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U.S. penned political satire in secret Cuban Twitter

By The Associated Press

This article was published April 9, 2014 at 9:47 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Draft messages produced for a Twitter-like service in Cuba that the U.S. government secretly funded were overtly political, documents obtained by The Associated Press show, even though the Obama administration has said the program had a more-neutral purpose.

The early messages poked fun at the Castro government and were created by a political satirist working for the social media project. Those messages conflict with the U.S. government's earlier assertions that its program didn't promulgate political content.

Disclosure of the text messages came as the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development told Congress in sometimes-confrontational testimony Tuesday that his agency's program was simply meant to increase the flow of information in a country that heavily restricts Internet access.

An AP investigation last week found that the program, known as ZunZuneo, evaded Cuba's digital restrictions by creating a text-messaging service that could be used to organize political demonstrations. It drew tens of thousands of subscribers who were unaware it was backed by Washington, which went to great lengths to conceal its involvement.

At an oversight hearing Tuesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah that the program was "cockamamie" and had not been described adequately to Congress. Shah faces questioning before the House Foreign Affairs committee Wednesday.

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