Senate Investigates: Was ‘Cuban Twitter’ a Pro-Democracy Campaign?

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Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Last week, The Associated Press revealed that United States government attempted to create a Twitter-like social media network, called ZunZuneo, with the intention of stoking opposition in the Castro regime in Cuba, inciting social unrest, and undermining the country’s communist government. More than a thousand pages of internal government documents obtained by the publication show that the service — which allegedly operated from 2009 to 2012 and cost $1.6 million — drafted messages that were both overtly political and aimed at satirizing Fidel and Raul Castro. The idea was that the messaging network would reach thousands of Cubans.

Given the United States’ history interfering with Cuban politics and the public’s harsh criticism of the government’s surveillance habits, it is important to note that the program was not run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Rather, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) ran and paid for the social media project. Still, the revelation embroiled the U.S government in controversy to such a degree that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has launched an investigation, as the AP reported.

Senators have asked USAID — the agency that oversees billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid — to turn over all records regarding ZunZuneo, named for the slang term used by Spanish speakers for a hummingbird’s tweet.

Any time the United States takes an interventionist stance on foreign policy, debate ensues. Although it can be – and has been – argued that American interventionist tradition has had its honorable moments — from the Emancipation proclamation to the liberation of Nazi concentration camps to Vietnam War protests — it can also be said that tradition is tainted by racism, elitism, and American exceptionalism. Now before Congress is that same debate. Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, told the AP that the review will consider whether the agency’s “pro-democracy” program in Cuba was consistent with those operated in other foreign countries.

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