ZunZuneo, a relatively unsuccessful Twitter-style social network aimed at Cuba, was actually a plot by the USAID agency, which hoped it would spark protests and an eventual regime change.
The scheme, which Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations Committee head Patrick Leahy (D – VT) termed “dumb, dumb, dumb,” cost $1.6 million, which officially was earmarked for unspecified aid to Pakistan.
USAID head Rajiv Shah insisted ZunZuneo was not technically a “covert program,” because USAID doesn’t do covert programs. Rather, they kept the whole thing secret to “protect the people involved.”
Despite being unclear on what the word “covert” actually means, USAID seems halfway adept at doing it, setting up front companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands to funnel taxpayer money into the scheme, and recruiting ZunZuneo’s official corporate leadership without telling them anything about US government involvement.
USAID went on to issue a statement today insisting that it is “proud of its work in Cuba,” and that they believe the operation was “consistent with US law.”
The ZunZuneo program never got all that big, maxing out at about 40,000 subscribers. In September 2012 USAID pulled official support from it, and service disappeared almost immediately thereafter.