United States returns to failed Cuba policies

The creation of an “Internet Task Force” to undermine Cuba is one more subversive program using new technologies, along the lines of ZunZuneo, Piramideo, and Conmotion

Jan 26 (Granma) If the Trump administration presumes to use new technologies to impose changes on Cuba’s internal order, it has chosen a very timeworn route, one that has been inoperative and ineffective in the past – not to mention that it violates the laws of the country involved, and even those of the United States.

The creation of an Internet Task Force focused on Cuba, announced by the State Department January 23, opens the doors for the continuation of a failed Cold War policy, which the two countries had stated their intention to change on December 17, 2014.

This move comes in the wake of the mistaken, poorly-advised speech given by the President in Miami, this past June 16, when he met with a group from the far-right of Cuban origin, to announce with much pomp and circumstance his changes to the country’s policy toward Cuba, which can be summarized, in a few words, as more blockade and less travel between the two countries.

The battlefield chosen for this latest aggression, the internet, shows clearly Washington’s true objectives when references are made to “free access” in countries it opposes, while in U.S. territory a mega-system is maintained to scan and gather data about what citizens are doing on the net.

Likewise, at the beginning of January, the U.S. Congress advanced a bill to remove the few restrictions that exist on international cyber-espionage, the extent of which was made evident by the leaks of former National Security Agency employee, Edward Snowden.

From the so-called Arab Spring – already lost in oblivion – to more recent plans like the promoting of protests in Iran and support to the violent opposition in Venezuela, Washington has shown a clear pattern of how it uses social networks and the internet for its hegemonic geopolitical purposes.

This is all part of the non-conventional war strategy developed to destabilize nations without the direct use of military force, increasingly deployed since the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The activation of this new “task force” also demonstrates that, despite facing a government shutdown, there is no lack of liquidity when it comes to financing subversive projects in Cuba. There are plenty of places to find money, even though the Trump administration’s budget presented to Congress for 2018 eliminates the customary 20 million dollars allocated for decades, to carry out such aggression.

The facility with which new bodies are staffed, with “government and non-government” personnel, contrasts sharply with the dramatic reduction of U.S. diplomats assigned to the embassy in Havana, which has practically paralyzed the issuing of visas and impacted services provided Cubans and their families in the United States.

Trump’s new plans did not take Cuba by surprise, since the country has more than 50 years of experience in confronting all kinds of U.S. aggression.

Recent projects like ZunZuneo, Piramideo, Commotion and others run up against both the capacity of Cuban authorities to detect them and the Cuban population’s unity in the face of such attacks.

They come at a time, moreover, when steps are being taken to advance in the digitalization of society, with a vision that prioritizes public access to the internet and protection of the country’s sovereignty, despite economic limitations.

Since the opening of more than 500 wifi hotspots across the island to provide internet access, without restrictions beyond those created by the blockade and the needs of national security, the country is moving forward with internet service on cell phones – with more than four million in use – and expansion of home connections.

If the Trump administration is only interested in guaranteeing Cubans access to the internet, they could eliminate the blockade restrictions that hamper purchases of advanced telecommunications technologies and provide credit for their acquisition. This would perhaps be less expensive than a “task force” that is, from the start, condemned to failure.


– ZunZuneo: Financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the objective of launching a messaging system that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans using “non-controversial” content, like sports news, music, weather reports, and announcements. When they had won over a following, the plan was to begin sending political messages inciting Cubans to make appeals on the network for massive demonstrations to destabilize the country.

– Piramideo: Similar to ZunZuneo, this program was undertaken by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), responsible for the infamous Radio and TV Martí. The plan was to create a network of “friends” that would offer the possibility of sending a massive message to members of a “pyramid” at the cost of a single SMS. The objective was to prepare a platform for subversion.

– Conmotion: A tool to create independent create wireless networks, developed by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), with headquarters in Washington, originally intended for military use. Although no information on its functioning in Cuba is known, government sources told the New York Times that millions of dollars had been dedicated to an effort toward that end.

– Operation Surf: Unmasked by State Security agent Raúl – Dalexi González Madruga – this program involved the smuggling of equipment and software into the country to install illegal antennas to access the internet.

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