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April 3, 2014 8:18 AM   Subscribe

US secretly creates 'Cuban twitter' for purpose of undermining the communist government and gathering data on its citizens' political leanings

The website, called ZunZuneo (Cuban slang for a humming bird's tweet) was launched in 2009 and designed to look like an innocuous commercial enterprise website and grew to include 40,000 users. ZunZuneo vanished abruptly in 2012.

So far, no Cuban spring yet, however Yoani Sanchez has been blogging from Cuba since 2007 thanks to help and donations from abroad.
posted by St. Peepsburg (82 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't understand the ongoing hate-boner that the US has for Cuba. Is it just out of US politicians' fear of losing voters? The Cold War is long over. Cuba is not a threat, to make an understatement. I fail to see how lifting the trade embargo would in any way disadvantage anyone.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:38 AM on April 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


Before the tide "US government is evils!$&@!" rolls in, let's remember that this is precisely what EVERY social network does. The US government just has a different purpose for gathering the data.

Every social network you belong to is using you in some way.
posted by dry white toast at 8:43 AM on April 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wait, do we even have a Cuba still? That's like finding out somebody's still complaining about Amazon.com and Usenet.
posted by happyroach at 8:48 AM on April 3, 2014


A bit of data, for sake of comparison: Cuba's population, as of 2012, is estimated to be 11,167,325. So this is a fraction of the population, and significantly less than "7% of Americans" (I assume this is folks who live in the U.S.) who are on Twitter. I'm not saying this is good, bad, or really important one way or the other, just interesting to compare.

And I know I'm jaded when I shrugged at the use of 1.6 million dollars for this project, though perhaps my nonchalance was in response to hearing that millions have been spent on the Benghazi probe, which seems like an ongoing "investigation" with no real resolution in sight. Maybe after the 2014 elections, that mess can be closed.

As for the fear/hatred of Cuba: here's a 28 page academic paper titled Fear and Loathing of Fidel Castro: Sources of US Policy Toward Cuba (full PDF; introduction page on JSTOR). The assessment in that paper from 2002 is as follows:
Much of US policy towards Cuba during the past forty years has been driven by a determination to punish Cuba for the transgressions of Fidel Castro and a determination to resist a modus vivendi with Cuba as long as he remains in power.

Every social network you belong to is using you in some way.

Yes, but even if the government was allowed to do this, there are procedures it should have followed, which it probably didn't. That is the issue, if not the collection of data.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:49 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I pretty much figure if Miami didn't exist the U.S. would just forget about Cuba and let it be.
posted by spicynuts at 8:49 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the ongoing hate-boner that the US has for Cuba.

I, too, find Florida confusing.

sorry
posted by gauche at 8:49 AM on April 3, 2014 [36 favorites]


I don't understand the ongoing hate-boner that the US has for Cuba.

I think it's partially the fact that, at the height of the cold war and right at the peak of US global hegemony, we lost one of our most popular rich people luxury resorts to the goddamn commies. And only 90 miles off the southernmost coast of Florida, to boot!
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:51 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I, too, find Florida confusing.


Florida: America's Geographic Hate-Boner.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:57 AM on April 3, 2014 [13 favorites]


Every social network you belong to is using you in some way

but I thought my friends liked me for meeeeee!

Yes FB spies on me but they're not trying to topple my government. They just want me to click on their match.com link. So this Cuban network isn't as innocent as all that.


>I don't understand the ongoing hate-boner that the US has for Cuba.

>>I think it's partially the fact that, at the height of the cold war and right at the peak of US global hegemony, we lost one of our most popular rich people luxury resorts to the goddamn commies.

Maybe its also little embarrassing to the US that with a fraction of the wealth and resources, they are still able to educate themselves and provide national healthcare.

I think US-Cuba relations are going to warm up in the next 5-10 years and its going to be a good/bad thing for the Cuban people. Obama shook Raoul's hand at Mandela's funeral. Right now Cuba is the top 'get-away' destination for Canadians. I have friends who've been there >10 times. The medicare is great, university is free but after that Cubans don't have much opportunity to expand themselves, like make a business or find work. Right now there is NOTHING to buy in Cuba, its like going to the shittiest dollar store in the shitty area of town and they STILL make you check your bag like you're going to steal some shitty off-brand flavor of gum. But at the same time there is no 'hyper-advertising' in Cuba, its very Latin and family-oriented and it has that relaxed island feel. People enjoy life there. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:59 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cuban spring

Jesus what pestilential spin doctor came up with this crap. A country that manages to keep it's population fed while most other Caribbean Islands have starvation poverty, and train and send doctors to the world's trouble spots. What is this "spring" referred to by corrupt politicians enforcing an illegal embargo, in a broken democratic system that keeps the rich as rich as they want to be?
posted by iotic at 9:03 AM on April 3, 2014 [24 favorites]


Add in that most large industry/plantation owners pre-revolution are the ones who came to america with their power/wealth and used that to garner political influence, with the expectation that once whatever commie is in power is finally removed, the exile can return to get their factory/plantation back and resume exploiting the peasant class.
posted by k5.user at 9:03 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yes, a lot of Canadians go to Cuba for a vacation destination, but aren't they mostly just going to all-inclusive resorts--much like the ones Americans and Canadians alike flock to in Mexico--where they don't really ever have to interact with how Cubans truly live? Most of the holiday snaps I see from people's vacations there are the usual "food/booze/beach".

I confess that I don't know much about contemporary Cuban life, aside from the all "evil communist" stuff that gets lobbed at you as an American, but I am willing to learn!
posted by Kitteh at 9:10 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


hashtag activism is useless amirite?
posted by wuwei at 9:11 AM on April 3, 2014


It's fascinating to watch all my SF books come to life.
posted by Fizz at 9:19 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Only Built 4 Cuban Tweets.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:23 AM on April 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's a little troubling that USAID did the work. They're supposed to be mostly a relief and development organization. No doubt USAID programs have provided cover for a variety of US covert activities in the past, but the way ZunZuneo is being reported sounds like it's a step beyond to have a whole program done in secret. I hope this doesn't undermine their ability to provide credible aid in times of humanitarian crisis in the future.

What I'm really curious to know is if ZunZuneo was actually any good. Was the UI decent? Did login work reliably? Did the product make sense?
posted by Nelson at 9:29 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


There's more details here. And as Nelson says, the fact that this was done by USAID is really fucked up since this just raises the suspicion when humanitarian aid is provided that it's tainted in some way.
posted by Runes at 9:38 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this is potentially deadly stuff. It's just as likely the Cuban government was collecting info on all of these people; they could have easily been targeted. Also this could hurt legitimate USAID efforts like polio eradication.

