The Cuban government arrested four US residents on April 26 and charged them with planning to attack military installations, according to an Interior Ministry note published on May 7. The four suspects—José Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Raibel Pacheco Santos and Félix Monzón Álvarez—had planned to burst into a military unit, murder soldiers and officers, and "make a call for violence," according to an article dated May 7 but published the next day in the youth-oriented Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde. The article links the alleged plans to the US government's failed "Cuban Twitter," the cell phone-based social network ZunZuneo. "It's quite obvious," the article said, "that these violent actions of attacking Cuban military installations, with the intent of creating panic and confusion, are very similar to the supposed 'social explosion' hoped for by ZunZuneo's creators."
US citizen Alan Gross, serving a 15-year prison term in Cuba for his work there as a contractor for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), held a liquids-only hunger strike from April 3 to 11 to protest his treatment by both the Cuban and US governments. According to Scott Gilbert, Gross' Washington DC-based lawyer, the prisoner started his hunger strike after he learned of an April 3 Associated Press report on ZunZuneo, the "Cuban Twitter" service that USAID launched after his arrest in December 2009. Gross was charged with seeking to subvert the Cuban government by supplying dissidents with Internet technology, and ZunZuneo had the potential to damage his legal case.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), a US government foreign aid agency, secretly ran a cell phone-based imitation of the Twitter social networking service in Cuba from 2010 to 2012, according to an April 3 report by the Associated Press (AP) wire service. The service—named "ZunZuneo," Cuban slang for a hummingbird's tweet—was developed in conjunction with two private contractors, the Washington, DC-based Creative Associates International and the Denver-based Mobile Accord. ZunZuneo was popular with young Cubans, who were unaware of its origin; by 2012 the service had some 40,000 subscribers.
In a four-hour extraordinary session on March 29 attended by President Raúl Castro Ruz, the 612 deputies in Cuba's unicameral National Assembly of Popular Power voted unanimously to approve a new law governing foreign investment. Replacing a measure put in place in 1995 under then-president Fidel Castro, the Foreign Investment Law will allow foreign companies to operate in Cuba independently, rather than in joint ventures with state enterprises, according to a report in the Cuban daily Juventud Rebelde published shortly before the legislation was passed. Most foreign companies will be required to pay a 15% tax on profits, half the current rate, the article said, and they will enjoy a tax moratorium for the first eight years of their operations in Cuba. Rates may be higher for companies that exploit natural resources, such as nickel or fossil fuel.
Fernando González, one of five Cuban agents charged with espionage by the US government in 1998, returned to Cuba on Feb. 28 after serving out a 15-year term in US prisons. Released from the federal correctional center in Safford, Arizona, on Feb. 27, González landed around noon the next day at Havana's José Martí International Airport, where he was met by Cuban president Raúl Castro. The Cuban government insists that its agents, who are widely known as the "Cuban Five," were never spying on the US and that their goal was only to gather information on terrorist plots by right-wing groups based in the Miami area.
Some 56% of US adults support normalizing relations with Cuba or engaging more directly with the island's Communist government, according to an opinion poll released on Feb. 10 by the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, DC. Support for normalization was at 63% among Florida residents, significantly higher than in the country as a whole, while 62% of Latinos backed normalization. Even among Republicans the majority, 52%, wanted to improve relations; the number was 60% for Democrats. The poll, which claimed a 3.1% margin of error, was conducted in January among 1,024 US adults; the pollsters were Paul Maslin, who has polled for Democratic candidates, and Glen Bolger, a three-time winner of the "Republican Pollster of the Year Award."
Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón announced Feb. 4 that an investigation will be opened into claims of eavesdropping on both government and rebel delegations to ongoing peace talks with the FARC guerilla group. The revelations were published in weekly Semana the day before. Based on 15 months of reports from an unnamed inside source, Semana concluded that a Colombian military intelligence unit funded and coordinated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) monitored the text messages and e-mails of representatives of both the government and the FARC involved in the Havana peace negotiations. Under the code name "Andromeda," the military's Technical Intelligence Battalion, or BITEC 1, operated a "gray chamber" to monitor the intercepted communications underneath a bar and restaurant in Bogotá, according to Semana. Opposition lawmaker Iván Cepeda dismissed the investigation, saying that only Pinzón himself could have ordered the eavesdropping, and that he should resign immediately. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 4)
The US State Department, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joined Jan. 28 to condemn the Cuban government's detentions of dissidents to keep them away from a Havana summit of hemispheric leaders. According to rights activists in Havana, an estimated 100 pro-democracy activists have been briefly detained or put under house arrest for the two-day summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which ends Jan. 28. Thirty dissidents were detained when they gathered in Santiago de Cuba as Cuban ruler Raúl Castro was giving his opening address to the summit. CELAC is supposed work towards economic integration of its 33 member states. Dissidents were planning two "parallel summits" this week to discuss human rights and other issues. Argentine activist Gabriel Salvia was deported by Cuban authorities when he arrived in Havana to join the parallel summit. "It is unacceptable to not to be able to do in Cuba what can be done in any other country that belongs to CELAC," Salvia said on his Twitter page.