It’s not often that a U.S. government agency gets caught red-handed abiding by its charter and performing its publicly-avowed and legislatively-approved duties. But last week the AP “broke” a long and breathless story from Havana that nailed the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) for just that.
In their own words, “a secret plan aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government,” was courageously exposed by the AP’s intrepid Havana bureau.
Such is the magnitude of the scandal that even as I write, a red-faced and snarling Senator Patrick Leahy is chairing hearings on Capitol Hill, grilling USAID director Rajiv Shah on his agency’s “cockamamie!” plan.
The diabolical cloak and dagger scheme was hatched in 2008 during George Bush’s term, (which may account for Democratic Senator Leahy’s dudgeon) amounted to setting up a “Cuban Twitter” named ZunZuneo (Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s tweet) in order for Cuban youths to text each other without being snooped on by Castro’s KGB-mentored secret police.
Caught your breath back? Yes, amazingly such a scheme somehow escaped the imaginations of Ian Fleming, John Le Carré, and Tom Clancy.
In sum, a brief effort was made (lasting from 2008-12, and involving 68,000 of Castro’s hapless subjects) to allow Cubans (who pre-Castro enjoyed more phones and TVs per-capita than most Europeans) to communicate with each other in the same manner as do teenagers today in such places as Sudan, Papua New Guinea, and Laos.
Understandably this scheme to facilitate a tiny window of freedom for a tiny fraction of their subjects greatly alarmed Cuba’s communist rulers. After all, it wasn’t easy converting a free and prosperous nation with a higher per-capita income than half of Europe, a flood of immigrants, and the first Mercedes dealership in the Americas into a totalitarian pesthole that repels Haitians and is marked by a glorious rebirth of communications by bongo drum and oxcart transportation.
The news was barely broken by Castro’s U.S. media allies when, as mentioned, Castro’s U.S. legislative allies picked up the signal from Havana and erupted in outrage — not against the KGB-mentored censorship by a terror sponsor mind you. Against the U.S. attempt to foil it. This is not your father’s Cold War.
After all, it took a lot of work to produce a properly cowed and servile plantation population. The Castro family dynasty and their minions aren’t about to sit back and see all their hard work undermined by a handful of American do-gooders.
Senator Patrick Leahy, true to his historic role as U.S. legislative messenger for Castro’s every whim and wish, promptly denounced the program as “dumb, dumb, dumb.” “What in heaven’s name are you thinking?”‘ Leahy complained to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC about the USAID scheme. “This makes no sense at all.”
What really “makes no sense at all” is Senator Leahy’s hypocritical carping during the hearings and to Andrea Mitchell — who, by the way — is famous for gushing that “Fidel Castro is old-fashioned, courtly — even paternal, a thoroughly fascinating figure!”
Leahy’s carping figures prominently in all the AP stories and raised a few suspicions among Cuba-watchers regarding the source of the story — Senator Leahy has long been nicknamed “Leaky Leahy,” or “Leahy the Leaker,” for a certain propensity of his to let sensitive information out in a politically selective way. This propensity reached such a level that in January 1987 Senator Leahy was forced to resign as vice chair of the Intelligence Committee after leaking classified information about the Iran-Contra affair.