Venezuela's authorities deployed hundreds of security forces, including troops in combat gear, into an opposition stronghold early Monday to stamp out protests against the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Post by TsarSamuil on Mar 19, 2014 20:12:45 GMT -5
Hopefully it will lead to the breakup of the US
Latinos become the majority in California, but remain political lightweights.
RT.com March 18, 2014 04:02
US sociologists have long said that the majority of Americans will not be Caucasian past the coming decades. Already in California, Latinos have become the majority demographic, though political representation is another matter.
In March, for the first time ever, the official population of California will be 39-percent Latino, nudging past the 38.8-percent of state residents who are white non-Hispanic and far more than the comparatively small Asian American and African American demographics.
The number of Latinos was initially expected to surpass the non-Hispanic white population, although the Latino birth rate temporarily slowed uncharacteristically.
This change is not necessarily a surprise, with California becoming the second state to undergo such a shift after New Mexico. Hispanic voters have yet to see their population accurately reflected in national politics, however.
“On election day 2012, there were 53 million Latinos in the US – 17.2-percent of the population,” wrote Rory Carroll of the Guardian. “But they accounted for just 10.8-percent of eligible voters and 8.4-percent of actual voters. Furthermore, half lived in Texas and California, which don’t swing presidential races.”
More Hispanics will almost certainly vote in the next presidential election than the last, although how they will vote will be difficult to predict. Former US President George Bush earned more Latino votes than Republicans usually do in 2004, in part because of a promise to fight for immigration reform. That plan never came to fruition, and would remain unabated through the next administration.
In 2012, Latinos voted for President Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney by a margin of 71-percent to 27-percent. Obama has yet to repay the favor, though, earning the nickname “deporter-in-chief” because more people have been deported during his administration than the previous one.
As Latinos make up more of the population not only in California but throughout the US, where they vote will matter less. Last year, the Pew Research Center called the Hispanic electorate “an awakened giant” that is likely to double in size over the next 16 years.
“Demographic changes that are coming will reshape the electorate, and in turn that will likely have impacts on policies and issues that decision makers focus on in the coming decades,” Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, told Melody Gutierrez of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Other experts have said that the numbers could even exceed current expectation because the current median age for Latinos is 28 years old, prime childbearing years.
“A big question mark is about what that means for policy for youth,” Romero said. “Older voters often aren’t supportive of youth-specific policies.”
Mark Hugo Lopez, director of the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, told the Guardian that while the future is bright for Hispanics hoping for better representation, changes will come soon.
“Latinos are punching below their weight,” he said. “I would say the glass is half full.”
‘It's simply about regime change, not improving Venezuela’s economy’
RT.com March 25, 2014 10:52
Although there were some economic problems in Venezuela over the past year, the main aim of the protesters is to oust the government of Nicolas Maduro and to effect regime change, lawyer and writer Eva Golinger told RT.
A wave of anti-government protests, the largest in a decade, has been sweeping through Venezuela since early February. It started in the western part of the country, with students demanding increased security after a female student reported an attempted rape. Protesters were also complaining about shortages of basic food items and high inflation. From there, the demonstrations spread fast to the capital, Caracas, where they quickly turned into violent. Since then Venezuela has witnessed constant anti-government protests, with many people falling victim to violence.
RT: The number of those killed in clashes is rising every day – is the government unable to stop the violence?
Eva Golinger: First of all, I think it's important to look at who this violence really benefits, and whose interests are really benefitting from this type of violence. And I think it becomes clear that it’s without doubt the anti-government protesters, because they are using it as a way to try to show that the country is in crisis and that the government is responsible for the violence.
I think if you examine the facts as to who exactly has been the victim of such violence, we’ll see that in fact the numbers are now up to seven National Guard police officers who have actually been killed by anti-government protesters – and that's not being reported by most mainstream media outlets. At the same time, among others unfortunately been killed in a protest in Venezuela, the majority are either pro-government supporters or innocent people who were just trying to get through the barricades – illegal barricades that were set up by the protesters.
So one main issue which has been a problem is the fact that a lot of these protests are occurring in municipalities, where the opposition is in charge with their opposition mayors and governors, and they are refusing to stop the protest in any way. So they are refusing to use their own police forces to prevent the protesters from engaging in that type of violence or setting up the barricades that have been the largest responsibility for the deaths that have occurred over the past six weeks.
And then at the same time there have been the efforts made by the government to try to push back some of the protests that have also either resulted in violence or have been used to show some kind of government repression. So personally I think there is much more the government could be doing in order to ensure that people's legitimate right to protest is respected, but that has been done in a peaceful way and when it's not done in a peaceful way it endangers others’ lives, then of course it has be controlled for the security of other people.
RT: People are protesting against food shortages. What's the reason for the deficits?
EG: Actually people are not protesting in Venezuela in general against food shortages. Those who are protesting against the government have said specifically that their aim is to oust the government of Nicolas Maduro, and their goal is regime change.
So this is not a protest movement that is any way looking to reclaim certain rights. Certainly, there have been issues such as some food shortages as well as some economic problems over the past year that have led to discontent among parts of the population of Venezuela, but these are not those who are driving these protests. They have tried to use that to say that there is a reason behind that, but it's not. And now, at the same time, the problem [of the protests occurring] had been addressed by the government. President Maduro, for example, has opened a dialogue with business leaders to try to fix the issue of product shortages. Some of them have been caused by mismanagement on behalf of the state in terms of foreign currency controls, which prevented certain imports taking place. But a large portion of it has been direct sabotage from the private enterprises, primarily engaging in contraband. Over 40 percent of products in Venezuela are being used as contraband across the Colombian border because in Venezuela there are price controls and limits on certain products and of course private businesses can get more for their money across the border in Colombia. There is a mix of different reasons for some of the problems that have been occurring in the country. But again, the overall objective of the protests is nothing to do with improving the economy in Venezuela, it's simply about regime change.
RT: Maduro has been using Chavez's figure to cement his own authority – do the protests mean that this doesn't work anymore?
EG: President Maduro of course came to power through elections after the death of the President Hugo Chavez and he was not someone who was initially inspired to become president of Venezuela. So he is now leading the movement that was founded by President Chavez and his supporters, so certainly Chavez's figure still overshadows much of Maduro's presidency, but this is not to say that Maduro is not a legitimate president now with his own policy, political platform and agenda.
Certainly there are those in the opposition who initially were objecting when Chavez was alive, and were always trying to get Chavez out of power, and now of course they are trying to show that Maduro is not Chavez and they use Chavez against Maduro. This is really just a political tactic and I think that the bottom line here is that we have in Venezuela many anti-government movements, opposition movements that have refused to accept the legitimacy of the elected government that is supported by the majority. Polls show [this support] still continues and actually [the government] has increasing popularity in the country in the face of this violent protest, [which is] spearheaded by extremists in the right-wing opposition in Venezuela. At the same time the opposition, while Hugo Chavez was alive, have never accepted him as a legitimate president. They always wanted to get him out of power through a coup or through other mechanisms, but they always failed. Now they are simply trying to do the same with Maduro.