This brings up more questions. What was Alan Gross doing in Cuba? Is this what Biz Stone was talking about when he dissed the State Department in 2011? (They allegedly approached another of Twitter's co-founders to seek funding for the project)

Methinks all the attention to Benghazi is probably a net win for Hillary since it takes the focus off of these way-more-shady shenanigans.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:47 AM on April 3, 2014


I don't understand the ongoing hate-boner that the US has for Cuba.

It's hard to under because we're generally more familiar with upheavals and policies that cause poor people to lose property and cash, which is never such a big deal.

The revolution caused lots of rich folks to lose property and other holdings. Cuban citizens will be held to account and remain economically isolated so long as Fidel draws breath and those holdings remain nationalized
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:52 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


e.g. Bacardi
posted by iotic at 9:55 AM on April 3, 2014


Methinks all the attention to Benghazi is probably a net win for Hillary since it takes the focus off of these way-more-shady shenanigans.

USAID is an independent agency, not under the State Department.
posted by gsteff at 9:59 AM on April 3, 2014


The reaction on Twitter has been pretty funny. @crushingbort in particular (1 (with bonus Greg Nog reply) 2 3 4) has been great. I also liked this @methadonna tweet.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:03 AM on April 3, 2014


The reaction on Twitter has been pretty funny.

I have to say, "eBay of Pigs" made me spit some coffee this morning.
posted by ndfine at 10:06 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's partially the fact that, at the height of the cold war and right at the peak of US global hegemony, we lost one of our most popular rich people luxury resorts to the goddamn commies. And only 90 miles off the southernmost coast of Florida, to boot!

It goes back a little before that:

In 1820 Thomas Jefferson thought Cuba "the most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of States" and told Secretary of War John C. Calhoun that the United States "ought, at the first possible opportunity, to take Cuba."[2]
posted by bukvich at 10:10 AM on April 3, 2014


U.S. does creepy tween trick of creating fake twitter* to find out if Cuba's citizens like it/plutocratic oligarchy, "Y/N?".

* ok so instead of creating a fake account, they created an entire service. Still.
posted by Eideteker at 10:11 AM on April 3, 2014


I, too, find Florida confusing.

Seriously, though, in addition to being shaped like a penis, Florida is a (ahem) swing state that is home to a lot of stridently anti-Castro voters.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:11 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Before the tide "US government is evils!$&@!" rolls in, let's remember that this is precisely what EVERY social network does.

subvert foreign aid agencies for covert action?
posted by p3on at 10:12 AM on April 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's fascinating to watch all my SF books come to life.

Life turned into a William Gibson novel so gradually I didn't even notice.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Don't expect U.S.policy toward Cuba to make any sense at all. If we really wanted to subvert Cuba, we should have a completely open door policy toward them, and import stuff like crazy. Cuba would end up looking like Puerto Rico. Instead, our embargoes have for decades facilitated the Cuban government.

Maybe there was some secret agreement between the governments? "You agree to keep being a communist boogeyman, and in return, well make sure you stay in power"?
posted by happyroach at 10:32 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nelson: What I'm really curious to know is if ZunZuneo was actually any good. Was the UI decent? Did login work reliably? Did the product make sense?

Here's the only page about ZunZuneo that Google news dug up between Dec. 31, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2011, and it's not displaying anything for me at the moment. Here's another page about someone finding the service, but Google auto-translation mangles it, so I'm not sure what exactly is being said, though it seems like someone was touting the service as "one of the most user-friendly information sources , to jokes received" (auto-translation). And here's a Spanish Facebook page for "ZunZuneoFan".

And here's ZunZuneo.com, which is a short message from "a Cuban living in the US" who wants "Castro’s monarchy to step aside," but goes on to say that "[i]f the US government wants to help and do something meaningful they should end the senseless embargo and allow their people to go and talk directly to the Cuban people. Democracy is contageous."
posted by filthy light thief at 10:33 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's a little troubling that USAID did the work

USAID is one of many organizations used as a tool to bend foreign nations to do whatever we want. Typically it operates in conjunction with unofficial operations, such as our arming and training of Gulf-allied jihadists that have destroyed Syria amidst our long-running proxy war with Iran. While the CIA runs logistics to ship hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons into Syria through Turkey, USAID goes for the hearts and minds by comforting the survivors of the needlessly dead and displaced with US sponsored food and medicine.

If you see USAID giving money to someone, it's for political purposes. We spend less of our GDP than almost every other Western nation assisting the poor and malnourished. Look on the same side of their political allies, and you'll probably find our secret police training some horrific militants. It's SOP at this point.
posted by deanklear at 10:36 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Does this mean the Beatles are going to play the Ed Sullivan show three years from now?
posted by ryoshu at 10:47 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well of course USAID is politically motivated. But it's historically been humanitarian aid, the good kind of US soft power. At least when USAID comes in with food and medicine you know roughly who they are and what they're doing. This baldly covert action seems like a change and I wonder if it will weaken USAID's ability to do their main mission.

Thanks for the links, filthy light thief. I poked around image searches and turned up a couple of unremarkable screenshots: login page, about page. The Wayback Machine doesn't have anything because of robots.txt; I wonder if that was always in place or only added by the current owner.
posted by Nelson at 10:52 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]




Yes, a lot of Canadians go to Cuba for a vacation destination, but aren't they mostly just going to all-inclusive resorts--much like the ones Americans and Canadians alike flock to in Mexico--where they don't really ever have to interact with how Cubans truly live? Most of the holiday snaps I see from people's vacations there are the usual "food/booze/beach".

Not sure of your point how it relates to the topic? That we can't comment on Cuba since we don't see the 'real' Cuba? Possibly so, but we do get a lot more than a glimpse.

Most teens/20s go there to party sure but Cuba is MUCH safer than Mexico, no comparison. You can go off the resort no problem. Resort people can chat with other Cuban adults on the beach since there's no rule saying Cubans can't swim at the same beach as the resort. They fish for dinner on the beach right beside you at the resort. I've chatted with many very well educated (and well traveled) Cubans. The resort employees might not talk so much while their employer is watching though. But all you have to do is take a ride out of town and you'll quickly see the quasi-favelas that people live in, the housing quality is pretty terrible. Shit walk 100 yards from your resort and you'll see it. But they are indeed educated people and have their health care covered. I'm not saying its paradise, there is literally nothing to buy and no work opportunities. But its not a shithole.

