Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com – 2014-04-05 01:21:39
Congress to Probe USAID’s ‘Cuban Twitter’ Fiasco
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 4, 2014) — Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have announced intentions to open probes into USAID’s spending of $1.6 million in “Pakistan” aid money creating a Twitter work-a-like for Cuba, in the hopes of fueling regime change.
USAID’s scheme, budded ZunZuneo, funneled money into an offshore account in the Cayman Islands, and set up a dummy corporation to run the operation, with its corporate leaders kept in the dark about its nature as a US government operation.
USAID’s leadership continues to defend the operation as a valid part of its agenda, but officials higher up the food chain see the embarrassment for what it is, and are quickly distancing themselves from it.
The White House claimed some officials there might have had some idea that there was some effort to “encourage expression of free ideas” in Cuba, but insist they had no idea it took the form of ZunZuneo. Spokesman Jay Carney objected to calling it a “covert” operation, but similarly insisted he had no idea it existed.
The State Department similarly denied any knowledge of the program, insisting then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was never told about it, and that it ended before John Kerry took over.
Cuba’s state media, for their part, are mocking ZunZuneo, which never got all that popular to begin with and vanished in 2012 after USAID pulled funding, as yet another failed US plot for regime change.
‘Cuban Twitter’ a USAID Plot for Regime Change
Jason Ditz / AntiWar
(April 3, 2014) — ZunZuneo, a relatively unsuccessful Twitter-style social network aimed at Cuba, was actually a plot by the USAID agency, which hoped it would spark protests and an eventual regime change.
The scheme, which Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations Committee head Patrick Leahy (D-VT) termed “dumb, dumb, dumb,” cost $1.6 million, which officially was earmarked for unspecified aid to Pakistan.
USAID head Rajiv Shah insisted ZunZuneo was not technically a “covert program,” because USAID doesn’t do covert programs. Rather, they kept the whole thing secret to “protect the people involved.”
Despite being unclear on what the word “covert” actually means, USAID seems halfway adept at doing it, setting up front companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands to funnel taxpayer money into the scheme, and recruiting ZunZuneo’s official corporate leadership without telling them anything about US government involvement.
USAID went on to issue a statement today insisting that it is “proud of its work in Cuba,” and that they believe the operation was “consistent with US law.”
The ZunZuneo program never got all that big, maxing out at about 40,000 subscribers. In September 2012 USAID pulled official support from it, and service disappeared almost immediately thereafter.