It's the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. There are very powerful interests that want to take charge of Venezuela and that's the bottom line, that’s what it is about. There is nothing to do with whether or not Nicolas Maduro is a good president of Venezuela or what problems there are in Venezuela. It's simply about regime change so that powerful interests can take control of Venezuela's resources.
Post by TsarSamuil on Mar 26, 2014 15:41:16 GMT -5
Will El Salvador become another Venezuela?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist, award-winning author and geopolitical analyst.
RT.com March 26, 2014 10:09
Inspired by the US-backed anti-government protests in Venezuela, El Salvador’s oligarchs are preparing to follow the same strategy.
If the electoral results are not to its benefit, the US-backed Venezuelan opposition almost always refuses to recognize the outcome of Venezuela’s fair elections. This is now the case in El Salvador too. The oligarchs heading the country’s right-wing National Republican Party (ARENA) are using the same playbook as the Venezuelan oligarchs. ARENA’s leaders have refused to acknowledge that they lost the 2014 presidential elections and that the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) won.
Before all the ballots that were cast were even counted, ARENA accused the FMLN of fraud and claimed that the elections were rigged. ARENA’s presidential candidate, Norman Noel Quijano González, pledged that ARENA would not “allow this victory to be stolen from us like it was in Venezuela” from the political opponents of the Chavistas. Echoing Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles and his so-called Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), ARENA has said that it is “prepared for a war.”
For a while, many were afraid that El Salvador, a deeply polarized country, would revert to a state of civil war. ARENA was urging the Salvadorian military to overthrow the government in San Salvador and enable its candidate take over the presidency.
Eventually ARENA was forced to concede defeat and recognize Vice-President Salvador Sánchez Cerén and Oscar Ortíz respectively as the president-elect and vice-president-elect.
Sánchez beat the ARENA candidate, Norman Quijano, by a narrow 0.22 percent according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of El Salvador. He got 50.11 percent of the vote, while Quijano got 49.89 percent of the vote.
I had the benefit of being present in El Salvador as an international observer and election monitor. I was able to see the process up close and observe how both sides conducted themselves. I monitored the presidential elections on February 2, 2014; the voting in February would become the first round of the presidential election, because Señores Sánchez and Ortíz got 48.93 percent of the popular vote. They needed at least 50 percent to win the election without a second round taking place.
The second round duly took place March 9.
As a tactic, ARENA tried to annul as many votes as possible during the first round of voting. One example is the case of the out-of-country ballots that ARENA had nullified on the basis of a technicality; many Salvadorian voters had mailed their second-round ballots instead of their first-round ballots. Despite the fact that the electoral choice of the out-of-country Salvadorian voters was clear, ARENA worked to have their ballots nullified due to their voting preference for the FMLN.
It is noteworthy that ARENA lost the presidential elections in 2009 even though it cheated. Former election observers accounted how the Salvadorian mayors belonging to ARENA were issuing false Salvadorian identification cards to foreign citizens who were brought into El Salvador by bus from other Central American countries.
The Gringos have not lost all their influence
The US government had endorsed ARENA during the presidential elections in 2004 and 2009. Before this, during the civil war in the 1980s, the US government was helping keep the Salvadorian oligarchs in power under a continuum of undemocratic regimes. Washington even intervened directly in El Salvador with the Pentagon to fight on behalf of the oligarchs.
The US government, however, did not publicly endorse ARENA this time. Washington’s silence during the 2014 election campaigns was suspicious and I talked about it with various Salvadorian officials and FMLN politicians. While I was preparing for the election in San Salvador, I was informed by colleagues in the Canadian contingent that William G. Walker, a retired career diplomat and the former US ambassador to El Salvador from 1988 to 1992, wrote a sympathetic Op-Ed in the New York Times titled, “Don’t Fear El Salvador’s Leftists.”
Walker’s late-January 2014 Op-Ed was a pre-election message to US politicians and officials in the so-called Washington Beltway that there was no need for alarmism about an FMLN victory. “The drumbeat started early this month when Elliott Abrams, who oversaw the Reagan administration’s Central America policy during El Salvador’s civil war, warned in The Washington Post of the dangers of” Vice-President Sánchez winning the Salvadorian election, his NYT pieces claims. “Other conservatives have echoed his warning. Implicit is a threat that if Salvadorans make the wrong choice, America will reduce its support,” the former diplomat wrote, talking about the line that Abrams and a section of the ruling class in the US had adopted.
Walker, however, breaks ranks with Elliott Abrams with the following: “From 1985 to 1988, I worked closely with Mr. Abrams at the State Department. I respect his honesty, but I believe he is wrong in this case.”
A pause is needed. Begging your pardon: Elliott Abrams, honest? This is the same propaganda-spewing, Project for the New American Century-founding, and take-over-the-world-planning arch-neo-con who has demonstrated a pattern of dishonesty throughout his entire career. He is one of the cads in the Bush II cabal that unashamedly lied to the world about weapons of mass destruction existing in Iraq to justify the illegal Anglo-American invasion of Baghdad in 2003. Whether it was in Libya or Syria, he pushed for war at every chance. He is an unapologetic supporter of militarism and empire that continues to warmonger against Iran, for years using Benjamin Netanyahu’s talking points that falsely claim that Tehran is only a few days away from a nuclear bomb. Now he wants the US and NATO to confront Russia over the simmering crisis in Ukraine.
Walker, himself, is far from a saint. The fact that Walker took this position raised a red flag when I heard it. After all, this was the US official who worked intimately with the Salvadorian military and worked with the death squads in San Salvador in their repressive war against a huge section of the population and any form of Salvadorian dissent, peaceful or otherwise.
Walker was sent to El Salvador by Washington, because of his expertise with militias and death squads. Not only was this US official involved with organizing the death squads and coordinating US military intervention in El Salvador – as US deputy assistant secretary of state for the Reagan Administration he was key in providing support (alongside the disgraced Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North) for the CIA-supported, cocaine-trafficking Contra insurgency in neighboring Nicaragua.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should. For those that have not caught on, the outcome of Walker’s activities in Nicaragua led to the Iran-Contra scandal, where the US public found out about the dirty wars of their government that involved international narcotics and weapons trafficking and how people like Elliott Abram and his friends openly disobeyed the Boland Amendments that prohibited the US government from continuing the financing of the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government by a counter-revolutionary insurgency. Members of the US State Department “who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking,” a 1989 report by the Kerry Committee, named after – you guessed it – the globe-trotting liar John Kerry, even concluded. Their friends in Israel, too, were involved in sending arms to Central America.
Trying to reach an accommodation with Washington
Due to his involvement with arms smuggling, narcotics trafficking, and death squads, Walker was eventually given a job in the Albanian-dominated breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo – where the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) militias were involved with weapons smuggling and narcotics trafficking – later in his career as the US-promoted head of the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Walker’s NYT Op-Ed continues: “I travel often to El Salvador on business. I have seen how much the country, and the FMLN, have changed in the 22 years since the war ended in 1992. I believe those spreading fear are stuck in the past.”