I had a co-worker go to Cuba for medical reasons (wait times in Canada was insane & she wasn't getting the test results back quickly) and she said they took good care of her.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:45 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't understand the ongoing hate-boner that the US has for Cuba

Because Cubans came here and talked about the terrible stuff Castro was doing, like the thousands of political murders, the biological experiments on prisoners, using electroshock on dissidents, etc - and that's not even touching the seizing of property or enslavement of its medical personnel.

Cuba needs, at a bare minimum, to apologize for the terrible things it has done before we can normalize relations with it - or at least, before we should.
posted by corb at 11:50 AM on April 3, 2014




Because Cubans came here and talked about the terrible stuff Castro was doing, like the thousands of political murders, the biological experiments on prisoners, using electroshock on dissidents, etc - and that's not even touching the seizing of property or enslavement of its medical personnel. .


And they came in sufficient numbers to sway elections in Florida, whcih indicates that Castro perhaps went a lot further than picking on Cuba's 1%.

Why should America set up a twitter clone for Cubans?
Because the Cuban monarchy is the kind of regine that would be threatened by it.
No need for any further justification.
posted by ocschwar at 11:55 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cuba needs, at a bare minimum, to apologize for the terrible things it has done before we can normalize relations with it - or at least, before we should.

You are complicit. If America would simply stop its illegal embargo, many of the problems in Cuba would be solved.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:55 AM on April 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


And all because we burnt our hands on the stove once and then had a goddamn hissy fit over the Russians mirroring our placement of nukes in Turkey. Still having a hissy fit, I suppose, though its a much more nakedly political hissy fit (if that's possible) than what is was back then.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:07 PM on April 3, 2014


I confess that I don't know much about contemporary Cuban life, aside from the all "evil communist" stuff that gets lobbed at you as an American, but I am willing to learn!

Apropos self-link: "On Tipping in Cuba," my 2012 Walrus magazine feature on the topsy-turvy economics of contemporary Cuba from a traveler's point of view.

The paradox of Cuba -- one of 'em, anyway -- is that it is both a politically repressive dictatorship with a deeply flawed past and a pretty decent social welfare state by regional standards. The one does not cancel out the other. And much as you hate to over-generalize from limited interaction, Cubans are in my experience a singularly indomitable bunch. Not mere geographic coincidence that this has been the last continental holdout from American hegemony for half a century.
posted by gompa at 12:21 PM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


it is both a politically repressive dictatorship with a deeply flawed past and a pretty decent social welfare state by regional standards. The one does not cancel out the other

Well said. US policy towards Cuba has been looney tunes for decades, but I find it bizarre how so many leftists in the US who are in full "OMG, the US is a fascist police state!" mode immediately move to "why can't we just look at all the good things Cuba does!" as soon as somebody points out that they are, in fact, a "politically repressive dictatorship." Sure, it's very problematic that USAID initiated this social networking program, but, you know, its an awful lot more problematic that the Cuban state doesn't allow its citizens access to social media, and, in fact, runs one of the most repressive state censorship programs in the world. Giving the Cuban people a way of sharing information with each other and organizing politically is not, in itself, a bad thing. The fact that the Cuban government does not what its citizens to be able to do that is a pretty appalling indictment of that government.
posted by yoink at 12:30 PM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Thank you, gompa!
posted by Kitteh at 12:31 PM on April 3, 2014


The whole argument about the morality of Cuba's actions, problematic as that accusation is, somehow justifying our embargo brings to mind the parable of people who live in glass houses; stones. Or maybe pots and kettles.

I don't understand how anyone can live in United States and talk shit about human rights violations in other countries, but more importantly, using that that as an argument for actively causing more deprivation and suffering in retribution is just the epitome of circular reasoning.

Like Sys Req said above, the bizarre underpinnings for the current embargo are a fairly simple illustration of the idea that all politics are local:

1) The undying anti-Castro hatred of the Cubans who fled to Florida truly has to be seen to be believed
2) Florida is a swing state for our presidential elections
3) ???
4) Nobody's willing to touch the issue for 50 years
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 12:34 PM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


1) The undying hatred of the Cubans who fled to Florida has to be seen to be believed

Compared to other people robbed of everything they had and made to leave their homeland?

Not really, so far as I've seen. The Cuban factor has more to do with dirty money from Floridian sugar intrests than the Cuban voter numbers. Not to mention that there's a very easy way to make the Cuban American voters give up on the embargo: do away with wet-foot-dry-foot.
posted by ocschwar at 12:41 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Compared to other people robbed of everything they had and made to leave their homeland?

This is rather a disingenuous way of describing the ruling class of a defeated oligarchic regime.
posted by gompa at 12:43 PM on April 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


Cuba is MUCH safer than Mexico, no comparison.

If you're arguing that tourists in Mexico are risking anything other than their Kupffer cells I think that claim deserves some kind of proof.

Returning to the topic at hand, I seem to remember that any altercations with tourists in Cuba results in an automatic, draconian prison sentence for the local citizen, regardless of fault.

Is that a worthy goal of benevolent governing, jailing your own people without arbitration or recourse, to preserve the fragile sensibilities of the valuable tourism revenue that your entire economy is dependent upon?

I think a few carousing bros getting into a bar fight in Cancun tend to have it coming.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 12:44 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Because Cubans came here and talked about the terrible stuff Castro was doing, like the thousands of political murders, the biological experiments on prisoners, using electroshock on dissidents, etc - and that's not even touching the seizing of property or enslavement of its medical personnel.

Cuba needs, at a bare minimum, to apologize for the terrible things it has done before we can normalize relations with it - or at least, before we should.
posted by corb


Pot calling the kettle black much?
Unethical human experimentation in the US.
The Navy training field in Vieques where it regularly bombed and they complained that they couldn't find another spot...oh looks like they did.

I don't believe the US has ever apologized for any of these incidents so, I'm sorry pointing fingers at Cuba and saying you need to apologize for that is hypocritical at best. Not to mention we have normalized relations with other countries (Russia, China, etc.) that haven't apologized for any of their many terrible things either. It just doesn't work that way and is most definitely not the reason we haven't normalized relations with them.

though it seems like someone was touting the service as "one of the most user-friendly information sources , to jokes received"

Proper translation from native Spanish speaker: Until now ZunZuneo was one of the most friendly information sources -- I even received jokes.

