8 April 2014, 15:46

USAID сhief faces questioning over Cuban Twitter

USAID сhief faces questioning over Cuban Twitter

The head of the United States Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah will be questioned over the ZunZuneo program widely known as the Cuban Twitter, the Associated Press reports. USAID sponsored a secret program, dubbed ZunZuneo, to create a Cuban Twitter in an effort to manipulate the country’s residents and incite political opposition to the government.

The text messaging network attracted over 40,000 people who shared news and opinions using the service. Despite the recent encouragement of cell phones in Cuba, the cost of text messaging remains high.

The questioning of the USAID administrator seeks to determine whether ZunZuneo endangered its users by concealing that the US government was behind the program, AP reported.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, who dismissed the project as "dumb, dumb, dumb" will be the first to question Rajiv Shah.

US lawmakers will also look into secrecy issues and try to determine whether the project should have been classified. According to documents obtained by AP, the project aimed to first attract users by messages unrelated to politics such as sports or music news and only afterwards introduce political context in an effort to incite anti-government demonstrations in Cuba.

"The ZunZuneo program will not only arouse suspicion and mistrust in Cuba, it will do so across Latin America", Peter Hakim, president emeritus and senior fellow at Inter-American Dialogue, told RIA last week when the program was revealed.

And it will reduce even further US influence in the Venezuela crisis, Hakim said. "This is another American 'orange technology' which was earlier practiced in Ukraine, CIS countries and in Africa. There they tried to stage protests via social networks, here they allegedly created a national resource to destabilize the situation in the country," Ruslan Gattarov, a member of the Russian Federation Council Information Policy Committee stated, RIA reports.

Cuba accuses US in spending multimillion-dollar budgets on 'Communist' regime change

Cuba on Friday demanded that Washington stop its covert plans to subvert the island's communist government, a day after US news agency exposed the information about funding the establishment of Cuban Twitter in 2009 to stir political unrest in Cuba.

According to Cuban Foreign Ministry, such activity is aimed to "destabilize the country and provoke change in the political order," it said, adding that the United States "continues to earmark multimillion-dollar budgets each year" to what US legislators call "regime change".

"The US government must respect International Law and cease its illegal and covert actions against Cuba," the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry issued the statement in the wake of an Associated Press report, which revealed that Washington launched a covert plan in 2009, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to establish an online service in Cuba, similar to Twitter, that they could eventually use to sow political discontent among Cubans.

"The information contained in the article confirms the Cuban government's repeated claims" of covert anti-Cuban activity, and "once again shows the US government has not renounced its subversive plans against Cuba," the ministry said, Xinhua reports.

Washington has admitted that USAID funded and installed the online service, called "Zunzuneo" (Spanish for "twitter"), but denied its covert objective.

The program, Washington insists, aims to deliver unrestricted news and information to Cubans.

Read also:

US officials secretly funded a 'Cuban Twitter' to overthrow Fidel Castro

US created other 'Cuban Twitter' projects for so-called "democracy promotion" - Cuba

Latin America wants independence from 'selfish policy of US' - political analyst

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