Hell did not freeze over. Walker’s position on the FMLN has a rationale for reassuring US officials about an FMLN victory.
The Gringos still have lots of control. FMLN victory or not, the FMLN has worked for an accommodation with Washington.
Most of El Salvador’s exports and imports are from the US. Aside from trade, the Salvadorian economy is heavily dependent on remittance payments being sent back by the Salvadorian population working inside the US. Remittances account for something in the order of 17 percent of El Salvador’s national gross domestic product (GDP).
Washington also has leverage on the fiscal sovereignty of El Salvador. Thanks to ARENA, the US dollar is the official currency.
Then there is the neoliberal structure of the Salvadorian economy. In this regard the FMLN has been criticized. There are former FMLN members that accuse its upper echelons of comprising their civil war platform.
Neoliberalism secured by the “Friends of Mauricio Funes” or the FMLN?
One of the radical critics of the FMLN is the sociologist James Petras. A Marxist sociologist, he has portrayed the peace agreement that brought the FMLN into electoral politics, transforming it from a guerrilla movement into a political party, as an ideological setback of sorts.
“When negotiations began, the FMLN dropped its demand for dismantling of the military, the expropriation of the leading financial, banking, commercial and mining interests and accepted a ‘truth commission’ which would ‘examine’ war crimes – the mass murder of over 75,000 civilians,” Petras says.
For Petras and many others, it is clear that the Chapultepec Peace Accords between the Farabundo Martí Liberation People’s Forces (FPL), which transformed itself into the FMLN, and the Salvadorian oligarchs gave amnesty to vile criminals who were behind the murder of entire innocent civilian families and villages.
Although it was a painful choice, there are countering and adamant explanations by the FPL/FMLN faithful that forgiveness was a strategic decision. For many a FMLN loyalist and official, giving amnesty to the members of the US-supported death squads – many of which are now members and supporters of ARENA – was viewed as a way to end the cycle of violence gripping Central America. One former FPL guerilla told me that nothing could bring her husband, who was stabbed in the head 60 times with an ice pick and then dismembered, back to life; seeing enough death and destruction, she feels forgiveness is the best way to rebuild her country and society.
Despite this, contradictions exist throughout El Salvador. Corruption is still a structural problem too.
Petras is correct about the FMLN’s pragmatism and about the embrace of neoliberalism by a segment of its leadership. Practical and ideological arguments inside the FLMN about these issues are ongoing as well.
It has to be remembered that there was a grotesque civil war that created problems while there was a parallel war of increasing socioeconomic problems. Both have left their marks on Salvadorian society. Furthermore, the FMLN took over the reins of government in a country that was already deeply entrenched in both the orbit of Washington and in the neoliberal paradigm.
This is why the FMLN carefully moved forward. As a result, FMLN leaders decided to endorse the independent politician Mauricio Funes as their presidential candidate in 2009. Funes is not a member of the FMLN, as it is often wrongly assumed outside of Latin America.
After the FMLN won the 2009 presidential election, El Salvador’s cabinet was divided between Funes and the FMLN and Vice-President Sánchez was forced to tell the public that the FMLN could not keep all its election promises.
Funes and his advisors (called the Friends of Mauricio Funes) controlled strategic issues, core economic matters, and the secretariat for political reforms, while the FMLN managed areas such as healthcare, education and security. Under this framework, the FMLN was prevented from implementing the economic reforms, political restructuring, and strategic changes that most of its supporters wanted.
Damian Alegría (José Mauricio Rivera), currently an FMLN alternate deputy in the Salvadorian Legislative Assembly and a high-profile former guerrilla in the FPL, told me on several occasions that President Funes and his advisors prevented the diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China by El Salvador. This was only possible because of the agreement that the FMLN had with the backers of Funes.
The FMLN is walking a fine line. This is why the FMLN as a governing party has to perform like a trapeze artist. The outcome of this is that the FMLN has introduced public planning within a neoliberal system.
FMLN officials have worked to create vital public services and infrastructure in El Salvador. At the same time, however, the FLMN is trying not to antagonize the US, foreign capital, and all of the Salvadorian oligarchs. Thus, the FMLN is a hostage to the mantle that it has inherited. If the FMLN antagonizes the US or foreign businesses and all of El Salvador’s oligarchs, its leadership fears that the economy could be pushed to collapse from the outside and a civil war could be restarted by ARENA.
The exploitative foreign-owned maquiladoras, which underpay and routinely exploit garment industry workers, are still open. Now, however, there are free medical services and school children are being provided with milk (under the “cup of milk” program) and shoes. Wages have also been raised for teachers and generally throughout the public sector. Free mobile public clinics are diagnosing patients and handing out the medication being subscribed for the patients at no cost to users.
Oligarchs and Monsanto v FMLN
Not to downplay the importance of criticism against the FMLN, but it has taken great leaps forward, too. Granted, these leaps are not what many former FPL guerrillas and FMLN supporters want. Even if the changes in El Salvador under the FMLN do not go far enough in restructuring the country, they still need to be acknowledged.
When the FMLN was elected into government, numerous unfair private business monopolies existed and almost all state infrastructures had been privatized by ARENA. Monopoly laws were established by ARENA to protect the business interests of the oligarchs. It was illegal and almost impossible to buy medication from anyone except from Alfredo Cristiani, the ARENA oligarch who was formerly the president of El Salvador. Cristiani used his private monopoly over medication to overcharge Salvadorians and to additionally sell bad and expired medication with impunity. Through a legalized monopoly supported by ARENA, the corrupt Cristiani did the same with overpriced fertilizer, deadly chemical pesticides tied to Monsanto, and other agricultural products.
Professor Adrian Bergmann, a Norwegian who was appointed to the transitional team of President Funes in 2009, told me that organized crime in El Salvador revolved around Alfredo Cristiani too. Despite this, ARENA tries to blame the FMLN for all the crime in El Salvador.
Some people in El Salvador forget, or pretend not to know, any of this. During focus groups with university students it became clear that the hold that the oligarchs in ARENA have on the media is one of the primary reasons.
The lesson should be to diversify your sources of information: Question more.
Post by TsarSamuil on Mar 26, 2014 15:43:11 GMT -5
Brazil to pass anti-spy bill in victory for net neutrality.
RT.com March 26, 2014 10:39
Brazil has scored big for net neutrality after its lower house of Congress approved a groundbreaking post-Snowden bill that protects its users’ privacy rights, albeit with some sacrifices.
The measure did not go as smoothly as could have. To ensure success, President Dilma Rousseff had to let it through at the cost of allowing companies such as Google and Facebook to store user information outside Brazil’s servers.
However, other provisions, which ensured that internet providers gave equal privileges to all web traffic, were left in place. This went ahead despite contrary pleas by big local phone carriers who wanted to continue charging users higher prices for separate content, such as video streaming or Skype-like services.
