Cuba – US Government Secretly Funds Social Network: A report by news agency Associated Press (AP) revealed that the US government funded a social network called ZunZuneo between 2010 and 2012, “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government.” According to the AP article, the SMS-based social network was secretly funded through aid agency USAID, which channelled U$S1.6m hidden behind a “byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account.” Through it, the US government would initially spread “non-controversial content” such as information on sports, hurricanes, and music, with the intention to later on “introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize ‘smart mobs’ (…) that might trigger a Cuban Spring.” On a press briefing yesterday, Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the US Department of State, acknowledged the involvement of USAID in funding the ‘Cuban Twitter’, as it was known, however she stated that “there was nothing classified or covert about this program. Discreet does not equal covert.” She also argued that “we [the US government] were not generating political content of any kind on this platform. We were letting the Cuban people do that themselves.”
Chile – Overfishing Leaves Half of Species in Crisis: A report by the Secretariat of Fishing has revealed that over 40% of the country’s major fisheries are under threat from overfishing. According to the 2013 review of resources, 16 of the 33 main fishing grounds are classed as either ‘over exploited’ or ‘exhausted’. Among the most vulnerable species are the anchovy, golden kingklips, skate, and alfonsin. “The situation is critical,” said Undersecretary of Fishing and Agriculture Raúl Súnico. “This report imposes on us a great challenge to recover the over-exploited and exhausted fisheries and create a more sustainable future for our fishing industry.” Years of poorly regulated industrial fishing have been blamed for the current shortages, with artisanal fishermen critical of authorities for favouring large-scale operations under a new Fishing Law that came into force last year. Fishing is one of the most important industries in Chile, which has the world’s seventh-largest commercial catch.
Mexico and Panama Sign Free Trade Agreement: The governments of the two countries formalised a free trade agreement (FTA) yesterday, which brings Panama closer to joining the Pacific Alliance. The FTA, which was 15 years in the making, is expected to benefit companies which will use Mexico as a manufacturing base and Panama as a gateway for global distribution, according to experts consulted by Mexican newspaper El Financiero. Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli also highlighted that, once the FTA is approved by the congresses of both countries and the Colombian congress, his country will be able to join the Pacific Alliance. “The incorporation of Panama to the Pacific Alliance Group will be greatly beneficial to all Panamanians. [Mexican] President [Enrique] Peña Nieto has promised he will support us in this undertaking,” he said, adding that “Panama would be the natural seat of the Pacific Alliance, being in a middle point between Mexico and Chile.” The Pacific Alliance is a trade bloc made up of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. New members must sign FTAs with all existing members in order to join in; in the case of Panama, the country only needs to finalise its FTA with Mexico.