Tweets, the Cuban 5 and the U.S. blockade

A widely distributed Associated Press article on April 3 revealed details of yet another covert U.S. program meant to undermine socialist Cuba.

The AP’s investigative report, titled “U.S. secretly built ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest,” describes a multimillion-dollar program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development that was meant to gather intelligence on cellphone users in Cuba for eventual use in destabilizing the country.

Both this report and an earlier one on the secret role of USAID contractors in Cuba, published on Feb. 13, 2012, strip away the agency’s claims of helping poorer countries and show it to be really just another tool of U.S. imperialism.

An immediate response came from Josefina Vidal, who is in charge of relations with the U.S. at Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“The information contained in the article published by the U.S. news agency AP,” she said, “confirms the repeated denunciations made by the government of Cuba. It is once again demonstrated that the government of the United States has not given up on its subversive plans against Cuba, which seek to create destabilizing situations in the country in order to provoke changes in our political order, to which the government of the United States continues to dedicate budgets of millions of dollars every year.

“The government of the United States must respect International Law and the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and it must, therefore, cease its illegal and covert actions against Cuba, which are rejected by the Cuban people and the international public opinion.” (Cuba MinRex)

The AP report describes how the U.S. carefully concealed its hand in setting up a twitter-like application, aimed at Cuban cellphone users, that it called ZunZuneo. It resorted to money laundering, fictitious offshore shell corporations, mirrored sites and computers in different countries in order to conceal the origins of the app.

In an era of the massive gathering of electronic and phone communications by the National Security Agency, both in the U.S. and around the world, the ZunZuneo subterfuge shouldn’t be too surprising. Even former President Jimmy Carter says he uses the postal service to communicate with other heads of state because he believes the U.S. government is spying on him.

After the AP’s bombshell, the International Business Times published a brief history on earlier U.S. attempts to undermine the Cuban government. It included images of U.S. documents from the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to Operations Mongoose and Northwoods — including assassinations and scenarios meant to provide the pretext for an open invasion.

It took years for these plots to be revealed in the major media. So what is new, and why now?

One factor is undoubtedly the global capitalist economic crisis, which is intensifying competition among the imperialists for economic penetration and profitable exploitation of more countries.

Blockade of Cuba has failed

In the digital age, the U.S. blockade of Cuba is intensifying. Take for a tiny example what happened to the British group Cuba Solidarity Campaign when it attempted to purchase a book from the U.S. publisher Monthly Review called “The U.S. Economic War Against Cuba.” The financial transaction was intercepted and blocked, and not only the left was angry.

The U.S. blockade of Cuba was a political decision put in place more than half a century ago that was meant to destroy an independent, sovereign and socialist Cuba. But Cuba’s prestige is high and its system has survived. Today the blockade conflicts with the interests of growing sectors of the U.S. ruling class. Exposés like AP’s investigative reports strengthen their hand.

A growing number of businesses in the U.S. are chafing at Washington’s restrictions that make trade with Cuba almost impossible. Take Florida, which has a long economic history with Cuba that goes back long before 1959, and then became a bastion of counterrevolutionary Cuban exile groups. Elected officials in Florida are pushing for changes. A recent Atlantic Council poll showed that support for normalizing relations with Cuba is strong throughout the U.S., and now even stronger in Florida.

U.S. allies are also balking at the U.S. blockade. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba is a welcome partner. Brazil has announced that Cuba will be advertised as a tourist destination, even though U.S. air carriers are fined when they pay Cuba for overflight authorization.

The U.S. blockade prohibits ships that dock in Cuba from docking in a U.S. port for six months. But now, shippers and port operators on the East Coast are wondering what will happen when Cuba’s new container port at Mariel is fully functional. Will China’s supercontainer ships pass through the widened Panama Canal and go to Mariel instead of Miami? Could Mariel become the transshipment point for providing goods throughout Latin America and the Caribbean?

Cuba has just expanded foreign investment opportunities — a measure that will certainly bring problems as well as possibilities. But health care and education, two rights provided to Cubans at no out-of-pocket cost, are not for sale.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy calls the blockade “a foolish, self-defeating embargo” and is calling USAID officials before the Senate appropriations subcommittee on April 8 to explain why the ZunZuneo project was undertaken without congressional approval.

Leahy was one of 66 senators who signed a Nov. 21 letter urging President Barack Obama “to act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain [Alan Gross’s] release, and we stand ready to support your Administration in pursuit of this worthy goal.” Gross, a USAID contractor arrested in Cuba as a spy, was the subject of an earlier report by AP in 2012 that demolished the State Department’s claim that Gross was a humanitarian. It showed he was actually on the U.S. government payroll installing secret communication devices issued by the U.S. military or State Department.

Back on Jan. 1, the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, President Raúl Castro said: “The attempts to disseminate ideas that deny the vitality of the concepts of Marx, Lenin and Martí must be countered, among other ways, by a creative theoretical conceptualization of the socialism that’s possible within Cuba’s capabilities as the only alternative of equality and justice for all.

“The new generations of leaders, who gradually and orderly are assuming the main responsibilities in the leadership of the nation, should never forget that this is the Socialist Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble, an indispensable precept and effective antidote to refrain from falling under the influence of the siren songs of the enemy, who will not renounce the objective of distancing [our leaders] from our people so as to undermine their unity with the Communist Party, the only and legitimate heir of the legacy and authority of the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, comrade Fidel Castro Ruz.” (Progreso Weekly, April 3)

Support for the Cuban 5

The details revealed in the AP report point once again to the profound injustice done to the Cuban 5 and their families. These five men came to the U.S. to protect innocent Cubans and others from the relentless attacks on all levels launched from this country. They did no harm to the people of the U.S. but were arrested in 1998 and received heavy jail sentences. They are heroes on all levels. Three of the Cuban 5 still remain in U.S. prisons: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. René González and Fernando González have returned to Cuba after completing their sentences.

From June 4 to 11, activists will bring their case to Washington, D.C. Join the “5 Days for the Cuban 5” at a rally at the White House at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 7. On the fifth of every month, call, email or fax the White House. Plan educational activities in your area. Get more information at and