To undermine Cuban authorities, Washington planned the creation of a "Cuban Twitter," promoted by USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), through a network of secretly organized front companies with financing routed through offshore banks.
The Associated Press (AP) said today that it had access to more than a thousand documents regarding the Zunzuneo communications network, designed to gain popularity among young Cubans and later "push them toward dissidence."
The objective of the operation was to launch a messaging network which could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans using non- controversial content, and popular topics such as soccer, music, hurricanes and advertising. When this goal was met, the plan was to begin sending messages with political content and calls for mass action, which could unleash a "Cuban spring."
AP reported that the network's users never knew that the project was created by a U.S. agency working with the State Department, nor that U.S. contractors were gathering personal data, in hopes of using it for political purposes.
On January 1 of this year, on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, President Raul Castro denounced "attempts to subtly introduce platforms for neoliberal thought and restoration of neo-colonial capitalism" in Cuba.
"They are eager to deceptively market the supposed advantages of disregard for ideology or social conscience to the youngest (Cubans), as if such concepts were not fully reflective of ruling class interests in the capitalist world," the President said in Santiago de Cuba.
He emphasized that such efforts were meant to "induce a break between the historical leadership of the Revolution and younger generations, promoting uncertainty and pessimism about future prospects, all with the clear objective of dismantling socialism in Cuba from within."
According to the AP report, the anti-Cuban plan may have violated U.S. law, which requires written presidential authorization and notification of Congress to carry out any undercover operation. At the very least, the evidence would seem to contradict the arguments long advanced by USAID about its non-participation in covert action.
The matter is closely related to the situation of USAID contractor Alan Gross, arrested in Cuba in 2009 and convicted of engaging in illegal actions with objectives and procedures very similar to those of the Zunzuneo operation.
The report emphasizes that USAID and its contractors made a significant effort to conceal the project's ties with Washington. To this end, front companies were established in Spain and bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, to cover the money trail.
Attempts were also made to hire business executives without revealing to them that the project was being financed by the U.S. government.
There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement," said a memo from Mobile Accord, one of the businesses contracted for the project. "This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission," it added.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont, chairman of the Senate sub-committee overseeing State Department and Foreign Operations, said that the revelations were troubling.
"There is the risk to young, unsuspecting Cuban cellphone users who had no idea this was a U.S. government-funded activity," he pointed out. Also, "There is the clandestine nature of the program which was not disclosed to the Appropriations Subcommittee with oversight responsibility. And there is the disturbing fact that it was apparently activated shortly after Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who was sent to Cuba to help provide citizens access to the Internet, was arrested."
The plan, which was meant to mobilize and organize young Cubans to oppose their country's government lasted from 2009 to 2012, said the AP.
Zunzuneo is yet another in a long list of secret anti-Cuban operations, ranging from the Bay of Pigs, through the hundreds of attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and other Cuban leaders, and support for other counter-revolutionary bands who murdered rural residents and teachers.
That list includes terrorist actions such as the downing of the Cubana de Aviacion passenger plane in 1976, with 73 people aboard, and the introduction to Cuba of illnesses such as hemorraghic dengue and other bio-warfare agents.
The U.S. government finances and directs anti-Cuban radio and television broadcasts, and has subjected the country to the longest economic, financial and commercial blockade in history.
SPANISH COMPANY WILL REVEAL INFORMATION ABOUT ANTI-CUBAN NETWORK
The Spanish communications company Lleida.net has expressed its willingness to release information about its participation in the ZunZuneo project, a social network created in Cuba by the U.S. government, to promote subversive action.
According to an Associated Press investigation, the project was financed with U.S. public funds and included a contract with Lleida.net to send unidentifiable messages to Cuba.
In a communiqué received by Prensa Latina, LLeida.net denies having participated "in an active way" in the program which was launched in 2010 and functioned through 2012. The company expressed its willingness to collaborate in clarification of the events.
"If at any point, users of Lleida.net have committed and illegal act, Lleida.net is, as it had always been, at the disposition of competent authorities to facilitate necessary information through legally established channels," the communiqué stated.
The company argues that as a telecommunications operator it must abide by privacy regulations, and cannot verify or modify the content of messages sent by its clients.
Lleida.net adds that it operates messaging systems used by thousands of clients around the world, and functions transparently.
An internet attorney Carlos Sánchez Almeida, cited by AP, said that the activities revealed violated Spanish data privacy laws since, the personal information gathered was used to illegally develop a list of telephone numbers to which unsolicited messages were sent from a Spanish platform. (PL)