The rest of the post is mostly being bemused by the crappy censoring and internet costs of the Cuban government.

The last link translation is correct. Google translate tends to do pretty well all things considered.
posted by lizarrd at 12:58 PM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't understand how anyone can live in United States and talk shit about human rights violations in other countries,

Oh god, this again. You do know it's possible to comment about abuses both in the country in which you live, and also in other countries, right? This isn't Highlander, there can be more than one. The United States can do bad things AND ALSO Cuba can do bad things. We can attempt to stop BOTH.
posted by corb at 1:00 PM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cuba would end up looking like Puerto Rico.

This really makes me question how much experience you have dealing with these topics, I think it's arguable that PR has just as many, if not more problems than Cuba does.

With rough parallels to the Philippines a few decades ago, PR has an unfortunate situation being stuck between two worlds and unable to move fully into either, as a sizeable portion of the populace wants self-governance and independence, and another wants complete integration into the United States.

They take a lot of flack from both latin american countries and the USA as well.

By any metric I can think of, they're not in an enviable situation. Economic, social justice, medical, governance, political infighting, and then there's the whole violence/crime/drug trafficking problem as it is a major import route.

Living in PR, for most people isn't so great. You pay super premium prices for arguably third world living conditions. The local government does the best they can with what little they have, and the US has funneled billions of dollars into building up the infrastructure, but a lot of the industries that were key to the local economy has left. There's also huge issues with brain drain, from what I remember more than 90% of graduates from higher education leave permanently.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 1:06 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cuba needs, at a bare minimum, to apologize for the terrible things it has done before we can normalize relations with it - or at least, before we should.

versus

Oh god, this again. You do know it's possible to comment about abuses both in the country in which you live, and also in other countries, right? This isn't Highlander, there can be more than one. The United States can do bad things AND ALSO Cuba can do bad things. We can attempt to stop BOTH.

I agree, of course both parties should stop their human rights violations. But you stated that Cuba needs to apologize first, which is ridiculous. You're actively constructing requirements that you know they cannot, and will not ever fulfill.

This is the entire reason we have the current embargo. Grudges, refusing to see the big picture, and operating in blatant bad faith. Someone has to be the bigger person, and it should be the bigger person.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 1:11 PM on April 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Well, it's no "depilatory in Fidel's beard," that's for sure.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:13 PM on April 3, 2014


You misread me. Cuba doesn't need to apologize to America. Cuba needs to apologize to Cubans and make things right. And until it does, Latin-American-Americans like me are going to demand, in solidarity, that the United States have nothing to do with Cuba, because that is literally the only vehicle of possible change we have.
posted by corb at 1:22 PM on April 3, 2014


>Cuba is MUCH safer than Mexico, no comparison.

>>If you're arguing that tourists in Mexico are risking anything other than their Kupffer cells I think that claim deserves some kind of proof.
...


I think a few carousing bros getting into a bar fight in Cancun tend to have it coming.


February 10th 2014 Edward Kular, 84, and Nina Discombe, 72, were found dead Sunday by their gardener in a pool of blood in the living room of their home, Mexican authorities said.

Domenic Ianiero, 59, and his wife, Nancy, 55, of Woodbridge, were found in their room at the Barcelo Maya resort near Playa del Carmen on Feb. 20, 2006, with their throats slashed.

Feb. 9, 2014: Toronto’s Edward Kular, 84, and his girlfriend, Nina Discombe, 72, from Ottawa, were found brutally slain in their recently purchased winter home in Ajijic, located about 50 km south of Guadalajara.
Nov. 6, 2012: Ron Mackintosh, 64, of Nanaimo, B.C., was found strangled to death in the town of Barra de Navidad.
July 30, 2012: Duane Joseph Lang, 46, of Regina, was found slain in an apartment in Puerto Vallarta after concerned friends asked his landlord to check on him. He was stabbed 23 times.
Jan. 22, 2012: Calgary’s Sheila Nabb, 37, was found beaten to within an inch of her life in an elevator at Hotel Riu in Punta Cerritos, a five-star resort she was vacationing at with her husband.



So clearly this is not a few carousing bros causing problems, run a google search and get your facts straight.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


If you're arguing that tourists in Mexico are risking anything other than their Kupffer cells I think that claim deserves some kind of proof.

Well there's this. Lots of falls and drownings that are probably due to alcohol, yes, but also carjackings, beatings, murders... Mexico isn't the most unsafe place in the world or anything, but sites like this seem to indicate that it's more dangerous for a tourist there than, say, Canada.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:32 PM on April 3, 2014


Latin-American-Americans like me are going to demand, in solidarity, that the United States have nothing to do with Cuba, because that is literally the only vehicle of possible change we have.

I don't understand how you can make the assertion that the only tool available in international politics boils down to "I don't like what you're doing so we're going to act like you don't exist," nor the a priori implication that an embargo is even going to facilitate the change you're looking for. filthy light thief's comment above has a lengthy paper on the many ways US policy has been more complex than an embargo, and the nuanced result of said embargo.
posted by pahalial at 1:38 PM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Is there any appetite to discuss the way this program was clandestinely funded and went forward under USAID, or the details of the program? I find myself sad this is turning into a referendum on US-Cuban politics when that's actually not the core of the new information.
posted by pahalial at 1:42 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


You misread me. Cuba doesn't need to apologize to America. Cuba needs to apologize to Cubans and make things right. And until it does, Latin-American-Americans like me are going to demand, in solidarity, that the United States have nothing to do with Cuba, because that is literally the only vehicle of possible change we have.
posted by corb


I don't know if it was directed at me or not, but on the other hand, yes, Cuba does need to apologize to Cubans. There's also several governments of Cuba that need to apologize to Cubans that won't be able to. As an island-born and raised Puerto Rican, I still feel that the embargo does nothing and we should normalize relations with Cuba and then hopefully at some point an apology would surface though I doubt it. Either way, it would better the lives of Cubans in Cuba which in my case is the whole point. It may even bring about change of the government. I'd rather the embargo lifted and then attempt to solve all the other problems. It shouldn't be used a beat them with a stick tool any longer.

With rough parallels to the Philippines a few decades ago, PR has an unfortunate situation being stuck between two worlds and unable to move fully into either, as a sizeable portion of the populace wants self-governance and independence, and another wants complete integration into the United States.