In return for allowing Google and Facebook the freedom not to be bound by Brazilian servers, where local user information was concerned, the bill gets to strengthen legal oversight and punishment for companies not respecting local laws when storing Brazilian user data internationally. If any transgressions are detected, or data is not made available to law enforcement on request, a company would have to pay a fine equal to 10 percent of its annual earnings from the year before.
Proponents of the Marco Civil bill, which has been dubbed the country’s Internet Constitution, say that it protects Brazilians’ internet freedoms, while setting limits on how their metadata is gathered by multinational internet companies.
And Brazilians are avid Google users – over 92 percent of them use the service monthly, according to Bloomberg.
The bill must now go to the upper chamber, and then requires President Dilma Rousseff’s signature to become law. If it passes, Brazil will join Chile, the Netherlands and Slovenia among the countries that have pushed through net neutrality laws, Reagan McDonald, European policy manager at Access, told Bloomberg. It will also make Brazil the leader among large countries that fought for the principle.
The root of the law dates back to the aftermath of the Edward Snowden revelations detailing the NSA’s worldwide program of mining user data from international servers belonging to search giants and other companies. Rousseff has been very vocal in her opposition to US surveillance practices after it emerged towards the end of last year that the NSA had infiltrated state-run oil giant Petrobras. The US spy agency even managed to hack into Rousseff’s own e-mail account, according to classified cables obtained by American journalist Glen Greenwald and published by Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
EU leaders are also sympathetic towards Rousseff’s position. According to cables, it emerged that the NSA had also been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal telephone calls, and other EU institutions.
Rousseff moved quickly in October to get the bill passed urgently and to require that multinational companies store information on Brazilian servers, but they complained it would drive up their costs and inhibit the free flow of information.
Other opponents of the measure to store information locally included those who believe it would be more vulnerable to hacker attacks than if it were stored on data centers abroad.
Rousseff then caved in and allowed for the information to be stored in data centers, while pushing for compliance with Brazilian privacy laws.
There is one remaining problem to sort out, and that is how the law would be enforced where companies not based in Brazil are concerned. The legislation doesn’t have international jurisdiction and can only make Facebook or Google comply if they don’t remove information after a libel case; but court orders to comply simply on request are still not mentioned in the text of the bill.
Fresh street battles as Venezuela protest death toll hits 39 (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
RT.com April 01, 2014 09:21
The death toll of the violent protests that have shaken Venezuela for the last month and a half has reached 39. To avoid “civil war”, the country’s Foreign Minister Elias Jaua has called for dialogue with the opposition.
Clashes erupted once again in the Venezuelan capital on Monday night, as hooded activists erected barricades on the streets of Caracas, causing massive disruption. Protesters smashed shop windows and set fire to cars before the riot police arrived and dispersed them using tear gas and water cannons.
Elsewhere in the west of Venezuela violence was reported in the cities of Maracaibo and San Cristobal, killing two people and bringing the total death toll in Venezuela to 39. One protester was electrocuted in San Cristobal while trying to reinforce a barricade, and another died in Maracaibo when a homemade explosive device detonated in his hands before he could throw it at police.
Protests have been held throughout Venezuela for the past month and a half, with the population frustrated over inflation, mass power cuts and a lack of basic goods. The Venezuelan government claims that the largely peaceful protest movement has been hijacked by extremist, right-wing, political elements backed by the US, whose aim is to ouster President Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua called for dialogue with the opposition to avoid the threat of civil war. He told the private channel, Globovision, that there was an element of the opposition loyal to the United States that is pushing for an armed conflict.
“The president has said: ‘let’s negotiate without conditions, without preconceived agendas to stop this irrational violence that has killed almost 40 men and women,’” said Jaua, adding the Venezuelan government is waiting for a gesture of goodwill from the opposition.
The US has denied any involvement in the mass protests in Venezuela and has accused Maduro’s government of using Washington as a scapegoat. Last week US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said that the US had not ruled out the possibility of imposing sanctions on the Latin American country. She said financial penalties could become an “important tool” in pressuring Maduro into negotiations with the opposition.
In response, the Venezuelan government accused Washington of meddling in Venezuelan affairs and “ignoring the democratic process.”
Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors have also rallied in support of Maduro’s government. Uruguayan President Jose Mujica told the press on Monday that the US should respect Venezuela and let it find its own way out of the current crisis.
"The first thing that Venezuela and all of Latin America needs is to be respected,” said Mujica. “When the whole world urges the US to rescind its embargo policy on Cuba, voices in Washington threaten sanctions on Venezuela. Have they learnt nothing from history?”
A water cannon of the national police burns after being hit with Molotov cocktails thrown by anti-government protesters during riots in Chacao district in Caracas March 31, 2014. (Reuters / Christian Veron)
Riot policemen protect themselves from molotov cocktails thrown by anti-government activists during a protest, in Caracas on March 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto)
Exposed: How US created 'Cuban Twitter' to take down Castro.
RT.com April 03, 2014 11:05
The United States engineered a text messaging network in Cuba to try and spread unrest in the communist country. More than 40,000 people have shared news and opinions using the service.
The documents obtained by the Associated Press state the project was led by Joe McSpedon, a US government official, who attracted a team of high-tech wizards from around the globe to set up a site that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans.
The Caribbean island has some of the world’s most stringent internet regulations, so text messaging via cellphones would help to evade the country’s strict information controls. Since Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother Raul, the use of mobile technology has been encouraged. Cubans were given the opportunity to call one another or send text messages, though the cost was high, given that the average salary is just $20 per month.
The network was called ZunZuneo, which was a play on twitter, with the word being slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet. The project was financed by the US Agency for international development (USAID), best known for overseeing billions of dollars in US humanitarian aid.
The initial plan was to gain users by allowing access to light news stories, such as baseball bulletins, music and weather updates. However, once a critical number of subscribers was reached, operators would introduce political stories aimed at tarnishing the reputation of the Cuban government, with the aim of creating a ‘Cuban Spring’.
Critical mass was important for the USAID because, due to public demand, it would be much harder for the Cuban government to shut it down, while Cubacel, the cell phone company, would have seen a mass increase in their profits.
USAID staff had noted that text messaging had been a popular fuse in starting political uprisings in Moldova and the Philippines. At its peak, the site had more than 40,000 subscribers, who were never aware that the network was created by the US government.
"There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement," according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project's contractors. "This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the mission."
The US government’s actions have already caught the attention of one American politician, senator Patrick Leahy, who is a Democrat from Vermont, who said, “On the face of it there are several aspects about this which are troubling.”
"There is the risk to young, unsuspecting Cuban cellphone users who had no idea this was a US government-funded activity. There is the clandestine nature of the program that was not disclosed to the appropriations subcommittee with oversight responsibility.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded Thursday, saying the program was completed in 2012, and that it was conducted out in the open, approved by lawmakers, and analyzed by government watchdogs.
