MIAMI (AP) - The revelation that a U.S. government-funded program set up a cellphone-based social network in Cuba is likely to pose new challenges for independent bloggers and exile groups that work to increase access to technology.
In recent years, exile groups in Miami have tried to help Cubans break through the technology divide by sending computers, laptops and flash drives to store and share information.
Sanchez and others have gone to pains to say they are not supported by the U.S. government. Yet even without any connection, analysts say findings by The Associated Press that the U.S. Agency for International Development oversaw the financing and creation of a mobile phone network used by more than 40,000 people could be damaging.
“It’s going to be much more difficult for Yoani Sanchez to do the things she wanted to do,” said Andy Gomez, a retired Cuba scholar from the University of Miami and senior policy adviser with the law firm Poblete Tamargo. “I think the Cuban government is going to say, ‘You see, this is probably funded by some of the U.S. AID funding.’”
The network was called ZunZuneo, which is slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.
It was not immediately clear if the project’s leaders reached out to Sanchez for collaboration.
Sanchez did not immediately respond to an email request Saturday for comment.
The renewed skepticism of dissidents and exiles on the island was already apparent in Cuba’s official media Friday. The state news agency Prensa Latina recalled a Jan. 1 speech in which President Raul Castro warned of “attempts to subtly introduce platforms for neoliberal thought and for the restoration of neocolonial capitalism.”
“Castro’s denunciations of the U.S. government’s destabilizing attempts against Cuba were corroborated by today’s revelation of a plan to push Cuban youth toward the counterrevolution, with the participation of a U.S. agency,” Prensa Latina said.
“In the short-term, however, it will complicate her project,” he said.
U.S. officials have defended the program, a “Cuban Twitter” that operated from 2010 until 2012.
The AP investigation found the U.S. government set up the network to undermine the island's communist government. Tens of thousands of Cubans signed up for the service. The network allowed users to send and receive text messages, mostly news, sports and entertainment clips.