The situation of independence, self-governance, and statehood is a little more nuanced than that. Roughly half of the population wants a form of self-governance that parallels what we have now with the US with a bit more autonomy, the other rough half wants statehood, and finally we have roughly 10% or less of the population who want independence. Also, Congress needs to approve of our statehood or independence if we get a solid vote on it. The parties in PR also keep playing ridiculous political games with the referendum that would make this over and done with. In the end, I don't think that even if it was done right anyone REALLY wants change other than make the economy better.

By any metric I can think of, they're not in an enviable situation. Economic, social justice, medical, governance, political infighting, and then there's the whole violence/crime/drug trafficking problem as it is a major import route.

Living in PR, for most people isn't so great. You pay super premium prices for arguably third world living conditions. The local government does the best they can with what little they have, and the US has funneled billions of dollars into building up the infrastructure, but a lot of the industries that were key to the local economy has left. There's also huge issues with brain drain, from what I remember more than 90% of graduates from higher education leave permanently.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro


Otherwise, conditions in Puerto Rico have been worsening over the last 10 years. It is not an enviable position Puerto Rico is in at all and it is facing very difficult choices over bankruptcy, paying debts, etc. Also being a captive economy for the US doesn't help.
posted by lizarrd at 1:47 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


the details of the program

One thing I haven't gotten a clear handle on from the reporting is whether the people implementing this network were doing so on the understanding that eventually it would spontaneously be used by Cuban political activists to coordinate action or if the idea was (as some of the reporting strongly implies, without, as far as I've yet seen, documenting the claim) to somehow use this network to actively encourage and foment political action. I think that's a really important distinction, and I'd like to know the answer to it. It strikes me as debateable whether USAID ought to be in the business of setting up a Twitter-like social network in another country, but not clearly outside of their proper sphere of action. We would generally think that providing social media tools to a nation is a Good Thing and USAID should be in the business, generally, of providing Good Things to other nations (to put it very simply).

But if they actually had some fully realized plan to run this network for a while and then somehow start using it to disseminate an anti-government message and encourage/organize protest actions etc. that seems like some pretty radical mission-creep for USAID and a very troubling development. So...any one have solid info on that?
posted by yoink at 1:50 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


If America would simply stop its illegal embargo, many of the problems in Cuba would be solved.

Hmmm. My first guess would have been a planned economy and a politically oppressive regime.

I'm not going to argue about the effectiveness of the Cuban embargo and the hypocrisy of normalized relations with other former Cold War nemesis and Second World countries. I do have to take issue with this idea that all the problems Cuba suffers is because the US doesn't trade with them. Its an embargo not a blockade, they still trade with other countries. Its not like they are going to make a killing by flooding the US market with even more cheap sugar.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:12 PM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Its an embargo not a blockade, they still trade with other countries.

True, but while the Helms-Burton act has probably not had much effect on Cuba's trade with other countries in fact, you're glossing over the fact that the US has, in fact, tried to discourage other nations from trading with Cuba.
posted by yoink at 2:22 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is there any appetite to discuss the way this program was clandestinely funded and went forward under USAID, or the details of the program? I find myself sad this is turning into a referendum on US-Cuban politics when that's actually not the core of the new information.

Well, sure. What would you like to discuss? I share yoink's opinion that it's unclear as to how far ZunZuneo had shaded from "creating a social network for Cubans" to "attempting to foment a revolution". Was it rolled out with the expectation that Cubans would naturally want to start some shit? Were there Americans posing as Cubans?

It's certainly not news that the US has an ultimately irrational hate-boner for Cuba. I think the irrationality is what's key here. The single most disruptive thing the US could do would be to simply lift the embargo and no longer play the part of the imperialistic bogeyman next door. The silliness of trying to create a "Cuban spring" only highlights how goofy the US is when it comes to Cuba. Whatever the sins of the Cuban regime, and they are plenty, it is screamingly obvious that the populace is not interested in turning Cuba back into anything resembling Batista's Cuba.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:21 PM on April 3, 2014


The AP story has been updated with more details.

USAID documents say their strategic objective in Cuba was to "push it out of a stalemate through tactical and temporary initiatives, and get the transition process going again toward democratic change."

... a researcher for Mobile Accord, began building a vast database about the Cuban subscribers, including gender, age, "receptiveness" and "political tendencies."

A key question was how to move more people toward the democratic activist camp without detection. Bernheim assured the team that wouldn't be a problem.

You've got to be a little naive to think this info wouldn't find its way over to the CIA if shit started to go down in Cuba.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2014


I do have to take issue with this idea that all the problems Cuba suffers is because the US doesn't trade with them. Its an embargo not a blockade, they still trade with other countries.

Banks settle their currency trades internationally using the SWIFT network. It has been thoroughly penetrated by the USA, and a couple of years ago the USA reportedly seized a payment of US$26,000 being transferred by a Danish businessman to a German bank. The payment was for Cuban cigars, you see, which allegedly violated the USA's embargo.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:20 PM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well of course USAID is politically motivated. But it's historically been humanitarian aid, the good kind of US soft power. At least when USAID comes in with food and medicine you know roughly who they are and what they're doing. This baldly covert action seems like a change and I wonder if it will weaken USAID's ability to do their main mission.

USAID has never just been about humanitarian aid. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Office of Public Safety trained and equipped cops who tortured and disappeared people in Latin American countries. More recently, the Office of Transition Initiatives (the same division that ran the ZunZuneo project) has actively funded and supported opposition political groups in places like Venezuela and Bolivia.
posted by twirlip at 4:34 PM on April 3, 2014


USA reportedly seized a payment of US$26,000 being transferred by a Danish businessman to a German bank.

Cuban products can be bought around the world, if this was a common enforcement, there would be more than this one incident isolated incident.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:43 PM on April 3, 2014


Oh wow, The Wayback Machine reference to robots.txt files is retroactive. I had no idea.

I hate this so much. So much of the internet is gone from wayback because of that. It's like domain squatter buys name>sets robots to disallow>poof, forever!
posted by emptythought at 5:00 PM on April 3, 2014


Seems that Granma (Cuban state newspaper) hasn't picked this story up yet...
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:18 PM on April 3, 2014


Er, the Spanish language version links to this blog post
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:22 PM on April 3, 2014


The title of this post should have been "They called it Cuban Tweet"
posted by jquinby at 6:20 PM on April 3, 2014


Every social network you belong to is using you in some way.

