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Friday, 4 April 2014

Obama administration: ‘Cuban Twitter’ discreet, not covert

WASHINGTON D.C.: -The Obama administration denied on Thursday that a secretive program allegedly used to foment unrest and unseat the communist government in Cuba was covert.

The Associated Press revealed the existence of the U.S.-backed social media network, known as ZunZuneo – Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s chirp – in a report on Thursday. The program was run through shell companies and financed using a Cayman Islands bank account, according to the Associated Press’ (AP) investigation.

The program had as many as 40,000 subscribers at its height, none of which knew the U.S. created and funded it, said the AP.
“In implementing programs in non-permissive environments, of course the government has taken steps to be discreet. That's how you protect the practitioners and the public,” said Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary while speaking to reporters on Thursday. “It was a development-assistance program.”

Zunzuneo was operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is largely responsible for Washington’s humanitarian programs.
Parts of the program “were done discreetly” to protect those involved, said Rajiv Shah, USAID’s top official while speaking on American news network MSNBC.
The program was completed in 2012, according to Carney, who maintained that the U.S. Congress was notified of the program’s existence. It is currently unclear to what extent the U.S. Congress was kept in the loop, however.
"We were notified in the most oblique way, that nobody could understand it," said Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, told the AP. He minced no words in sharing his thoughts on the program.

“Dumb, dumb, dumb” was how he described the program while speaking on MSNBC. Shah, the USAID chief, will testify before Leahy’s committee on Tuesday.
Still, Robert Menendez, a well-known critic of Cuba's government, lauded the program, saying to the AP,  "The whole purpose of our democracy programs, whether it be in Cuba or other parts of the world, is in part to create a free flow of information in closed societies."
[aa.com.tr]
4/4/14

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