“Suggestions that this was a covert program are wrong,” Carney said. “Congress funds democracy programming to Cuba to help empower Cubans to access more information and to strengthen civil society. These appropriations are public, unlike covert action. The money invested has been debated in Congress. In addition, [the Government Accountability Office] reviewed this program in detail in 2013, and found it was conducted in accordance with US law and under appropriate oversight controls.”
Carney added that while it was not a secret program, the government was “discreet” about its operations, as it was conducted in Cuba, a “non-permissive environment.”
“That’s how you protect the practitioners and the public,” he said. “This is not unique to Cuba.”
There are a number of questions regarding the projects legality. US law requires that any covert action by a federal agency must have presidential authorization. Officials at USAID would not say who had approved the program or whether the White House was aware of it. McSpedon, the most senior official named in the documents obtained by the AP, is a mid-level manager and he declined to comment.
To try and hide their tracks, they used a maze of different companies, with a bank account from the Cayman Islands to make sure that no one could ever find out this was an operation set up by the United States.
Although the project had hoped to obtain 400,000 subscribers, they eventually decided to cap the number at 40,000 by the end March 2011, which was less than one percent of the population of Cuba.
Interest was being lost in the project with every month that passed, and, by the summer of 2012, Cubans began to complain that the service was inconsistent, and then one day it just disappeared.
The USAID say that did not have any more money available for the project, while the Cuban government decided not to comment.
‘Cease illegal activity against Cuba’: Havana slams Washington for ‘Twitter’ program.
RT.com April 04, 2014 12:22
Havana has blasted Washington’s so-called ‘Cuba Twitter’ texting service as illegal and subversive, saying the United States is persisting in its decades’ long plan to topple Cuba’s communist government.
Josefina Vidal, director of US affairs at Cuba's Foreign Ministry, said late Thursday that the ZunZuneo program "shows once again that the United States government has not renounced its plans of subversion against Cuba, which have as their aim the creation of situations of destabilization in our country to create changes in the public order and toward which it continues to devote multimillion-dollar budgets each year."
Vidal called on the United States to respect international law along with the principles of the UN charter, demanding that it “cease its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba, which are rejected by the Cuban people and international public opinion.”
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, the US government attempted to develop a no frills ‘Cuban Twitter’ using cellphone text messaging to circumvent Cuba’s strict control over the internet. Directly alluding to Twitter, the program is known as ZunZuneo — slang for a Cuban hummingbird's ‘tweet’.
The project was financed by the US Agency for international development (USAID), best known for overseeing billions of dollars in US humanitarian aid. USAID staff had noted that text messaging had been a popular fuse in starting political uprisings in Moldova and the Philippines.
At its peak, the site had more than 40,000 subscribers, who were never aware that the network had been created by the US government. The program was discontinued in 2012.
“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” AP cites a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project's contractors, as saying. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the mission.”
USAID's top official, Rajiv Shah, had been scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations State Department and foreign operations subcommittee on the agency's budget.
In an appearance on MSNBC on Thursday, the subcommittee's chairman, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont, called the project "dumb, dumb, dumb."
While US law requires written authorization of covert action by the president State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the program was neither "secret" nor "covert" under the US government's definitions of those terms. "Discreet does not equal covert," Harf told a news briefing on Thursday.
Harf said the so-called "democracy promotion" program created a platform "similar to Twitter" and was conducted under a three-year grant totaling $1.2 million, Reuters. The program was created with the aid of subcontractors and foreign banks under the tutelage of Joe McSpedon, a US government official.
"We did not supply political content. We did not drive the political content," Harf said, though she noted that initial communications made over the network on topics such as soccer, music and hurricane updates were made by US-funded contractors.
"So this is solely for the purpose of creating a platform for Cubans to express themselves, which has long been the policy of the United States, the United States Congress, and many other people in this country," Harf said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed Harf’s statements, saying suggestions the program was covert “are wrong.”
“Congress funds democracy programming to Cuba to help empower Cubans to access more information and to strengthen civil society. These appropriations are public, unlike covert action. The money invested has been debated in Congress. In addition, [the Government Accountability Office] reviewed this program in detail in 2013, and found it was conducted in accordance with US law and under appropriate oversight controls.”
Carney added that while it was not a secret program, the government was “discreet” about its operations, as it was conducted in Cuba, a “non-permissive environment.”
“That’s how you protect the practitioners and the public,” he said. “This is not unique to Cuba.”
However, the service was also used as a means for the US government to check Cuban public opinion without their knowledge.
On September 20, 2009, thousands of Cubans gathered at Revolution Plaza in Havana for Miami-based Colombian rocker Juanes’s ‘Peace without Borders’ concert. In the weeks leading up to the concert, the ZunZuneo team sent out half a million text messages known as ‘blasts’. One question which garnered over 100,000 responses asked if two popular local music acts which were out of favor with the Cuban government should appear on stage alongside Juanes.
Cuba: 'Cuba Twitter' recalls similar stunts in 'Libya, Syria and Ukraine'
M/S David Urra [cutaway] M/S David Urra's arms SOT, David Urra, political analyst (speaking Spanish): "There is no doubt that these networks have their origin in other experiences of other countries, for example Libya, Syria and recently Ukraine. For example in Ukraine they used a similar system that they tried to spread messages that expressed the negative aspects of the Yanukovych government and the signature of the notorious agreement with the EU." M/S Books [cutaway]
Political analyst David Urra spoke Friday with RT about the role of the US government in the creation of the Cuban social network ZunZuneo.
Zunzuneo was an Agency for International Development programme that ran from 2008 to 2012. The idea was that the microblogging platform would evolve from discussions about topics such as the weather and sports scores to political discussions, which could eventually aid in destabilising the Cuban government.
It abruptly came to an end, allegedly because a $1.3 million (€945,000) contract ran out of money. At the time, about 40,000 Cubans were using ZunZuneo.
Havana reveals more US attempts to influence Cubans.
RT.com April 07, 2014 09:57
Cuba says last week’s revelations that the United States is looking to create unrest in the country through social networks could be just the tip of the iceberg.
The US government had admitted setting up a ‘Cuban Twitter’, which was created as a text messaging service to avoid the island’s strict internet laws. ZunZuneo, which is Cuban slang for the tweet of a hummingbird, aimed to build-up followers by giving them access to soft news stories, such as baseball and music.
However, once a critical mass was reached then political stories would be introduced looking to tarnish the image of Cuba’s government. The project, which was financed by the US Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) hoped, would lead to demonstrations and eventually a ‘Cuban Spring’.
Havana has hit out at the United States, with the Union of Young Communists’ newspaper Juventud Rebelde saying it is “scarcely the tip of the iceberg of a gigantic subversive campaign against Cuba.”
ZunZuneo had around 40,000 followers at the height of its popularity, but disappeared in 2012 when funding dried up. However, another program, Martinoticas (Martinews) has been spamming cellphone users since 2011 the newspaper added.
Martinoticas is an online project created by the US government’s Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) and was named after the Cuban independence hero Jose Marti.
