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ZunZuneo: USAID Funded 'Cuban Twitter' To Undermine Communist Regime 173

Posted by timothy
from the fine-idea-to-me dept.
barlevg (2111272) writes "In a country where the government severely limits access to the world wide web, ZunZeneo, an anonymous SMS-based social network, drew more than 40,000 Cuban users at its peak, the Associated Press reports. On it, people shared news and opinions about music and culture. But what none of its subscribers knew was that the project was secretly funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), though a series of shell corporations and foreign bank accounts, and that its stated goal was 'renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society' in the Communist stronghold, hopefully leading to a 'Cuban Spring.'"
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ZunZuneo: USAID Funded 'Cuban Twitter' To Undermine Communist Regime

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:30AM (#46648399)

    How terrible the US government is, using the concepts of a free exchange of ideas to overthrow another regime!

    Well, ok, to be fair in the US, most of those free ideas are scams, but it's still slightly better than bombs and poisoned cigars.

    • by PerlPunk (548551)

      Mod up parent, please.

      • by MrNaz (730548) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:57AM (#46648707) Homepage

        They hate us for our freedom. Underhanded manipulation of their local political system for our own agenda has nothing to do with it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by towermac (752159)

          Not to argue, but it's not just our agenda. Freedom is the agenda of mankind.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Freedom to subvert using tax monies gained with no regulatory oversight within a foreign policy framework dictated by corporate interests?

            Sign me up!

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:40AM (#46648543)

      How terrible the US government is, using the concepts of a free exchange of ideas to overthrow another regime!

      I'm sure the Occupy movement would call them out on this hypocrisy.

      • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:11AM (#46648831)

        How terrible the US government is, using the concepts of a free exchange of ideas to overthrow another regime!

        I'm sure the Occupy movement would call them out on this hypocrisy.

        Why? Occupy got it's message out.

        • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:12AM (#46648851)
          With FBI and NSA keeping tabs on them under the pretext of "domestic terrorism"?
        • Well sure, but they also were subject to arrests, and in some cases post-demonstration harassment such as being put on TSA no-fly lists.

          I'm pretty sure you can "get your message out" in Cuba too, it's the consequences of doing so that are the problem.

          All of which said, I agree with the AC, this is a non-scandal. It's up there with "OMG! NSA tapped phones of German leaders!" Well, yeah. That's what it's supposed to do. I'm glad the Germans are our friends right now, but...

          • by mi (197448)

            I'm pretty sure you can "get your message out" in Cuba too, it's the consequences of doing so that are the problem.

            Are you seriously comparing getting onto a no-fly list with incarceration? Wow... It is just as idiotic as comparing losing one's job due to McCarthy's investigations with being sent to GULAG for 25 years... Oh, wait...

            • Are you seriously comparing getting onto a no-fly list with incarceration?

              No, I'm comparing incarceration with incarceration, and being put on the no-fly list with post demonstration harassment. You'll find it easier to get by in ordinary life if, when reading sentences, you don't skip words.

              Original sentence again, try reading all the words this time: Well sure, but they also were subject to arrests, and in some cases post-demonstration harassment such as being put on TSA no-fly lists.

    • "Free exchange of ideas"

      I have never heard propaganda defined quite like that before.

      • by Wycliffe (116160)

        "Free exchange of ideas"

        I have never heard propaganda defined quite like that before.

        From the article it sounds like there was plans to possibly introduce propaganda at some point but they never
        reached the threshold to do that. Basically they were just giving people a "free speech" platform.
        I'm all for phase 1 and my guess is that phase 1 would probably be enough as if people who are unhappy
        are given a way to secretly organize in an oppresive state then chances are they will eventually organize
        themself without the need for propaganda.

        I think creating ways for people all over the world to f

      • by mi (197448)

        I have never heard propaganda defined quite like that before.

        There is nothing automatically wrong with propaganda. It may very well be truthful — and usually is, when the US does it.

    • Not CIA? That's what I expected.

      Cuba is sort of the poster child for how the US is incompetent at elaborate spy-type skulduggery. I understand Castro has an entire museum dedicated to showcasing failed plots. Including the famous "poisoned baseball".

    • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:37AM (#46649113)

      Well, I guess on the morality scale, this is an improvement over open assassination attempts [wikipedia.org] and blowing up airliners [wikipedia.org] to discourage tourism. I guess that's "moral progress" by slimy U.S. standards.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      You want to give people the tools to overthrow their own regime? Fine.

