TV Marti's New Plan For Toppling Castro: Spamming Cuban Cell Phones

For 26 years, taxpayers have poured hundreds of millions into Doral-based TV and Radio Marti to beam American news into Cuba with the idea that keeping Havana abreast of Florida Marlins' scores will inspire Cubanos to rise up against the Castros. But Fidel is far too wily for that -- the station is so effectively blocked that nine in ten Cubans have never heard of it.

TV Marti has a new plan, though, just launched last month: Blasting Cuban cell phones with thousands of spammy, unsolicited text messages.

The texts started flowing Sept. 15 through a Maryland-based company with an $84,000 contract to spearhead the "cyber equivalent of dropping propaganda leaflets on the island," the L.A. Times reports.

The firm essentially summarizes TV Marti's news of the day along with baseball scores and "invitations to join internet chats," the paper reports, then uses the same kind of texting system that spammers use to hit your phone up with bogus Viagra ads.

The ploy might be annoying, but it's a logical extension of Marti's mission, the station's director tells the Miami Herald.

"We try to get our information into Cuba through whatever means are possible, and text messaging is increasingly available in Cuba," Carlos Garcia-Perez says.

The problem with the strategy is two-fold, though.

First, less than 10 percent of Cubans have access to cell phones and those that do are mostly in the better-off, government friendly sectors of Havana that aren't exactly going to be swayed by TV Marti's texting campaign.

But worse than that, it's SPAM. Aren't we trying to convince Cubans that we're the good guys? As the L.A. Times reasonably pointed out yesterday: "spam is (not) the way to win the hearts and minds of Cubans."

The Cuban government has gone as far as calling the new program "cyberwar." Which might be a bit extreme, but yeah -- this seems more likely to inspire a tactical strike on U.S. cell phone towers than a counterrevolutionary movement against Fidel.

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