Even "liking" the weirdest most hateful stuff does nothing to the ads. I've searched and "liked" anything that sounds even faintly "other" and I still get the "click here to love America" shit. I get the feeling the algorithm is bullshit.
posted by telstar at 6:25 PM on April 3, 2014


Will Cuba be setting up a twitter like service that's not thoroughly compromised by the intelligence apparatus of the United States?
posted by jperkins at 6:29 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jeffrey Goldberg has an article calling on Obama to exert himself to seek the release of Alan Gross, the USAID patsy who was arrested on the last of several trips to deliver satellite internet equipment to Cuban Jews: Obama Shouldn't Forget Our Man in Havana.

The USA, according to Goldberg, has resisted a prisoner exchange with Cuba on the basis that Gross wasn't really a spy. I think that can't be true: his actions, which seem weird and uncoordinated, must be somehow linked to the ZunZuneo program. Even if he wasn't really a spy, he was really working for an espionage program and Cuba was acting reasonably when it arrested him. It would be nice to think that the USA would look after one of their own.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:16 PM on April 3, 2014


My grandparents lived and worked in Cuba for a short time in the early '50's. Both of them, but especially my grandfather, were always so hopeful that at some point in their lives that US/Cuban relations would be normalized and they would be able to go back and reconnect with the people that they had befriended during their stay there. They could never talk enough about how warm and friendly almost everyone in Cuba was to them.

Well, my grandfather's dead now, so he won't be making that trip.

But when Obama was re-elected, I had a bet with my mom that as a lame duck president, he'd move to normalize relations with Cuba. Then I moved the goalposts to after the mid-term elections, that's when he'd pull it off. And I promised my mom that we'd make the trip together the moment the barriers to travel were removed.

Well, here I am, looking like a loser on this. I still hold out hope for an executive order dropped on his last day in office, the same day a president traditionally passes out the pardons. It's the right thing to do, and it's way past the right time to do it, imo. So come on, Obama, "¡Si se puede!"
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:46 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


White House denies 'Cuban Twitter' ZunZuneo programme was covert

And, from the White House Press Briefing:

This was a program that had been invested in and debated by and debated in Congress. The GAO has reviewed this program in detail less than two years ago and found that it was conducted in accordance with U.S. law and under appropriate oversight controls.

When it goes to the question of being very discreet, I don't know if you’ve been to Cuba -- I have, a long time ago as a reporter -- and these are the kinds of environments where a program like this and its association with the U.S. government can create problems for practitioners and members of the public. So appropriate discretion is engaged in for that reason, but not because it's covert, not because it's an intelligence program, because it is neither covert, nor an intelligence program.

posted by KatlaDragon at 5:09 AM on April 4, 2014


I was interested in the figure that Filthy Light Thief linked showing less than 7% of North Americans are using Twitter. That is in a population where smart phones and network coverage are ubiquitous. In Cuba there is little point in having a smart phone as the cost for data is very steep. I haven't asked anyone who has been there this year what it costs, but the lowest figure I have seen online is 1CUC ($1) per MB. This would price it out of the reach of the vast majority of the population. I certainly would hesitate to pay that kind of money for data, especially on the slow connection available on the island.

Zunzuneo would be accessible to a small subset of the rich and pretty far from a democratising force.

One of the nice things about visiting Cuba is not having access to the internet every hour of the day, talking to people and enjoying the moment is a lot easier and very refreshing. It is also the case that everyone seems to know someone who can tell you what you need to know, even if they can't help. Want to know who is on at the Casa de la Musica? Someone will know. Where to get your belt fixed, sunglasses fixed, nails polished, find batteries etc, etc, etc. At least that's how it was in Havana, staying at a casa particulare. When I was hanging out with locals it seemed that all they had to do was shout a request and someone would tell someone who would send someone to sort it out.

When I read happyroach's comment 'Cuba would end up looking like Puerto Rico' I assumed he was suggesting that was a bad thing. Funny how different perception of online comments is, as 1m+ Metatalk comments will attest. I didn't have much understanding of the situation in Puerto Rico other than it was not much fun for the majority of the population and was used and abused by the US, so thanks to the locals for chiming in on the political situation. In looking up sex tourism in Puerto Rico I found this somewhat depressing article dealing with sex tourism in Cuba. Spoiler - US child sex tourism to Cuba hardly exists, probably because US tourism to Cuba hardly exists.
posted by asok at 6:52 AM on April 4, 2014


>>If America would simply stop its illegal embargo, many of the problems in Cuba would be solved.

>Hmmm. My first guess would have been a planned economy and a politically oppressive regime.


But they already have that. If the point of the embargo is to prevent that sort of thing, then the embargo is utterly ineffectual. It just makes the US one more oppressor of the Cuban people.

The simplest way for the US to exert actual control on the Cuban government is to become their biggest trade partner, pumping kajillions of dollars into their economy. You don't achieve anything by not giving them money, other than keeping their people poor and maintaining the us-vs.-them mentality that is central to the Castro stranglehold.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:29 AM on April 4, 2014



When I read happyroach's comment 'Cuba would end up looking like Puerto Rico' I assumed he was suggesting that was a bad thing. Funny how different perception of online comments is, as 1m+ Metatalk comments will attest.


I also have to wonder why it is that whenever Cuba is the topic of discussion, nobody thinks to compare to Costa Rica.

Similar climate. Similar terrain. Similar population.

Democratic. Lightly armed. With as much of a welfare state as a nation along the Caribbean can afford to have.

And not at all Uncle Sam's poodle. Fuck the false dichotomy.
posted by ocschwar at 7:46 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry I don't have more time to read from this commend to the bottom of the thread, but I wanted to pull something out and take a look at it. On it's face it seems like a very good argument, but I find it to be a good example of how propaganda works in America.

From yoink:
Sure, it's very problematic that USAID initiated this social networking program, but, you know, its an awful lot more problematic that the Cuban state doesn't allow its citizens access to social media, and, in fact, runs one of the most repressive state censorship programs in the world. Giving the Cuban people a way of sharing information with each other and organizing politically is not, in itself, a bad thing. The fact that the Cuban government does not what its citizens to be able to do that is a pretty appalling indictment of that government.
First, the United States ranks 33rd on the Press Freedom Index from reporters without borders. Cuba is way down at 171. But guess who else is down there? Bahrain. Saudi Arabia. Pakistan. Cuba is running a repressive dictatorship, but we don't appear to have a problem with repressive dictatorships as long as the money is right.

