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Cuba controversy: Castro cries foul, US pleads innocence – CubaCuban leader Raúl Castro has decried “subversive” tactics by the US following reports that the latter’s Agency for International Development​ (USAID) had introduced a mobile phone-based network into Cuba aimed at undermining the communist state.

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jay Carney denied that the program was covert or illegal in a briefing with journalists.

USAID also defended its actions, saying that it was “proud” of its work to promote human rights and universal freedoms in Cuba, and that the US had a longstanding policy of helping Cubans increase their ability to communicate with each other and the outside world.

The social network, known as ZunZuneo, operated between 2010 and 2012, and reached some 40,000 users at its peak.

The program was not covert, was conducted in accordance with US law and was debated in congress, Carney said.

When implementing programs in “non-permissive” environments such as Cuba, the US has taken steps to be discreet in order to protect practitioners and the public, he added.

Regarding White House involvement, Carney said that President Barack Obama and his administration supported efforts to help Cubans communicate more easily, and involvement would have been comparable to other development programs of this type.

This will likely do little however to sooth tempers in Cuba, where Castro said in reference to recent developments in Ukraine and Venezuela that “these events confirm that wherever there is a government which doesn’t coincide with the interests of power circles in the United States and some of its European allies, it becomes a target for subversive campaigns,” according to state news agency Granma.

Reports of the US-developed social network being introduced into Cuba validate warnings by the Cuban leader regarding “unconventional war methods” on the part of the US, Granma added.

Indotel approves Orange Dominicana sale – Dominican R.

Dominican telecoms regulator Indotel has approved the sale of Dominican Republic operator Orange Dominicana to Israeli-owned cable and mobile operator Altice.

Together with the recent acquisition of 88% of Santo Domingo-based player Tricom, Altice has disbursed US$1.8bn, equivalent to 1.5% of the country’s GDP, the regulator said in a release.

In November, Altice announced the US$1.4bn purchase of Orange Dominicana and the US$400mn takeover of an 88% stake of Tricom.

USAID accuses AP of inaccuracies in Cuba controversy – Cuba

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has accused the Associated Press (AP) of “significant inaccuracies and false conclusions” in its report on ZunZuneo, a mobile phone-based social network introduced into Cuba by USAID.

In a blog post by USAID spokesperson Matt Herrick, the organization denied claims that the operation was “covert,” saying that it had operated discretely to minimize risk to staff and partners, but that the programs had been subject to congressional notifications, unclassified briefings and public hearings.

USAID also denied that it aimed to trigger unrest in Cuba, saying that following the initial neutral content, users were generating their own content.

The government agency also questioned the veracity of a range of other claims made in the AP report, stating that no shell companies were used in ZunZuneo’s operations, and that the money used for the project was not misappropriated from an “unspecified” project in Pakistan.

USAID also said that at its peak the social network had 68,000 users, and not 40,000 as stated in the report.

The agency’s work in Cuba is not unlike what it does in other countries around the world which have been “cut off from the outside world by repressive or authoritarian governments,” Herrick added.

However, US attempts to justify their actions have as yet done little to sooth tempers in Havana, where Cuban leader Raúl Castro accused its neighbor of carrying out a “subversive campaign.”

The program has also been criticized within the United States. Greg Weeks, a political science department chair at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, suggested that the initiative betrays “breathtakingly poor judgment,” suggesting that ZunZuneo is far from USAID’s stated mission of “fostering good will abroad.”

USAID now appears to be in damage limitation mode regarding the Cuban project, but as BNamericas notes, the uproar is more than likely to spill into other Latin American countries including Venezuela, where the agency has already been fiercely criticized.

Jamaica to earn US$115mn in 700 MHz spectrum sale, renewals – Jamaica

Jamaica expects to earn US$115mn from two spectrum renewals and the sale of one 700MHz band, local media reported.

The government announced it had closed a US$25mn deal in which Digicel will provide service on the 700MHz spectrum, US$20mn less than the original asking price, Jamaica Observer reported.

Digicel also renewed its license for an existing 700MHz spectrum, as did LIME, one year ahead of schedule, the paper said. Both renewals are for 15 years.

LIME is to invest US$30mn in the renewal, which will allow it to transition to the LTE network, while Digicel will spend the other US$85mn, which includes the cost of the bid, according to Jamaica Observer.

Philip Paulwell, minister of science, technology, energy and mining, said the negotiation process was “very tough,” daily paper The Gleaner reported.

“In fact, at various times, we were at a point where we didn’t think we could be successful, but I think in the spirit of cooperation and compromise, we were able to achieve that,” Paulwell was quoted as saying.

The 700MHz band will be used to deploy 4G technologies on the island, which currently only Digicel provides, according to the Jamaica Information Service.

Dominican Republic’s telecom regulator resumes spectrum tender – Dominican R.

The Dominican Republic’s telecoms regulator Indotel has reopened an international public tender to grant mobile concessions and licenses more than two years after the tender was first announced, the watchdog said in a release.

Indotel says the nationwide spectrum will include the 941-960MHz, 1710-1755MHz and 2110-2155MHz bands.

Indotel’s communications management staff will review the bids and announce the award on April 21, and within 30 days thereafter the regulatory body will issue the licenses.

The regulatory body first announced its intentions to auction the spectrum in October 2011.

The country has four mobile carriers: Trilogy, Orange, Tricom/Viva and Claro. Earlier this week, Indotel announced the approval of the sale of Orange Dominicana to Israeli-owned cable and mobile operator Altice.

Altice also acquired 88% of Santo Domingo-based Tricom in March, at a cost of US$1.8bn.