By Ben Norton / Geopolitical Economy Report
A former top CIA spy has admitted that the United States funds anti-government propagandists in Cuba who portray themselves as “independent journalists”.
Major British newspaper The Guardian spoke with CIA veteran Fulton Armstrong, whom it described as “the US intelligence community’s most senior analyst for Latin America from 2000 to 2004”.
Armstrong stated that, in Cuba, “a lot of the so-called independent journalists are indirectly funded by the US”.
The ex CIA analyst pointed out that, today, the Joe Biden administration bankrolls anti-government opposition forces in Cuba with at least $20 million in annual support for supposed “democracy promotion” activities.
The Guardian acknowledged that the CIA has a history of spreading disinformation inside Cuba, as part of a US information war aimed at destabilizing the revolutionary government. The newspaper wrote:
Financing media has long been part of Washington’s diplomatic toolkit.
In the 1960s in Cuba, Radio Swan, a CIA covert action programme, attempted not only a propaganda offensive to undermine support for Fidel Castro, but doubled up as a communication link, sending coded messages to paramilitaries during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.
A decade ago it emerged that the US government had paid contractors to create ZunZuneo, a social network built on texts, to organize “smart mobs” on the island. And during historic, largely spontaneous anti-government protests on the island in 2021, externally funded, externally directed bots made anti-government hashtags trend on Twitter.
Still today, Washington funds another prominent Spanish-language, anti-Cuba disinformation outlet called Radio y Televisión Martí, which is part of the government’s propaganda arm the US Agency for Global Media (formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors).
Armstrong, the former CIA agent, explained to The Guardian the US destabilization strategy in financing opposition media outlets in foreign countries like Cuba:
US programs are designed with a win-win strategy. We win if the opposition media gain a foothold, and we win if they provoke government repression.
That thrusts the government into a dilemma – to let the organizing and funding go forward or to risk image and credibility by crushing it.
In addition to spying for the CIA, Armstrong worked for the State Department’s US Interests Section in Cuba (a diplomatic office located inside Switzerland’s embassy in Havana).
Armstrong served as the US “National Intelligence Officer for Latin America”, the intelligence community’s top analyst focused on the region. He also oversaw Latin America for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Guardian – which is itself closely linked to and collaborates with the UK’s intelligence services – portrayed the Cuban government as repressive for cracking down on foreign-funded disinformation agents.
The British newspaper gloated over the large revenue streams that anti-government media outlets in Cuba have, writing, “Tiny state salaries have also been unable to compete with the private sector”.
While The Guardian praised two right-wing Cuban opposition media outlets, called El Toque and El Estornudo, it admitted that both are bankrolled by the US government.
El Toque disclosed to The Guardian that “it has received US federal funds ‘indirectly’ as part of a mix of money from corporations and foundations”.
El Estornudo is financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a notorious instrument of US regime-change operations that has meddled in the internal politics of countries all around the world.
A co-founder of the NED, Allen Weinstein, told the Washington Post in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA“.
The NED reported that it gave El Estornudo $180,000 in 2021 – a huge sum of money in any Latin American country, but especially in Cuba, which has trouble getting access to dollars due to Washington’s illegal, six-decade blockade against it.
In a 1977 report titled “Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by the C.I.A.“, the New York Times admitted that the CIA had established a media outlet in the early 1960s called Free Cuba Radio, whose “propaganda broadcasts against the Government of Prime Minister Fidel Castro were carried over radio stations” in various cities inside the US and in the Caribbean.
The prominent newspaper explained:
One motive for establishing the Free Cuba radio network, a former C.I.A. official said he recalled, was to have periods of air time available in advance in case Radio Swan, meant to be the main communications link for the Bay of Pigs invasion, was destroyed by saboteurs.
Radio Swan’s cover was thin enough to warrant such concern. The powerful station, whose broadcasts could be heard over much of the Western Hemisphere, was operated by a steamship company in New York that had not owned a steamship for some time.
US funds opposition media propaganda in Venezuela and Nicaragua
The United States has used the same tactics to try to destabilize the leftist governments in Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The NED has spent hundreds of millions of dollars funding right-wing opposition media outlets and so-called “civil society organizations” in Venezuela.
Many of these groups have been complicit in violence and participated in coup attempts against democratically elected Presidents Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.
In Nicaragua in the 1980s, the CIA supported far-right death squads known as the Contras (short for “Counterrevolutionaries”), who burned down schools and hospitals and waged a campaign of terror to try to overthrow the socialist Sandinista government.
A key part of the US hybrid war on Nicaragua in the 1980s, and still today, included the dissemination of disinformation through NED-funded newspapers like La Prensa, which is owned by the Central American nation’s most powerful right-wing oligarch family, the Chamorro dynasty.
After the Sandinista Front returned to power in 2007, through democratic elections, the US again began pouring millions of dollars into opposition media outlets in Nicaragua.
During a bloody coup attempt in 2018, US-funded Nicaraguan opposition media outlets spread extreme propaganda and fake news, openly inciting violence and encouraging people to murder President Daniel Ortega and hang his body in public.