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Lane: A new type of tampering in Cuba

BY JOE LANE | APRIL 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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For quite some time now, the United States and Cuba have had, to put it lightly, a complicated political relationship.

U.S.-Cubanties were further complicated by the United States’ latest attempt to undermine the Cuban government and overthrow the rule of the Castro family, this time through the creation of a pseudo-Twitter. The most recent plot is not the first nor, it seems, will it be the last.

Historically, attempts at overthrowing the oppressive government have not ended very well for the United States. For instance, the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, which sent 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles to invade the country from Guatemala, failed miserably and resulted in foreign-policy issues for the Kennedy organization, the least of which included Castro’s increased awareness of the possibility of future U.S. attacks.

The latest attempt by the United States to overthrow Castro’s regime, however, was quite different than previous endeavors. There was no killing involved. There were ground troops, but they were not armed with lethal weapons. Rather, this battle was fought online, and like its predecessors, it, too, was and is shrouded in controversy.

“ZunZuneo,” the creatively titled primitive Cuban social network that seemed to have appeared as if out of thin air (and returned there quickly) was named after the Cuban sound made by hummingbirds — a clear nod at the ubiquitous social network Twitter.

According to CNN, the social network had 40,000 subscribers in 2011, but it completely vanished by mid-2012 amid pressure from the Cuban government.

The simple social network that seemed too good to be true in a country with strict Internet regulations was designed, funded, and operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

It was clear what USAID was trying to do here. As seen in the Arab Spring, social media play an integral role in mounting a 21st-century revolution. Without a powerful social media presence, it’s as if a revolution is being pursued with muskets and cannon balls. With it, however, revolutionaries are more powerful than ever.

According to NBC News, USAID was not hiding that ZunZuneo was “a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba.” This, however, may have been the only thing that USAID was not hiding.

The controversy related to this particular attempt is that it is still unclear whether the “scheme,” as it was appropriately deemed by NBC News, was legal under U.S. law, which states that written authorization of covert operation by the president, along with congressional notification, is required.

Despite this controversy, CNN reports that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney contends that the Obama administration was not trying to hide anything and that the money invested in the project had been debated in Congress, denying the argument that the project was considered “covert.”

It seems odd to me, however, that an operation not deemed covert is just now entering the public conscious, nearly two years after the end of the project.

Despite the fact that this attempt at destroying the Castro regime has failed (not surprisingly, because it was pretty weak), it raises an interesting thought. In the 21st century, manpower in a revolution is as critical as ever; however, change does not require bullets — at least in the beginning, that is.


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