      You want to give them the tools, then clandestinely take control of those tools once they're popular to foment a favourable rebellion that suits your own interests? No.

    • How about we simply allow Cuba's problems to be Cuba's and keep our hand out of the picture completely? The problem is that when we work to destabilize a government we often end up with a rebellion that ends up with an even worse government in place. Cuba's brand of communism has become a bit less harsh and will probably continue to moderate itself. But if we cause turmoil they could easily revert to a form of communism more like Stalin had in place in Russia. That would mean far greater suffering f
  • Because doing anything like this ultimately is counterproductive if found out.

    Considering the nature of Cuban propaganda, it will use this, whether it's true or not, as another banana skin to hurl at the US foreign policy.

  • USAID (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:36AM (#46648477) Journal

    USAID is suppose to be an aide organization. The moment they have to start laundering money they have gone off the reservation and entered CIA territory.

    There is a place for clandestine operation to work against regimes we don't like, that is why we have a foreign intelligence agency, CIA. Our government is completely out of control and way to large this is just more proof!

    Not only that it completely undermines the mission of USAID to have it associated with these type of shenanigans; its supposed to be about soft power, its supposed to be about building trust. Here we have one more department with in the government demonstrating laws don't matter, not ours and certainly not any other sovereigns. Shameful...

    • Re:USAID (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheDarkMaster (1292526) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:12AM (#46648857)
      Is the same thing here on Brazil. USAID here helps every one who wants to overthrow any government that does not comply doggedly what the U.S. told to do.
      • by DarkOx (621550)

        As an American I am okay with that. I would not expect USAID to provide material support to groups the rest of the State Department wants to see go away.

        Its one thing for USAID to give money in an overt and legal way to group some foreign regime might not like much, but tolerates within its boarders.

        Its quite another for our aide organization to violating the laws for foreign countries, which at least in this case with Cuba they must have been because otherwise why the shell companies and secrecy.

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          As an American I would not want aid any government agencies worrying about foreign laws against free speech, or other laws that we formally consider to be evil.

    • The US does not act in a vacuum. It is not the only country with aggressive intelligence agencies looking to collect information from every one they can. And the preposterous claims that the US should not spy on it's "friends" is hilarious in the extreme. Countries don't have "friends" they only have interests which are constantly in flux. Outside of some initial indignant statements for public consumption concerning the NSA foreign intelligence programs the issue has been gradually pushed to the background

    • by NotDrWho (3543773)

      USAID is suppose to be an aide organization.

      Like many U.S. NGO's, it's a front. Why do you think so many countries are distrustful of U.S. aid groups?

      • USAID is suppose to be an aide organization.

        Like many U.S. NGO's, it's a front...

        NGO stands for "Non Government Organization". USAID is not a NGO.

        http://www.usaid.gov/who-we-ar... [usaid.gov]

        As I read the article, it seems to say that the USAID helped set up social networks in Cuba that weren't controlled by the government. That sounds like a good thing to me. I'm puzzled why any /. readers would object to this.

        • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @11:13AM (#46649497)

          it seems to say that the USAID helped set up social networks in Cuba that weren't controlled by the government. That sounds like a good thing to me. I'm puzzled why any /. readers would object to this.

          Because the goal isn't to set up social networks, it's to start a violent coup and ultimately reinstall a U.S. puppet government in Cuba. These social networks are just a means to a slimy end.

          • it seems to say that the USAID helped set up social networks in Cuba that weren't controlled by the government. That sounds like a good thing to me. I'm puzzled why any /. readers would object to this.

            Because the goal isn't to set up social networks, it's to start a violent coup and ultimately reinstall a U.S. puppet government in Cuba. These social networks are just a means to a slimy end.

            Why do I care about the purported goal-- what we should care about is what they were actually doing, which was setting up a social network independent of the Cuban government. That's a good thing.

            The stated goal, in any case, was not "to start a violent coup." I don't know if the US government even knows what it wants (Cuban policy seems to nearly zero priority in the US, outside of south Florida)-- but the quote from the article was "its stated goal was 'renegotiate the balance of power between the state

            • You may not realize this, but stated goal != actual goal in most foreign affairs of the US government; hence all the secrecy and shell games.
        • by Aighearach (97333)

          As I read the article, it seems to say that the USAID helped set up social networks in Cuba that weren't controlled by the government. That sounds like a good thing to me. I'm puzzled why any /. readers would object to this.

          Because dice sold us out to right wing propagandists, because that is where the money is in media these days.

