Friday, April 25, 2014

Costa Rica is demanding US explain 'Cuban Twitter'

Posted on Thursday, 04.24.14

Costa Rica is demanding US explain 'Cuban Twitter'

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- The Costa Rican government says it's still
waiting for the Obama administration to explain why it launched the
secret "Cuban Twitter" network from inside the Central American nation's
borders despite warnings in 2009 that the plan could jeopardize the two
countries' diplomatic relations.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Costa Rican Foreign Minister
Enrique Castillo said efforts to affect other countries should not be
carried out from inside Costa Rica.

He said his government had not received an answer to its question, which
he said was delivered a day after the AP reported on April 3 that the
U.S. Agency for International Development funded the secret program to
stir political unrest in Communist-ruled Cuba.

"I think it's inappropriate to use an embassy in Costa Rica for this
type of operation that harms a third country," Castillo said. "We're not
filing a complaint. The point is that embassies accredited in Costa Rica
don't have to submit their plans or programs for the Costa Rican
government's approval."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Costa Rica
sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. Embassy in San Jose requesting an
explanation after the AP story appeared. "In the following days, Embassy
staffers have reached out to their MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
counterparts on multiple occasions about the issue and those
conversations have been ongoing."

Hundreds of documents obtained by the AP show that the contractors hired
to launch the social media network, known as ZunZuneo, went to extreme
lengths to hide its ties to the U.S., using foreign companies and
computer servers paid for via a bank account in the Cayman Islands. They
did so after acquiring more than 400,000 Cuban cellphone numbers.

USAID has denied that the program was secret or that it had a political
agenda. At the request of a congressional oversight committee, the State
Department is reviewing texts sent to thousands of Cuban cellphone users
to see if they were political.

Costa Rica's Foreign Ministry told the U.S. Embassy in June 2009 that
the plan to develop the social media network could lead to "political
difficulties" for Costa Rica, and it refused to grant diplomatic status
to two U.S. government contractors involved in the program, La Nacion,
Costa Rica's largest newspaper, reported Tuesday.

According to an internal Foreign Ministry memorandum, Javier Sancho
Bonilla, protocol and state ceremonial director for the ministry, said
the project "could create a situation politically inconvenient since it
can be interpreted that it would violate the principle of
non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries." The note
was sent to the foreign minister's chief of staff, Elaine White, on June
2, 2009.

Sancho's memo also suggested that Costa Rica withdraw from its
cooperation agreement with the U.S. government, which had been signed
under the umbrella of the Alliance for Progress, an initiative of U.S.
President John F. Kennedy aimed at preventing the emergence of Cuban
revolutions in the rest of Latin America.

The Foreign Ministry told the U.S. Embassy that the ZunZuneo plan
exceeded the agreed limits of binational cooperation.

"Until now, the Cuban government hasn't complained to us because of
this," Castillo said Tuesday. "It may be that there were illegalities
committed while this program was being executed, but that is solely the
responsibility of the U.S. government."

Associated Press writer Mathew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Source: SAN JOSE, Costa Rica: Costa Rica is demanding US explain 'Cuban
Twitter' - Americas Wires - -

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