a functionary of the island.
“Our idea is that no one has to an invent a service for our users,” but “that the enterprise can put in place all possible services to prevent that these things occur,” said Daniel Ramos, the head of the department of Security for the state telecommunications company ETECSA.
ETECSA has “a very broad plan” to offer different types of services, added Ramos during a press conference.
Ramos affirmed that ZunZuneo, like another similar network called Piramideo, which remains active, “was created to attack Cuban networks,” and said that ETECSA will investigate “the way and form used” by those platforms to access databases of ETECSA clients.
“ETECSA condemns the use of illicit telecommunications against its networks and users,” said Ramos, adding that “all these manifestations generate an over-use of the capacities of the Cuban cellular network”, which “harms the quality of service.”
Cuba has demanded that the United States “cease its illegal and covert actions” against the island, in response to the revelations over ZunZuneo.
Translation, again, mine.
So, there you go. Now there’s gonna be a Cuban Twitter for real. And Cuba will be improving and expanding its own Internet services to accommodate it, so there will no longer be any service crashes due to overloading by outside meddlers.
Bet no one in Washington saw THAT coming!