The US Built a Bizarre "Twitter for Cuba" to Help Undermine Castro

By Brian Barrett on at

In one of the oddest reports of spy games we've heard in years, the AP has uncovered a United States plot to create a "Cuban Twitter" that would lure in users with football scores and music news before evolving its message into anti-Castro rhetoric. If any part of that made you say what, don't worry, that's a perfectly natural response.

According to the AP, the caper kicked off back in 2010, when US official Joe McSpedon and an international team of contractors put a bow on the nascent Cuban social network. Called ZunZuneo—slang for the Cuban hummingbird's song and a sly nod to Twitter—it operated strictly via text messaging to get around Cuba's restrictive internet rules.

The plan was eventually for ZunZuneo to hit "hundreds of thousands" of members, at which point its message would subtly shift from "football is good" to "Castro is bad," and then even further to incite "smart mobs," which sound like flash mobs but for civil unrest. In short, it was attempting to prompt Cuba's own Arab Spring.

In reality, though, participation fell well short; at its peak, ZunZuneo hit 40,000 members, according to the AP, a scant 0.3 per cent of the Cuban population. ZunZuneo may not be an exploding cigar, but it's a definite reminder that the United States has no shortage of tricks up its sleeve, some of them goofier than others. Read the full thing over at the AP; it's well worth your time.[AP]

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