Senate Orders Review of USAID 'Cuban Twitter' Program

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/ Source: Associated Press

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to turn over all records about the secret "Cuban Twitter" program as part of a wider review of the agency's democracy programs.

The committee's chair, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who ordered the review, said it will consider whether the "ZunZuneo" program in Cuba, which was shut down two years ago, was consistent with those run in other foreign countries. The review will also examine whether USAID should operate a "discreet" program.

Menendez, who is Cuban American, did say he supported the ZunZuneo program and would advocate for USAID to continue pro-democracy programs.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is also Cuban American, defended ZunZuneo as a way for Cubans to communicate despite government-imposed Internet restrictions. Rubio asked USAID administrator Rajiv Shah if the program "spied" on Cuba. Shah replied, "no."

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said the Senate's review should consider whether "discreet" programs like ZunZuneo endanger aid workers like Alan Gross, the American subcontractor who has spent over 4 years in a Cuban prison.

Gross, who announced he was on a hunger strike, stated through his attorney he was "fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments."

- The Associated Press