The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

April 9, 2014

'Cuban Twitter' overtly political, poking Castros

(Continued)

"Latest: Cuban dies of electrical shock from laptop. 'I told you so,' declares a satisfied Ramiro. 'Those machines are weapons of the enemy!'"

Others were marked in documents as drafts, and it was not immediately clear if they were ultimately transmitted by the service, which the government said ceased in 2012 because of a lack of funding.

Said one draft message: "THE BACKWARDS WORLD: 54% of Americans think Michael Jackson is alive and 86% of Cubans think Fidel Castro is dead." Another called Castro the "The coma-andante," a reference to Fidel's age.

"No," wrote organizers, apparently nixing that text. "Too political."

A USAID spokesman did not immediately reply to a request seeking comment Tuesday.

Last Thursday, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that "no political content was ever supplied by anyone working on this project or running it. It was the people — the Cuban people on the ground who were doing so."

However, Alen Lauzan Falcon, a Havana-born satirical artist based in Chile, said Tuesday that he was hired to write the political texts, though he was never told about ZunZuneo's U.S. origins.

"I don't do cultural humor," he said. "I do political humor. Everything I do is politics even if it is humor about politics."

"Obviously it has to be covert, there is no way you can do something like this in Cuba without someone paying a price," he said.

Some lawmakers in Washington have expressed support for ZunZuneo since the AP's original disclosure. The latest came at a second hearing on Tuesday, this one before a House subcommittee. Two Florida lawmakers — Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart — said the Cuba project was successful.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, said USAID should be applauded for giving people in Cuba a less-controlled platform to talk to each other.

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