By JUAN TAMAYO | Miami Herald
Cuba alleged Monday that Radio/TV Martí is violating the country’s laws and may disrupt its cellular text-messaging system with a computerized system that can send up to 24,000 text messages a week to cell phones on the island.
Developed for mass marketing campaigns, the system makes it almost impossible to block the texts because the computer makes them look as though each individual message, or SMS, was sent from a different telephone number.
Radio/TV Martí is using the text messages to deliver the same kind of news and information that the U.S. government-run stations already broadcast to the island, said stations director Carlos García-Perez.
Cuba’s government controls and censors all the mass media on the island as well as access to the Internet. But at the end of last year, Cubans owned 1 million cell phones that could receive SMS, according to official figures.
“We try to get our information into Cuba through whatever means are possible, and text messaging is increasingly available in Cuba,” Garcia-Perez told El Nuevo Herald.
The text messaging program is “within the guidelines for the use of cell phones” and “certainly not intended to disrupt anything,” added Tish Wells, spokesperson for the Office of Cuban Broadcasting (OCB), which supervises the Martí stations.
Cuba took a more dire view of the effort, however, with the government’s CubaDebate Web page branding it a part of a U.S. government “cyberwar” against the communist system. The text also was read Monday on a Cuban TV news program.
The Cubadebate report complained the system “will be able to bombard Cuban cellular telephone users with 24,000 text messages a week, in open violation of Cuban laws and international agreements.” It did not detail which laws or agreements.
“I don’t know what they are talking about,” said García-Perez. “We work openly, publicly, transparently. We have nothing to hide.”
The Cuban report added that the “gigantic cyberwar operation threatens to seriously affect the normal functioning of the SMS services offered to Cuban cellular users,” but did not explain how that could happen.
García Pérez said Radio/TV Martí, created by the U.S. government to break the Cuban government’s monopoly on the mass media, began sending the computerized SMS messages to the island in March or April. A Cuban blogger in Spain has been using the same system to send his messages since October under the name Cuba Sin Censura.
But the details of Radio/TV Martí’s effort came to light only after the contract for the computerized SMS services was published in Cuba Money Project, a Web page that tracks U.S. government spending on Cuba-related programs.
The contract between the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which runs all U.S. government TV and radio stations, and Washington Software Inc. is for $84,000 for one year starting Sept. 15. One-year extensions could bring the total to $464,000.
It requires the Maryland-based firm to be ready to send up to 24,000 text messages per week to telephone numbers that the BBG will provide, “using a variety of tools to counter foreign government-sponsored Internet censorship controls.”
The Money Project report, based on U.S. government documents obtained by journalist Tracey Eaton through the Freedom of Information Act, noted that one of the companies that was considering bidding on the contract had asked if the SMS campaign was legal.
“We are concerned with the legality of sending these types of notifications to people in another country. Does the U.S. government take all legal responsibility for these messages?” the unidentified company asked in one document.
The BBG replied that the winner of the contract “assumes all responsibility under this requirement and should consider all aspects of this requirement before submitting an offer.”
—————————————- Havana Journal Comments—————————————-
I posted this article under Cuban American/Politics because that was this is all about. It’s not about “promoting democracy” in Cuba. It’s about old Cuban exiles sucking off the teet of the US government for their own financial and political gain.
If Radio Marti were sending 24,000 texts a month to US cell phone owners, all kinds of government watchdog groups would be all over them. So, Cuba is right on this issue to call it a cyberwar and all this does is to reinforce the Cuban government’s position that all dissidents in Cuba are working for the US.
This is yet another shameful act by Radio Marti funded by USAID and/or other US tax payer funds that ONLY serves to HELP the Cuban government oppress its people.