Birdbrained plot

If the story is true, this has to be the first time that someone has tried to weaponise social media.

Updated: April 4, 2014 12:14 am

The US tried to trigger a Cuban revolution with a Twitter clone? Seriously?
The Associated Press has uncovered a covert US programme to destabilise Cuba that is so complexly bizarre and obviously pointless that it begs three questions.

Why? Why now? And why hasn’t Barry Eisler written a book about it already? Initially, the plan was to create an anonymous service funded through USAID that would deliver independent news to Cuba’s mobile phone users. But after it reached critical mass, it would mutate into a Twitter-like social network, bypassing government controls. And then it would be used by dissidents to incite people against the state.

If the story is true, this has to be the first time that someone has tried to weaponise social media. But why now, when Cuba has opened up its markets to an extent? President Raul Castro has restored some freedoms to the people, including the freedom to travel internationally.

The EU has resumed bilateral relations, Barack Obama wants to start over again and in 2009, the US had offered Cuba re-admission into the Organisation of American States. Cuba had expressed disinterest, and the covert social media campaign began in 2010.

No relation, hopefully.

The project appears to have featured all the Byzantine complexities so beloved of spy thriller writers — false flags, contractors and sub-contractors, fronts and cutouts, picturesque letter boxes in the Grand Caymans. But, just as the motives of the heroes and villains of spy literature can be so remote from reality that they become altogether incomprehensible, it isn’t easy to understand why anyone would want to invest so deeply in fomenting a Havana Spring when the penny has finally dropped in Havana.

Raul Castro’s Cuba knows the revolution is over. Indeed, it knows it may have never even begun.

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