Take a quick look at all of the nations surrounding Cuba. We've invaded an occupied multiple nations multiple times in this century expressly for the purpose of establishing control of land or industry. USAID interference in Cuban affairs is not "problematic." It is systematic. It is part of the machine we operate to destroy nations for our own political or economic benefit.

Look no further than Wikipedia searches for Cuba for evidence of this:
The Ostend Manifiesto. was a document written in 1854 that described the rationale for the United States to purchase Cuba from Spain while implying that the U.S. should declare war if Spain refused. Cuba's annexation had long been a goal of U.S. expansionists, particularly as the U.S. set its sights southward following the admission of California to the Union. However, diplomatically, the country had been content to see the island remain in Spanish hands so long as it did not pass to a stronger power such as Britain or France. Buchanan was easily elected President in 1856. Although he remained committed to Cuban annexation, he was hindered by popular opposition and the growing sectional conflict; not until thirty years after the Civil War did the so-called Cuban Question again come to national prominence.
In a nutshell, powerful members of the US government were considering whether to buy or annex Cuba in 1854. Kind of like what Russia just did with Crimea. And "the Cuban Question" is usually "how should the United States control Cuba for it's own benefit?"

If this sounds like colonialism, that's because it's colonialism.

I actually love this next bit in Wikipedia:
In a controversial move, Roosevelt implied to Panamanian rebels that if they revolted, the U.S. Navy would assist their cause for independence. Panama proceeded to proclaim its independence on November 3, 1903, and the USS Nashville in local waters impeded any interference from Colombia (see gunboat diplomacy).
Let's place that paragraph in a different context:
In a controversial move, Putin implied to Russian rebels that if they revolted, the Russian Navy would assist their cause for independence. Crimea proceeded to proclaim its independence on March 16th, 2014, and the Russian Navy in local waters impeded any interference from Ukraine (see battleship diplomacy).
And I'm sure it will read the same way in their history books, if Putin doesn't strangle his own country to death and get himself kicked out. But let's take a look at another context, straight out of WikiPedia:
After the opening of the island to world trade in 1818, trade agreements began to replace Spanish commercial connections. In 1820 Thomas Jefferson thought Cuba "the most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of States" and told Secretary of War John C. Calhoun that the United States "ought, at the first possible opportunity, to take Cuba."
...
On 10 December 1898 Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris and, in accordance with the treaty, Spain renounced all rights to Cuba. The treaty put an end to the Spanish Empire in the Americas and marked the beginning of United States expansion and long-term political dominance in the region. Immediately after the signing of the treaty, the US-owned "Island of Cuba Real Estate Company" opened for business to sell Cuban land to Americans.[10] U.S. military rule of the island lasted until 1902 when Cuba was finally granted formal independence.
Now imagine Russo-Crimean relations in this next paragraph:
The Teller Amendment prohibited the outright annexation of Cuba. The United States agreed to withdraw its troops from Cuba provided that Cuba agreed to the Platt Amendment, an amendment to the 1901 Army Appropriations Act by Connecticut Republican Senator Orville H. Platt, which would allow the United States to intervene in Cuban affairs if needed for the maintenance of good government, and committed Cuba to lease to the US land for naval bases. The Cuban-American Treaty leased to United States the southern portion of Guantánamo Bay, where a United States Naval Station had been established in 1898. The Platt Amendment defined the terms of Cuban-U.S. relations for the following 33 years and was bitterly resented by the majority of Cubans.
The main difference is that Crimea is actually made up of a bunch of retired Russian military. It was still illegal and stupid and dangerous, but again, the idea that America is somehow better than other nations when it comes to this is transparently and utterly false. I hope we can avoid the embarrassment of remembering Batista and the Contras.

"In a controversial move, JFK approved a plan to invade Cuba and overthrow their government."

Now let's look at the moral argument for our interference in their internal affairs: "The fact that the Cuban government does not [want] its citizens to be able to [organize politically] is a pretty appalling indictment of that government."
  • As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.
  • The FBI’s Indianapolis division released a “Potential Criminal Activity Alert” on September 15, 2011, even though they acknowledged that no specific protest date had been scheduled in Indiana. The documents show that the Indianapolis division of the FBI was coordinating with “All Indiana State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies,” as well as the “Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center,” the FBI “Directorate of Intelligence” and other national FBI coordinating mechanisms.
  • Documents show the spying abuses of the FBI’s “Campus Liaison Program” in which the FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to “sixteen (16) different campus police officials,” and then “six (6) additional campus police officials.” Campus officials were in contact with the FBI for information on OWS. A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment made up of students and professors.
  • Documents released show coordination between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and corporate America. They include a report by the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), described by the federal government as “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector,” discussing the OWS protests at the West Coast ports to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.” The DSAC report shows the nature of secret collaboration between American intelligence agencies and their corporate clients - the document contains a “handling notice” that the information is “meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel…” (The DSAC document was also obtained by the Northern California ACLU which has sought local FBI surveillance files.)
  • Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) reported to the DSAC on the relationship between OWS and organized labor for the port actions. The NCIS describes itself as “an elite worldwide federal law enforcement organization” whose “mission is to investigate and defeat criminal, terrorist, and foreign intelligence threats to the United States Navy and Marine Corps ashore, afloat and in cyberspace.” The NCIS also assists with the transport of Guantanamo prisoners.
  • DSAC issued several tips to its corporate clients on “civil unrest” which it defines as ranging from “small, organized rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting.” It advised to dress conservatively, avoid political discussions and “avoid all large gatherings related to civil issues. Even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security forces. Bystanders may be arrested or harmed by security forces using water cannons, tear gas or other measures to control crowds.”
  • The Federal Reserve in Richmond appears to have had personnel surveilling OWS planning. They were in contact with the FBI in Richmond to “pass on information regarding the movement known as occupy Wall Street.” There were repeated communications “to pass on updates of the events and decisions made during the small rallies and the following information received from the Capital Police Intelligence Unit through JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force).”
"They include a report by the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), described by the Cuban government as “a strategic partnership between the SDE, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector,” discussing the protests at the ports to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.” The DSAC report shows the nature of secret collaboration between Cuban intelligence agencies and their corporate clients - the document contains a “handling notice” that the information is “meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel."

