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There is abundant evidence of direct foreign influence on the July 11 demonstrations. Yet a month later there is still a healthy debate going on, including opposing views among Cuban revolutionaries and Communist Party of Cuba members about its significance and how to interpret these unprecedented demonstrators. The controversy to be found in an online discussion in Cuban pro-government media has been building up since July 11 to now.
Anti-Cuban Government Cyber Warfare Originating in Spain, Argentina and the US
Expert cyber analyst in Spain Julián Macías Tovar points out that the operation made intensive use of bots and new accounts recently created for the occasion, intending to make a chorus for #SOSCuba. The bot is a software application that runs automated scripts over the Internet. Typically, bot tasks are simple and repetitive, much faster than a person could type text. More than 1,500 of the accounts that participated in the operation with the hashtag #SOSCuba were created between July 10 and 11. The first account that used the hashtag #SOSCuba was one located in Spain. It posted more than a thousand tweets on July 10 and 11, with an automation of five retweets per second.
Tovar analyzed the more than two million tweets using the hashtag #SOSCuba that started asking for “humanitarian aid” given the increasing COVID-19 deaths. This campaign was spurred on by the participation of artists and thousands of newly created accounts and bots that produced mobilizations in the streets. Tovar points out that the campaign was carried out for artists to participate with the HT #SOSCuba.
There is a history of some artists in Cuba falling prey to hostile foreign appeals. Just in recent history last year, the San Isidro Movement (SIM) arose composed of “artists” and caught the attention of a foreign audience just as the July 11 events. It took place during the [US] election period era. The SIM used pro-Trump slogans such as Vote Trump! Invade Cuba! It was not only financed by US democracy promotion programs, but it enjoyed the logistical support of the American Embassy in Havana who ferried some leaders to their encampment.
During the presidential elections last year, no one can forget Biden opposition to Trump’s foreign policy. However, Biden only stressed that Trump acted indecently, while Biden would bring decency back to the White House. Did this stop Biden from changing course on Cuba policy? We now know that the US Cuba policy is bipartisan. Thus, it should come as no surprise that on March 12, 2021, under Biden, Julie Chung, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, met with the SIM through an internet conference. She concluded: “We enjoyed an open exchange of views on free expression, assembly, media and culture. [I] heard about the San Isidro Movement. We salute Cuba’s brave champions of democracy and human rights.”
On July 11, the first demonstration in San Antonio de Los Baños, a small town west of Havana was publicized in the United States by the account of one named Yusnaby with thousands of retweets, As Tovar points out:
“Curiously Yusnaby (Latin American pronunciation of Navy which pronounces the “V” as a “B”) is the account that comes out by far the most in my threads because it is one of the patterns of automated fake accounts that spread hoaxes and hate campaigns.”