BANGKOK, Thailand -- The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) used "technological mercenaries" in a dumb, secret, illegal assault against Cuba's government and unsuspecting population, comparable to the strategy of deceptive Nazi propaganda, according to Cuban Ambassador Victor Ramirez Pena. "ZunZuneo, in the two years that it was in operation, didn't have enough time to do what it wanted, which was to subvert the order in Cuba," Ambassador Pena said in an interview, referring to USAID's Internet-based social media site named ZunZuneo "It was working on profiling people," in Cuba who had no idea that USAID was sucking up their personal data by secretly hosting and spying on their accounts, to later spam them with anti-communist and pro-American propaganda, he said. "That is something that nobody should be doing because it's illegal by U.S. law, it's illegal by international regulations," Ambassador Pena said. "Does one have to accept that the continuous use of deceit, lies -- as Goebbels said -- to make it a truth, is something that we have to accept? I don't think so." German Nazi leader Paul Joseph Goebbels was Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment for Adolf Hitler, before committing suicide in 1945 when the Germans lost World War II. "If you tell a lie big enough, and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it," Mr. Goebbels said, describing his strategy. The Cuban ambassador spoke in an interview after staging a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club on Thursday (April 24) about the "Cyber Subversion Against Cuba and The ZunZuneo Network." "The U.S. attempts to exploit, to use social networks against Cuba, as part of a design which has been called 'soft coup' to overthrow governments without having to resort to the use of military forces, or before these are used," he said at the news conference. "The U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, managed to take from the database of the telecommunications company of Cuba, half a million cell subscribers. "And they were in the process of organizing these half a million Cubans by age, by sex, by political position, so that they would start the work of subversion with whoever they would find," he said. The ambassador also distributed a three-page statement which stated: "As part of its subversive work, they [the U.S.] use shell companies in third countries, money-laundering and the hiring of technological mercenaries disguised as businessmen -- 'contractors' -- both outside and inside Cuba, to try to conceal their plans." Washington "acknowledged having financed ZunZuneo though, as expected, it denied its aim was to confront the government of Cuba," it said. ZunZuneo, financed by U.S. taxpayers, mysteriously stopped in 2012. "In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo -- slang for a Cuban hummingbird's tweet," Associated Press reported on April 4, exposing the secret project. "Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize 'smart mobs' -- mass gatherings called at a moment's notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, 'renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society'," AP reported. "There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement," said a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project's contractors. "This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission'," it said, according to AP. "The project initially sent news, sports scores, weather, and trivia," USAID Spokesperson Matt Herrick said on April 7, responding to AP's investigation. "The ZunZuneo project included a website, as is typical for a social network. Users could voluntarily submit personal information," Mr. Herrick said. ZunZuneo was designed to "facilitate 'Twitter-like' communication among Cubans," and "had around 68,000 users," the USAID official said. The Cuban ambassador meanwhile quoted a U.S. senator who mocked USAID's ZunZuneo. "There has been a hearing in the Senate on this case already, on April 8, in which the chairman of the subcommittee concerned with this aspect -- that is foreign operations -- called the chief of the USAID agency for clarifications of this program," Ambassador Pena said at the news conference. The ambassador was referring to USAID administrator Rajiv Shah who testified at a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "And this very same senator, chairman of this subcommittee, termed the program, 'dumb, dumb, dumb.' That is a quote, that is the way he considered the program, it's a 'dumb, dumb, dumb' program." Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and appropriations chair for foreign operations, gave that response when asked by MSNBC if he was aware of ZunZuneo. "No, absolutely not. And if I had been, I would have said, 'What in heaven's name are you thinking? This is dumb, dumb, dumb'," said Senator Leahy, a Vermont state Democrat. "If you're going to do a covert operation like this for regime change, assuming it ever makes any sense, it's not something that should be done through USAID," the senator said. "I think most people would say, 'Are you out of your mind?'" USAID was created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, coincidentally the same year he secretly launched his failed Bay of Pigs Invasion to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro. ***** Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978. His websites are (Copyright 2014 Richard S Ehrlich)