    • Color me naive, but I think I'm actually okay with an aid organization providing services that most of the rest of the world enjoy to people trapped within a country that rules over them as a dictatorship. That sounds a lot like aid to me, and if they need to engage in shenanigans to get that aid to the people, I'm okay with that too. After all, when a government stands in the way of its people receiving basic services, you have to do stuff like that. And if they're hoping that the people will use that serv

      • Color me naive, but [...] I really don't have a problem with this unless they were actively using it to try and incite a Cuban Spring, rather than merely passively providing it and letting things develop on their own.

        There is a wide range of gray between active and passive here. I'm willing to bet they were in an area that would make you uncomfortable.

        • Quite likely, and mere moments after I submitted the comment I realized that I had completely failed to consider or address that topic.

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          There is a wide range of gray between active and passive here. I'm willing to bet they were in an area that would make you uncomfortable.

          Probably not, since the project failed. You want to retool your attack. ;) A reasonable extended concern would be in what they would have done if it was successful, which is unknown. As a project that failed to attract the interest of the Cubans, for whatever reason, we know that they were not able to use it to wander into whatever gray areas they may or may not have had in mind.

    • Relevant news: On Democracy and Orchestrated Overthrows in Venezuela and Ukraine [ragingbullshit.com]

      The National Endowment for Democracy [wikipedia.org] has been seen working behind the scenes in Ukraine, Venezuela, Turkey...

      Also check out operation Gladio [globalresearch.ca]: secret networks of far-right groups orchestrating false-flag and other attacks against communist or any other left-wing movements in Europe, since WWII. 1992 BBC documentary [youtube.com] (bad quality though) "killed hundreds of innocent Europeans and attempted to blame the deaths on Baader Meinhof"

    • by fermion (181285)
      From their website

      "USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential."

      So things like anonymous communications that allows the citizenary to communicate without their government surveling them can be considered part of that mission. USAID is actually directed to promote democratic governements. It is like the old Radio Free America. They do not actively undermine governments, but they do put propaganda

      • by NotDrWho (3543773)

        They do not actively undermine governments

        Do you believe in Bigfoot too?

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        Did you skip the part where they would start broadcasting their own propaganda over the network once it was popular?

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          Did you skip the part where they would start broadcasting their own propaganda over the network once it was popular?

          You did, apparently. Neither happened; it did not become popular, and they did not broadcast their propaganda over it.

      • by Aighearach (97333)

        Of course all this falls apart when we note that US is no longer recognizing anonymous and free communications as a fundamental right of the citizen.

        As an American with an interest in civics and history, I'd like to point out that however you feel about anonymity, that was never a fundamental right.

        It was always the case that you have a right to privacy in your personal effects including communication, but it was up to YOU to keep it private. The restriction was never on knowing who something belongs to. Instead, the Right is to be free of government interference in your communication and to be free of the government searching your effects without caus

    • by X.25 (255792)

      USAID is suppose to be an aide organization. The moment they have to start laundering money they have gone off the reservation and entered CIA territory.

      If you think USAID has ever been an "aid" organization, I have a bridge you might be interested in.

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      I'm not sure where it says you're the guy they need to check with in order to determine the full breadth of responsibilities for each agency.

      I'd prefer to let Congress and the President figure that out between them. Since those are people I can vote for.

  • The government already has the CIA for this stuff. It was amazingly dumb of USAID to start doing the CIA's job. The head of USAID should resign followed by a full investigation.

    But that won't happen because the government has stopped caring about appearances any more.

    • by NotDrWho (3543773)

      The CIA needs fronts. They can't just hand out money with "Central Intelligence Agency" printed on the checks.

      • by Error27 (100234)

        It's not clear that USAID was at the front on this opperation. They were funding it secretly through shell companies. When it comes to clandestine operations the CIA has better qualifications. It's just stupid, and more stupid.

        • It's not clear that USAID was at the front on this opperation. They were funding it secretly through shell companies. When it comes to clandestine operations the CIA has better qualifications. It's just stupid, and more stupid.

          You assume that USAID is more than just a front for the CIA.

    • by cusco (717999)

      This has been the job of USAID since it was founded, undermine governments that were not friendly to US economic powers and replace them with more cooperative ones. The CIA does this militarily, USAID does this economically and culturally. They also fund, through the Consulate system, English as a Second Language institutes that are supposed to promote US business and culture. I worked at one for a year in Peru.

