The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) covertly created “ZunZuneo”—a Cuban version of the online messaging network Twitter—to cause civil unrest in Cuba, the Associate Press reported on Thursday. The program functioned through cell phone messaging to avoid the Cuban government’s controls over internet use, and planned to build a network that could mobilize quickly and potentially “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society."
The program was activated in 2010 shortly after USAID subcontractor Alan Gross was arrested for distributing communications equipment in Cuba. It ended in 2012 and, at its peak, drew more than 40,000 Cuban subscribers. According to the Cuban press, ZunZuneo disappeared suddenly in 2012 when its funding ran out, and its users were unaware that the network had any ties to the U.S. government.
White House spokesman Jay Carney has denied that the program was covert, stating that it was “discrete” in order to ensure long-term success of the mission and that it was debated in Congress. According to Carney’s statement, the White House supports "efforts to help Cuban citizens communicate more easily with one another and with the outside world."
In October 2011, USAID convened a forum of business leaders to discuss the importance of public-private partnerships and specifically why PPPs are integral for international development. Panelists included representatives from Merck, Swiss Re America Holding Corporation and Cargill.
Cité Soleil is a flat, dense slum built out of cardboard and tin on Port-au-Prince's western shore. Children play in the sewage; working-age men and women sit in the shade, escaping the searing midday sun, waiting for something to happen; young boys catch seagulls and pigeons with nets, and bring them home for dinner.
Since the mid-1990s, armed gangs terrorized the local population and even drove the local police out, making the slum an absolute no-go zone for officials and development aid workers. Taming Cité Soleil was vital to stability in the capital. That made it a priority for the country's largest international aid donors—the U.S., Canada, and France—who focused on security to lay the groundwork for development.
Shortly after Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in 2004 (under pressure from the U.S. and Canada due to a sharp rise in organized violence) the United Nations created its Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) under Security Council resolution 1542, with a mandate to restore Haitian civil society and to rebuild government institutions like the Haitian National Police, among other goals. So far its most notable success has been reducing kidnappings in Port-au-Prince and disbanding many of the gangs operating out of Cité Soleil.
“The problem of public security was dealt with solely as a security problem, not as a political problem. We believe in imposing control over criminals, even by force” said Carlos Alberto Dos Santos, who was MINUSTAH's Force Commander until this spring. His troops targeted the gangs from poor slums like Cité Soleil, which had been used and bought off by political rivals over the last decade.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.