Earlier this month, the Associated Press covered a story about ZunZuneo or the “Cuban Twitter”. According to the piece, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had secretly used “shell companies” and foreign banks to create and fund the program. The social media platform—established in 2009 and later terminated in 2012—was supposed to build a Cuban audience in the network through mass text messages and eventually push them toward dissent.
Shortly after the news broke out, the US government was heavily criticized, both within the country and abroad, for having operated the covert program. According to documents obtained by the AP, USAID set up companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands and recruited CEOs without telling them they would be working on a project that was funded by the US government. In addition to the legality of the program, others were concern about the implications of the matter. In an opinion written in the Public Diplomacy Council, the author writes about how this incident will most likely strengthen Castro’s message about the immorality and evildoing of the United States. Additionally, it will probably also damage the hopes of Cuba releasing Alan Gross, an American contractor who was imprisoned in 2010 during a clandestine USAID mission to expand internet access in the island.
In the opinion, the author argues that the ZunZuneo project was a failed attempt to public diplomacy because it lacked “open, honest and correctly attributed communication”, which is part of the “longstanding professional standards of PD”. In my opinion, I would argue that the author is correct. In order to have successful PD, governments should be open and transparent about the project they are doing. The objective of PD is to establish a better public opinion of your own country abroad. If the foreign public is blinded from the PD project, the country operating the project will not be able to successfully communicate the message it is trying to send out.