This system of government -- America's system of government -- is a system of soft fascism, and has many similar elements to political repression in Cuba: we have a political police force, militarized riot units deployed to shut down protests, two million people in penitentiary (the highest in the world), widespread poverty, broken education systems, failing public infrastructure, and a public/private integrated system of propaganda management. Our government operates behind propaganda efforts that are much more sophisticated than some of our neighbors, but that only changes the veneer on our institutionalized intolerance of political expression. We don't beat people in jail (usually it's in the street when given the slightest excuse), but we do have 80,000 human beings being tortured in solitary confinement at this very moment. And when we have the excuse of terrorism, we go ahead and torture people anyway. Again, if that sounds like a soft form of fascism, that's because it is a soft form of fascism.

We should leave other nations alone until we have true freedoms ourselves, and if we value political freedom at all, and at long last after 200 years of interference, threats, and invasions, we should sure as hell leave Cuba alone. Our actions are anti-democratic and our words are morally bankrupt.
posted by deanklear at 8:40 AM on April 4, 2014


Now let's look at the moral argument for our interference in their internal affairs: "The fact that the Cuban government does not [want] its citizens to be able to [organize politically] is a pretty appalling indictment of that government."

Thank you for your deeply Wikipedia-learned comment, Deanklear. Perhaps before you rushed off to Wikipedia you might have bothered to read my comment a little more attentively. I was not making a "moral argument for our interference in their internal affairs." Until we know what the nature of the "interference" was, I find it impossible to pass a judgment one way or the other. I was making a moral argument against Cuba denying its citizens freedom of expression. If the US is "soft fascism" in your view, what does that make Cuba's far more brutally repressive government? "Mmmmm, not-too-soft, not-too-hard, just right fascism"?

First, the United States ranks 33rd on the Press Freedom Index from reporters without borders. Cuba is way down at 171. But guess who else is down there? Bahrain. Saudi Arabia. Pakistan. Cuba is running a repressive dictatorship, but we don't appear to have a problem with repressive dictatorships as long as the money is right.


I never really understand this "grrrr, I'm really angry with you that you're playing nice with these nasty dictators--and I'm REALLY angry that you're not playing nice with all the nasty dictators" argument. Yeah, nations have self-interests that they protect--always have, always will. So? If the US started putting much stronger pressure on Saudi Arabia to clean up its human rights record what would be your reaction? I assume you'd be outraged, right, because there'd be some other bad-acting country that the US wasn't also leaning on?

FWIW, by the way, I think the US should lift it's embargo on Cuba and that the US's relations with Cuba should be pretty similar to its relations with, say, China (although, obviously, there are a lot of things that would be very different). I think that would be better for the Cuban people and better for the American people in the long run. But I don't see any moral coherence whatsoever in your vague hand-wavy argument for complete international isolationism.
posted by yoink at 9:14 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was making a moral argument against Cuba denying its citizens freedom of expression. If the US is "soft fascism" in your view, what does that make Cuba's far more brutally repressive government? "Mmmmm, not-too-soft, not-too-hard, just right fascism"?

We support fascism when it makes money for our businesses, at home and abroad. So we have no basis for pretending that we can fix other nations when ours is similarly broken, and we are just fine with beheadings for sodomy, as long as our friends in Saudi Arabia are doing the beheading. Is there a Cuban program for executing people of a certain orientation?

Let's again take a look at Wikipedia:
Cuba has taken some reforms recently. In 2003, Carlos Sanchez from the International Lesbian and Gay Association issued a report on the status of gay people in Cuba that claimed that the Cuban government no longer offers any legal punishment for its gay citizens, that there is a greater level of tolerance among Cubans for gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and that the Cuban government was open to endorsing a gay and lesbian rights plank at the United Nations. Since 2005 sex reassignment surgeries for transgender individuals are free under law, and are paid for by the government. Also Havana now has a "lively and vibrant" gay and lesbian scene.
Given that, and since Cuba has only had 3 executions (all from the same alleged terrorist incident) since they more or less stopped executing people in 2001, what is your specific evidence of brutal repression? Hell, since 2002, we have executed over 500 people. Is the death penalty brutally repressive? America is one of the few places one has to even ask that question.

Do you want to talk about women's rights in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain vs Cuba?

From what I can tell, Cuba is holding 300 political prisoners, and has crowded and terrible prisons, and repressive laws that unfairly target minorities and has prison sentences that are arbitrary and draconian.

But let's look at just one fact:

Cuba has, at worst, 100,000 prisoners, 300 of whom are political prisoners, and there are 7 prisoners of conscience according to Amnesty international.
Solitary confinement drove the hunger strike in California prisons, which some 30,000 people joined at the outset. Their number quickly dwindled, but forty days in, dozens were still fasting. In 2011, after the previous major fast in California’s prisons, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez said solitary confinement longer than fifteen days should be banned. Nearly 200 prisoners have spent more than a decade in solitary in California. In July, hunger striker Michael Russell wrote a piece that poetically conveyed its horror: “I’ve spent a quarter of my life in this prison’s cages, in its mud, learning to deal with the loud rhythm, the madness and isolation, the absence from my family and friends that has turned me into a total stranger, with so much empty uncertainty. I don’t sit here and cry. Nobody does.”
I think that would be better for the Cuban people and better for the American people in the long run. But I don't see any moral coherence whatsoever in your vague hand-wavy argument for complete international isolationism.

If the American government actually gave a shit, it would stop pretending that things are better here, and it would stop being the last country on earth punishing Cuba for crimes it is guilty of seven times over.
In September, the USA renewed the Trading with the Enemy Act, which imposes financial and economic sanctions on Cuba and prohibits US citizens from travelling to and engaging in economic activities with the island. In November, the UN General Assembly adopted, for the 21st consecutive year, a resolution calling on the USA to lift the unilateral embargo.

The WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA and other UN agencies reported on the negative impact of the embargo on the health and wellbeing of Cubans and in particular on marginalized groups. In 2012, Cuba’s health care authority and UN agencies did not have access to medical equipment, medicines and laboratory materials produced under US patents.
You read that correctly. If we don't like your political system, you don't get our medicine.

Because we're the good guys.
posted by deanklear at 2:38 PM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]




USAid Blog: Eight Facts about ZunZuneo. Mostly defensive responses to questions about the covert nature of the program. Also claims a higher user count of 68,000. (Cuba has a population of about 11M.)
posted by Nelson at 5:24 PM on April 7, 2014


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