  • by stewsters (1406737) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:49AM (#46648629)
    And this is why Twitter does not need to be profitable to be in business. The investors are shell companies working for other governments, hoping they will cause a US spring.
  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:01AM (#46648741) Journal

    It's funny how butthurt they are about Cuba and how much effort they put into overthrowing Castro. It's like they don't have any bigger problems.

    • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:28AM (#46649015)

      Batista was a U.S. puppet, and his cronies (who are now a significant voting block in FL) lost a lot of money and power when Castro came in. They want it back, and they want it back BAD. The U.S. will murder, commit terrorism, or do anything else to accomplish this goal.

      The most shameful incident (IMHO) came in 1976, when a CIA agent [wikipedia.org] blew up a civilian Cuban airliner [wikipedia.org], killing 78 innocent people. And said CIA agent is still living free (and protected) in the U.S. to this day. The U.S., my country, openly committing terrorism for petty economic ends. Fucking pathetic.

      • It would have been great had Batista been replaced with a democratic government. Instead, Cuba got worse. At least Batista was an idealogical blank. Look up what Cuba did to black Africans. It ain't pretty.
      • Batista was a U.S. puppet, and his cronies (who are now a significant voting block in FL) lost a lot of money and power when Castro came in. They want it back, and they want it back BAD. The U.S. will murder, commit terrorism, or do anything else to accomplish this goal.

        The most shameful incident (IMHO) came in 1976, when a CIA agent [wikipedia.org] blew up a civilian Cuban airliner [wikipedia.org], killing 78 innocent people. And said CIA agent is still living free (and protected) in the U.S. to this day. The U.S., my country, openly committing terrorism for petty economic ends. Fucking pathetic.

        Castro was a Soviet puppet, and his cronies (who are now a significant power block in Cuba) gained a lot of money and power when Castro came in. They want to keep it, and they want to keep it BAD. The Cuban communists will murder, commit terrorism, jail the opposition, or do anything else to accomplish this goal.

        It is hard to pick the most shameful incident, but surely Che's bloodbaths must be considered.

        The Truth About Che Guevara [worldaffairsjournal.org]

        Cuba is a police state and Che was its co-founder. Cubans “love” him the same way Romanians “loved” Nicolae Ceausescu and East Germans “loved” Berlin Wall architect Erich Honecker

        You know what happens to Cubans who display open hatred of Che?

        They get arrested.

        When he was still alive, they were executed or herded into slave-labor camps.

        So yeah, everyone “loves” him. It’s required by law. Woe to those who disobey State Security.

        The human spirit is a powerful force, though, and some Cubans can’t take it. A million and a half fled to the United States to escape the instruments of Che Guevara’s repression, many across the Florida Straits where the odds of survival are no better than two out of three. Others resisted at home, especially during the 1960s, the decade of global rebellion.

        CHE GUEVARA [discoverthenetworks.org]

        In his book Che Guevara: A Biography, Daniel James writes that Che himself admitted to ordering "several thousand" executions during the first year of the Castro regime. Felix Rodriguez, the Cuban-American CIA operative who helped track him down in Bolivia and was the last person to question him, says that Che during his final talk, admitted to "a couple thousand" executions. But he shrugged them off as all being of "imperialist spies and CIA agents."

        Vengeance, much less justice, had little to do with the Castro/Che directed bloodbath in the first months of 1959. Che's murderous agenda in La Cabana fortress in 1959 was exactly Stalin's murderous agenda in the Katyn Forest in 1940. Like Stalin's massacre of the Polish officer corps, like Stalin's Great Terror against his own officer corps a few years earlier, Che's firing squad marathons were a perfectly rational and cold blooded exercise that served their purpose ideally. His bloodbath decapitated literally and figuratively the first ranks of Cuba's anti-Castro rebels.

        Oh, and here are more of the people that you label as Batis

  • U.S. government, CIA, and old Batista cronies once again tries to overthrow Cuban government by any means necessary, film at eleven!

  • The US is *still* doing this crap, presumably to cater to the folks who were for the dictator Batista, or the Mafia, who's still pissed at loosing all the money from those casinos?

    Why is the US so in bed with China, if those in the "intelligence community" (for values of each of those words approaching zero as a limit) are so desperate to bring down China?

    I want my tax dolars wasted on this back.

                      mark

  • I'm unclear if this article is supposed to raise righteous anger at some evil by the old USA. But this sounds exactly like something we should be doing to promote our views, and probably a lot more effective than any threats or insults.

  • If you want to end communism in cuba put a mcdonalds and a walmart in havana and wait about a month.

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