“We don’t have anything to hide. We are just trying to create the free flow of information on the island,” OCB Director Carlos Garcia-Perez mentioned. “We’re not trying to create another revolution,” he added.
The Juventud Rebelde newspaper also uncovered a number of other US operations in Cuba. They referred to an initiative called Priamideo, which was set up in 2013, while they also mentioned Commotion, which was funded by USAID and aimed to give young Cubans access to films and online games with the aim of trying to overthrown Cuba’s communist government.
‘US efficient at using social media to further its foreign policy objectives’
RT.com April 08, 2014 11:54
The US doesn't realize that its Cold War with Cuba ended 20 years ago, and is using social media to manipulate its people and achieve desired political outcomes, William Robinson, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, told RT.
US officials confirmed last Thursday that they tried to set up a ‘Cuban Twitter’ called ZunZuneo, aimed at building followers by giving them access to soft news stories on music and other topics. It was revealed that the United States was looking to create unrest in the country through social networks. Once a ‘Cuban Twitter’ reached a critical mass, then political stories would be introduced to damage the image of Cuba’s government. The project, financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), was aimed at fomenting mass protests and eventually a “Cuban Spring.” The program was halted in 2012 due to a lack of funds.
RT: US officials say the social network is aimed at "promoting democracy". Do you buy that?
William Robinson: No, absolutely not. First of all, the US has been trying to overthrow the Cuban government and destabilize the revolution for over 50 years now. This is simply the latest in the long strain of destabilization ever. The US has never been interested in democracy in Cuba. Before the Cuban revolution the US colonized Cuba and then supported dictatorship. But we should go beyond Cuba. The US does not promote democracy abroad; it uses the rhetoric of promoting democracy. But what the US does is to intervene politically in other countries to achieve its desired political outcomes and it calls it democracy promotion.
RT: This twitter-like social network was built by the US federal government agency, thus it is taxpayers who are footing the bill. Do you think they are happy with this expense item of the budget?
WR: I think there's a false debate going on the US. The US Congress was arguing whether this is in line with the US law or is not in line with the US law, but this is irrelevant because this is an absolute violation of international law and international norms. That is the real issue. But you are asking me if the US taxpayers are upset with how their money is used, well, most US taxpayers don't even know, this was a covered-up operation. We had no idea how covered up operations are, where the money goes for covered-up operations.
RT: Could this be just the tip of the iceberg?
WR: Absolutely. The US spent between 1996 and 2011 over $200 million to destabilize Cuba in the name of promoting democracy. And that’s documented. This particular program was $1.5 million. And that’s the tip of the iceberg of what we have documented, which spent $205 million for the so-called promotion of democracy. We also know that there are hundreds and millions of dollars that have been spent in the last few decades covertly on the Central Intelligence Agency that is not documented. Of course this is the tip of the iceberg. And the US has been trying now for 55 years to overthrow the Cuban revolution and it does so in the name of so-called fighting communism, in the name of promoting democracy. It just comes up with any legitimation that it wants, but this is nothing new. So this is really a continuation of the Cold War. I don’t think the US realizes that the Cold War with Cuba ended 20 years ago.
RT: Social media is believed to have played a considerable role in the Arab Spring uprisings. Could the same scenario take place in Cuba?
WR: What happened here is that social media arose at one point at the time used by the social movements at ground up to face dictatorial regimes, to bring about progressive social change, but the US government has discovered they can also use social media in order to intervene in other countries, in order to mobilize and manipulate populations, in order to achieve its desired political outcomes. Now in the case of Cuba this is crystal clear – the 40,000 people that have signed up to this program were not told and were completely unaware that this program was funded and organized, operated covertly by the US government. They are completely unaware of this. The plan was, it fell apart, but the plan was for these 40,000 people and for hundreds and thousands more to be signed up, particularly Cuban youth, because Cuban youth are most disaffected with economic difficulties and other limitations that there are in Cuba. The plan was for these people to get cultural and musical twitters and then, when the critical mass had been achieved, then political messages would be sent for this part of population to mobilize and start challenging and street protest challenging the government. So we see the US government has become very efficient at using social media for its own foreign policy purposes.
The US Agency for International Development, which is the agency which covertly funded this program, is presented as a humanitarian organization, but that is not true. The Agency for International Development has ever since it was established in the 1950s, has been a branch of US foreign policy, it’s not a humanitarian organization like the World Health Organization, for instance. It’s not in the least. It’s an instrument of US foreign policy and it has always been used for these purposes.
RT: If these programs achieved its aims, what it could bring for the country?
WR: You can just look at what has taken place in Ukraine just now, for instance. What the US wanted to do was to spark the Arab Spring, it wanted to spark an uprising of youth that could violently confront the government. Or something like Venezuela right now – create chaos, destabilize the government. They have been attempting to do that but there were objectives. This was exposed by The Associated Press and it was quite a long report. The details, the objectives were to organize the political mass for street demonstrations and for violent confrontations with the government in order to undermine the Cuban government as exactly what we see is taking place in Venezuela right now and what we’ve seen taken place in many other countries. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to observers.
Lawmakers blast USAID over "Cuban Twitter" fiasco.
In what was supposed to be a routine funding hearing, the administrator of USAID faced a barrage of tough questions over its handling of a "Cuban Twitter" program and the 4+ year detention of American Alan Gross. While USAID touts itself as an international development agency, lawmakers questioned whether or not the organization is dabbling in covert, government destabilizing actions abroad. RT's Sam Sacks reports.
Last Edit: Apr 9, 2014 11:31:32 GMT -5 by TsarSamuil
M/S Protesters fire giant slingshot M/S Protesters fire giant slingshot M/S Protesters fire giant slingshot M/S Riot police behind shields M/S Protesters fire giant slingshot M/S Riot police behind shields M/S Flammable projectile thrown at riot police W/S Flammable projectiles thrown at riot police M/S Injured man carried away W/S Protesters on street W/S Protesters on street
Anti-government protesters used a makeshift slingshot to fire projectiles at police during demonstrations in the eastern Caracas district of Las Mercedes on Friday.
Flammable projectiles were also hurled at police who had formed up behind riot shields atop a bridge across a highway.
Slingshots were used by anti-government protesters during clashes with police in Kiev throughout January and February.
Last Edit: Apr 5, 2014 11:03:21 GMT -5 by TsarSamuil
M/S Observers Ricardo Patino of Ecuador (left), Luiz Alberto Figueiredo of Brazil (centre left), Maria Angela Holguin of Colombia (centre right) and Father Aldo Giordano (right)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held a meeting with leaders of the country's anti-government protest movement in the Miraflores Palace in Caracas on Thursday. Dozens of people have died in during violent clashes over the past several weeks, with the latest death of a police officer in the city of Barquisimeto coming only hours before the meeting.
Joining the president were officials from the UNASUR nations of Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, and the papal nuncio Father Aldo Giordano, who read a message from Pope Francis urging dialogue and an end to violence.
