Brazil's Straw Hat project helps women leave abusive situations
Has Russia saved the Assad regime from collapse?
04 Apr 2014 12:26 GMT | Politics, US & Canada, Latin America, Cuba, Spain
The US government created a service similar to Twitter in Cuba in a "discreet" operation intended to promote democracy on the communist-ruled island, officials said, but denied that the $1.2m effort was aimed at fomenting unrest.
We did not supply political content. We did not drive the political content.
Marie Harf, State Department spokeswoman
The programme, whose existence was first reported by the Associated Press news agency on Thursday, was run by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which normally delivers aid to the world's poor, and was discontinued in 2012, officials said.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the programme was neither "secret" nor "covert" under the US government's definitions of those terms. "Discreet does not equal covert," Harf told a news briefing.
Harf said this "democracy promotion" programme created a platform "similar to Twitter" and was carried out under a three-year grant totalling $1.2m and was created using subcontractors and foreign banks, Reuters news agency reported.
"We did not supply political content. We did not drive the political content," Harf said, although she added that the initial communications made over the network on subjects like sports and the weather were made by the US-funded contractors.
"So this is solely for the purpose of creating a platform for Cubans to express themselves, which has long been the policy of the United States, the United States Congress, and many other people in this country," Harf said.
The AP report said the programme was designed to get around Cuba's strict Internet prohibitions using secret shell companies financed through foreign banks. The report said USAID was careful to hide US ties to the project and used companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands to conceal the money trail.
The two-year project drew 40,000 users who did not know the communications network was devised by a US agency and also did not know their personal information was being gathered, the AP reported.
Harf said "the notion that we were somehow trying to foment unrest, that we were trying to advance a specific political agenda or points of view - nothing could be further from the truth."
The confrontation between the United States and Cuba is one of the world's last Cold War-era disputes and Washington has maintained an embargo on the communist country since 1962.
Some found Barack Obama's handshake with Raul Castro fraught with meaning, but others claim it lacks substance.
Politics, US & Canada, Latin America, Cuba, Iran
Change is slowly coming to Cuba. For one remote community in the Sierra Maestra mountains, it is just a phone call away.
Environment, Latin America, Cuba
Content on this website is for general information purposes only. Your comments
are provided by your own free will and you take sole responsibility for any direct
or indirect liability. You hereby provide us with an irrevocable, unlimited, and
global license for no consideration to use, reuse, delete or publish comments, in
accordance with Community Rules & Guidelines and Terms and Conditions.
Tackling the refugee crisis, Iran nuclear deal, and helping rape victims push candidates towards the coveted prize.
War & Conflict, Human Rights, Norway
Joining the West, Reykjavik imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, but now its fishermen are paying the price.
Politics, Business & Economy, Iceland
The illicit kidney trade in South Asia has exploded as brokers use social media to find donors.
Health, Business & Economy, India
Twice the size of Paris, the open-air Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm offers a unique approach to reforming criminals.
Prisoners, Philippines, Crime
Troops shoot dead 20-year-old Wissam Jamal after UN rights chief appeals for calm and end to violence.
War & Conflict, Middle East, Palestine, Israel
Lebanese security forces used water cannons and fired tear gas on anti-government protesters in the capital Beirut.
Politics, Middle East, Lebanon, Protests
People & Power investigates India's Hindu fundamentalists and their influence on the country's government.
India, Politics, Human Rights
We speak to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and ask a former KGB general about Russia's air strikes in Syria.
War & Conflict, Middle East, Israel
Al Jazeera World looks at the neutral nation's entrenched gun culture and the debate about the right to carry weapons.
Gun violence, Europe, Switzerland
The names of Newton, Galileo and Copernicus are well known, but how have the great Islamic thinkers of the middle ages contributed to the science of today?