We are living through an old-school information war of the type perpetuated by the hawks who whisper in the ears of U.S. presidents. Of course, it didn’t start with Joe Biden. These hawks have been pushing the false notion of social collapse in Cuba since 2017, along with their magical solution: “humanitarian intervention.” At the same time, Donald Trump was adding a litany of additional sanctions to the blockade, 243 to be exact, that have remained in effect during the current administration.
In February 2020, the friends of Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro, and of congressmen from Florida, between taking selfies with the most detestable fascists of the international right, launched a social media campaign called “Crisis in Cuba: Repression, Hunger, and Coronavirus.”* At that time, there was not a single case of COVID-19 on the island. Nor were there any shortages of food or medicine as there are now, despite repeated financial shocks, the strain put on the banking system, the harassment of oil tankers, the abrupt cutting off of remittances, the cancellation of routine flights from the U.S., and much more. As Cuban writer René Vázquez Díaz recalled at the time, imagine the army of U.S. civil servants who have worked diligently since 1960 to ensure the unspeakable suffering of Cuban children, of the elderly and the sick, of the women and the men of a small country that has never even attacked its bully. Imagine the huge number of civil servants who, now more than ever, continue to carry out this task every day.
Imagine for a moment how much this full-spectrum war has cost! This war that rages in cyberspace, where operatives upload and disseminate misinformation in real time to ensure that this desperately desired social collapse becomes a reality, all the while hiding the meddling hands that caused it in the first place. And without ever revealing, of course, that the majority of the Cuban population didn’t participate in these incidents, and would not accept a “humanitarian intervention” or the bombing and the U.S. Marines that come with it under any circumstances.
When the government called on the people to defend themselves, the alarm was sounded on social media and in the international media to turn President Miguel Díaz-Canel into a criminal. They forgot to mention that he didn’t call in the army to shoot the citizens. He didn’t order the torture of anyone. He didn’t authorize the use of Tasers, riot control chemicals or tear gas. In fact, he used no weapons at all, except the bare chests of those who know who the real criminal in this story is. And they came out in droves to defend the revolution, even before Díaz-Canel explained Sunday afternoon what had happened and called for calm among the people, who have been bombarded for days on end with all sorts of toxic information and fake news on social media. Without going any further, as I write this article, CNN in Spanish has presented a protest in Havana in favor of the revolution by the workers of the Ministry of the Economy as if it were an anti-government protest. To make it more realistic, they added the song “Libertad” by Miami businessman Emilio Estefan.
What nobody is saying about Cuba is this: The involvement of the businesses and websites participating in this campaign, which are registered in Florida and receive U.S. government funding, has been documented for at least two years. No one is talking about the use of big data systems and state-of-the-art artificial intelligence against the island. These are the same systems that were used to justify the coup in Bolivia, for example. Nobody is talking about the presence of cybertroops who coordinate political organization on social media and use their computational firepower to create a deafening echo chamber of anti-government sentiment.
The Spanish researcher Julián Macías Tovar has shown how these well-organized cybertroops on Twitter amplified millions of messages and provided a blueprint for the coordinated harassment of influencers with the objective of boosting the visibility of the hashtag #SOSCuba. The tactics being used, typical in cyberwarfare, are designed to create the illusion of a broad consensus against the Cuban government based on a carefully planned brute force operation that combines all the hallmarks of U.S. irregular and hybrid warfare in the age of the internet. The U.S. has been perfecting such tactics for almost 20 years.
In 2003, the U.S. Department of Defense declared that cyberspace was a new territory to conquer. They defined the operations of “network-centric warfare” or cyberwarfare as “conducting, and preparing to conduct, military operations according to information-related principles. It means disrupting, if not destroying, information and communications systems, broadly defined to include even military culture, on which an adversary relies in order to know itself: who it is, where it is, what it can do when, why it is fighting, which threats to counter first, and so forth.”
Tactics used for disinformation, fraud and manipulation seek not only to make a social collapse out of disturbances created in U.S. laboratories, but also to turn spectators into accomplices in a crime against millions of Cubans. There are many things they aren’t saying about Cuba, but don’t doubt for a second that this is the most important one.
*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, the name of this organization could not be independently verified.