Post by TsarSamuil on Apr 24, 2014 15:23:56 GMT -5
US inciting civil war in Venezuela to get its oil – Bolivia’s Morales.
RT.com April 24, 2014 08:38
Washington is pushing Venezuela towards a “civil war” because it wants access to the country’s rich oil reserves, Bolivian President Evo Morales has warned. The Venezuelan government has also accused the US of fomenting a coup d’état.
Addressing over 3,000 young people at a Latin American Youth Summit in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, Morales branded the US an “empire” with its eye on Venezuelan oil wealth. Morales said that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was blameless in the recent wave of unrest in the country and accused Washington of orchestrating a civil war.
“I believe [ the US ] are trying to incite if not a coup d’état then a civil war from their empire,” Morales said. “They are always going to sponsor internal conflict so that they can interfere and invade us to take control of our oil reserves.”
The world needs an “anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and anti-colonial youth,” said Morales, urging Latin Americans to stand together in solidarity with Venezuela. Morales said there was no danger of a coup d’état in Bolivia since the government had ejected US Ambassador Phillip Golberg in 2008 after he was accused of collaborating in a plot to overthrow the government.
Venezuela has been gripped by a wave of anti-government protests since February which has left at least 41 dead and over 600 injured. The Venezuelan government has recognized people’s right to demonstrate, but has accused foreign-backed, right-wing extremists of hijacking the protests in an attempt to oust Maduro.
At present, the Maduro government is in dialogue with some of the members of the opposition movement to try and find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The opponents of the government complain that Venezuela is experiencing massive inflation and shortages of basic food products, as well as frequent power cuts.
Maduro announced last week that Venezuela was facing an “economic war” and as such his government intended to fight back with a new “offensive” to combat capitalism. He set out the main aims of the new initiative on Monday, including the encouragement of supply and production and the stabilization of prices in Venezuela.
“This new economic offensive should bring prosperity to the people and the country. Neoliberalism speaks of growth, but growth for whom? For those that always had wealth, not the have-nots,” Maduro said.
Maduro has previously blamed the strife in Venezuela on Washington, saying that the US is orchestrating the unrest with a view to overthrowing his government. In March, Caracas’s foreign minister, Elias Jaua, accused US Secretary of State John Kerry of inciting murder and violence in Venezuela. Washington has denied any links to the ongoing unrest and maintains the Venezuelan government is terrorizing its own people.
An anti-government protester throws a Molotov cocktail during riots with police in Caracas April 17, 2014 (Reuters / Christian Veron)
Post by TsarSamuil on Apr 24, 2014 15:29:38 GMT -5
‘Mutual distrust’: Ecuador ejects US military group.
RT.com April 25, 2014 13:11
Ecuador has given a group of 20 US Defense Department employees until the end of the month to quit the country. President Rafael Correa had previously said the presence of the US military in Ecuador was “scandalous” and they had “infiltrated all sectors.”
Ecuador has officially requested that all 20 Defense Department employees in the US Embassy in Quito cease their activities and leave the country by the end of the month, embassy spokesman Jeffrey Weinshenker confirmed to AP. He said the embassy had received a formal letter dated April 7, alerting them to the imminent expulsion of the group.
Previously, Correa attacked the US’s military presence in the Latin American country, claiming there were even more operatives.
“There are about 50 of them. Who can justify this? We are now taking action accordingly,” he said in January, pledging to have them removed from the country. He added that these operatives had infiltrated all sectors of the Ecuadorian political sphere, referring to their presence as “scandalous.”
Correa said that such activities have led to a climate of “tensions and mutual distrust” between the two countries.
Weinshenker has defended the US presence in Ecuador, maintaining that all the activities the military personnel carry out have to be approved by Ecuadorian officials. He also mentioned that Washington had donated around $7 million to the Ecuadorian government to aid in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking.
Relations between Washington and Quito have deteriorated over the past few years. The Ecuadorian government ejected US Ambassador Heather Hodges in 2011 after WikiLeaks released a document in which she alleged that corruption in the Ecuadorian police was widespread.
In addition, tensions rose between the two countries when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador. Assange released a trove of classified American documents into the public sphere via the website WikiLeaks, prompting Washington to accuse him of aiding terrorists.
Although the whistleblower was granted asylum, he has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the past three years. The UK authorities have pledged to arrest Assange should he set foot outside the embassy building and extradite him to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over accusations of sexual assault.
Assange fears the Swedish authorities will hand him over to the US for questioning over the leaks.
Ecuador expels all Pentagon employees from US embassy.
All Department of Defense employees at the US Embassy in Ecuador are being expelled from the country. Beginning in January, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has repeatedly made public statements alleging the US military had infiltrated "all sectors" in the country, and followed through on threats to expel DOD employees on April 7, according to a new document obtained by the Associated Press. The relations between the two countries are already sour due to foreign policy differences and Ecuador's decision to give asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy. RT's Ameera David speaks about the Latin American country's move with Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Last Edit: Apr 29, 2014 13:56:29 GMT -5 by TsarSamuil
Post by TsarSamuil on Apr 30, 2014 13:31:08 GMT -5
Peru Hopes for Progress on Free Trade Zone with Russia.
MEXICO City, April 30 (RIA Novosti) – Peru hopes that free trade zone talks with Russia will lead to a beneficial experience exchange between the two nations, Peru’s Foreign Minister Eda Rivas told RIA Novosti.
“We proposed to go ahead with a free trade agreement, which offers possibilities for experience exchange. As for economic cooperation, our goal is to expand and diversify exports, including non-traditional exports, and promote investment,” Eda Rivas said.
This comes ahead of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s planned visit to Peru later today. The Russian foreign policy chief is to meet with his Peruvian counterpart Eda Rivas and President Ollanta Humala, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“I hope for an open dialog where we will look in detail at all the main points of our rich bilateral agenda. It is the 45th anniversary of our diplomatic relations which is marked against the backdrop of strengthening bilateral ties in the sphere of education, health, science and technology, military and technical cooperation, among others. And I hope for more progress,” Ms. Rivas told RIA Novosti.
In 2013, Peru offered Russia to set up a free trade zone. Russia’s exports to Peru include fertilizers, metal rolls, aircraft spare parts, and petroleum produce. On the list of its imports are lead and zinc concentrates, fish flour, frozen fish and other seafood.
US-run ‘Cuban Twitter’ categorized 'political tendencies’ of users – report.
RT.com May 01, 2014 01:27
Contractors working for the United States who ran the so-called ‘Cuban Twitter’ social media project categorized user responses to overtly political messages for "receptiveness" and "political tendencies,” among other details, according to a new report.
The US State Department’s Agency for the International Development (USAID) employed contractors to foster political unrest – while avoiding Cuba’s internet restrictions – through the subscription-based text-messaging service ZunZuneo, AP reported earlier this month.
Documents obtained by AP said ZunZuneo was designed to start with fairly benign messaging. Once it was more widespread among the Cuban population, it would introduce political content that would attempt to inspire Cubans to "renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”
Despite the State Department’s assertions that the program was not used to influence political leanings, AP reported Wednesday that cell phone users were categorized in databases as being “pro-revolution,” “apolitical,” or “anti-revolutionary.”
One young contractor working on the project was Paula Cambronero, whose first job out of college was working on how Cubans interacted with ZunZuneo messages carefully – and quietly – sent from Spanish phone numbers. The contractor asked Cambronero to communicate with staff over encrypted channels, and emails were sent from a domain name “not publicly linked” to the contractor.
Her employer – not named by AP – told her that she would be dealing with a "considerable amount of sensitive information that must be safeguarded to protect critical operations of the Project." USAID even established a dummy company in the Cayman Islands to cover any money trail associated with ZunZuneo.
Cambronero’s responsibility was to build a database of unsuspecting Cuban cell phone users that responded to ZunZuneo messages, using classifications like gender, age, location, “receptiveness,” and “political tendencies.” She would analyze how users reacted to overtly political messages written by a hired Cuban satirist that poked at the nation’s leaders.
Cambronero did not respond to AP’s request for comment. The State Department had no comment to AP on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, USAID spokesman Matthew Herrick told AP that the agency had reviewed the project and offered congressional investigators the selection of messages sent to Cubans.
Herrick claimed the 249 different messages focused on sports, technology, world news, and trivia, and that the messages "were consistent with the objective of creating a platform for Cubans to speak freely among themselves."
The political messages crafted by the satirist were sent “under a grant that pre-dated the ZunZuneo project,” Herrick said.
Yet documents reviewed by AP show that USAID considered the grant a “test phase” of the network that would become ZunZuneo.
Overall, Cambronero collected more than 700 responses to text messages, analyzing them by two variables: the level of interest in the received messages and the political content of a response.
She found that 68 percent of responses exhibited mild interest in the ZunZuneo texts. Many responses – 210 total – wanted to know who was sending the anonymous message.
"Explain your point better because I don't understand and remember that if you haven't done anything you shouldn't fear anything, at least tell me your name if you're not a coward," said one respondent.
Others asked for help in obtaining birth certificates of Spanish ancestors, a prerequisite for acquiring a Spanish passport to leave Cuba.
Only 59 responses were analyzed for political content. Cambronero found 10 that did have “political character,” AP reported, “of which two were counter-revolutionary.”
In her notes, Cambronero recommended that "messages with a humorous connotation should not contain a strong political tendency, so as not to create animosity in the recipients."
Upon the ZunZuneo revelations, the Obama administration quickly came under attack and promptly denounced allegations that it covertly plotted to disrupt Cuban politics.
Condemnation of the program continues to emerge. In Costa Rica, where ZunZuneo was reportedly developed by American officials, the nation’s foreign minister Enrique Castillo said last week that not only does he think it was “inappropriate” for the US to use his country to conduct the project, but that he previously warned officials not to involve his Central American country in the endeavor due to fears it would strain Costa Rica’s own relationship with Cuba.
"I think it's inappropriate to use an embassy in Costa Rica for this type of operation that harms a third country," Castillo told the AP. "We're not filing a complaint. The point is that embassies accredited in Costa Rica don't have to submit their plans or programs for the Costa Rican government's approval."
Costa Rica’s minister of communications, Carlos Roverssi, said Wednesday that it will fall on the country’s recently elected government to deal with the matter from here on out.
"It seems to me that the issue is now public and the next government should follow up on the issue, without a doubt," he said.
The US State Department has begun a review of the program, saying it would be “troubling” if ZunZuneo involved political messaging.
White Cossack: How are you, Nikolov? I heard it's a hot summer in Sweden this year. Do you enjoy it? Regards, Yaroslav
Jul 20, 2018 5:51:43 GMT -5
TsarSamuil: Very very hot...sometimes around 31-35...and it has been going on since month of May, everything is scorched yellow and dry, things are dying or dead, this is abnormal summer..must be global warming, usually have rainy dull summers, this feel like south eu
Jul 30, 2018 10:49:17 GMT -5
TsarSamuil: large forest fires, not where I live, but have country-wide BBQ ban..which I find ridiculous...not to enjoy this warm summer? pffft..
Jul 30, 2018 10:50:42 GMT -5
White Cossack: You enjoy it, huh.
Jul 30, 2018 12:41:41 GMT -5
TsarSamuil: Bbq is basic slavic right
Aug 3, 2018 10:18:31 GMT -5
Proto-Orchid: @ussrstrong: I blame general low activity on social medias, all the people sit there today
Oct 10, 2018 12:53:50 GMT -5
reznik: @proto-Orchid: very true. What's worse, is that the system is designed specifically to keep those people dormant in their echo chambers. Nothing new to learn for them there, just stupid cat videos and such. Sad.
Oct 14, 2018 5:48:26 GMT -5
Proto-Orchid: Its the substitute for going out, meeting and spending your time with friends in real life. Its just part of the story. When I was younger I remember people were meeting to play team sports, but today you see completely autistic people jogging with iPhone.
Oct 14, 2018 18:18:38 GMT -5
Proto-Orchid: Then they come back home, put pictures on Instagram or Facebook to show off how they spent their time jogging, and as mental satisfaction they get few likes or hearts, or whatever social medias have today, which is a measure of how good their life is. Sick
Oct 14, 2018 18:21:43 GMT -5
Pan-Slavic Patriot: Sto Latz! Today marks 100 years of Polska! May there be 100 more! Wish I could have gone to the Independence March to celebrate this year, of all years. Theres always the next one to look forward to...
Nov 11, 2018 6:56:57 GMT -5
prawiomir: Hello. : )
Nov 25, 2018 17:19:11 GMT -5
Pan-Slavic Patriot: The latest flare up in the Ukraine-Russia conflict is painful to watch. Two brothers pit against one-another by foriegn elites, for what? Money and power... Sad.
Nov 30, 2018 3:17:07 GMT -5
TsarSamuil: Seems like its loosing momentum? lets hope...
Dec 29, 2018 9:15:04 GMT -5
Farm needs Production with alu: To Direktor: Herr Wasilij Rosinov Adresse: Kasachstan, 110 006 Kostanay, ul. Schewchenko, 64 Tel: +7 (3142) 54 09 89 Fax: +7 (3142) 54 65 53 Email: email@example.com Web: www.ivolga.kz
To Ms. Yuliya Ryaskina Please place this email to concerning Managemen
Feb 27, 2019 23:01:32 GMT -5
Marcinko: Looking for contacts to research Marcinko name in Slovakia.
Jun 3, 2019 0:37:57 GMT -5
White Cossack: Nikolov, my dear.. What's up
Jul 28, 2019 9:08:27 GMT -5
TsarSamuil: Bought a 3rd book shelf, for some reason I'm crazy about buying lots of books..
Aug 12, 2019 15:49:41 GMT -5
kooratz: I don't shout , it's considered rude, here in the US. I do shout a few things though, for one, ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, IS RUINING OUR NATION!
Sept 13, 2019 20:32:33 GMT -5