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#CubaNow Statement on Google Chrome Being Available in Cuba

Ric Herrero

#CubaNow

Aug 20, 2014

#CubaNow Statement on Google Chrome Being Made Available for Download in Cuba

WASHINGTON - #CubaNow Executive Director Ric Herrero issued the following statement following Google’s announcement that it is now making Google Chrome available for download and use in Cuba:

“Google’s decision to make Chrome available in Cuba is commendable, and that it follows Chairman Eric Schmidt’s recent visit to the island speaks to the power of people to people connections.

“However, it is also a reminder that our current policy toward the island is contradictory to our stated goals. Four and a half years ago, the Treasury Department updated regulations to allow greater export of Internet services to sanctioned countries, and in turn, Google made Chrome available in Iran in 2011 and Syria in 2012. Sadly, our convoluted and outdated Cuba policy deters America’s brightest minds from helping the Cuban people connect with one another and the outside world. Even now, many Internet services remain unavailable not just because of the Cuban regime’s obstruction, but also our own restrictions. That doesn’t help move Cuba toward a freer and more open society, it makes it harder.

“It’s time to update our Cuba policy so that it meets the realities of the 21st century. President Obama should take further steps immediately to make it easier for American companies to provide telecommunication services to the Cuban people."

Background

Cuba Has One Of The Lowest Internet Penetration Rates In Western Hemisphere. “[Cuba] has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the Western hemisphere. Only 5 percent of Cubans have access to the Internet, according to 2012 estimates. Some connect through hotels, schools, workplaces or illegally. A greater percentage of Cubans access a domestic ‘intranet.’” [Reuters, “Cuba’s uneasy Internet connection,” 4/8/14]

Obama Administration Policy Changes Allowed Exportation of Internet Services. “In March 2010, OFAC issued additional technology authorizations for Cuba, including it under the General License Related to Personal Communications Services that applies to Iran and Sudan. Consistent with the donation requirement under the CCD exception, the General License only covers software that is publicly available at no cost and does not allow for the export of telecommunications infrastructure or other transmission facilities." [Open Technology Institute, “Translating Norms to the Digital Age,” December 4, 2013]

2011: Google Made Chrome Available For Download In Iran. “Some of those export restrictions have now been lifted and today, for the first time, we’re making Google Earth, Picasa and Chrome available for download in Iran. We’re committed to full compliance with U.S. export controls and sanctions programs and, as a condition of our export licenses from the Treasury Department, we will continue to block IP addresses associated with the Iranian government.” [Google Blog, “Software downloads for Iran,” 1/18/11]

2012: Google Made Chrome Available For Download In Syria. “Free expression is a fundamental human right and a core value of our company—but sometimes there are limits to where we can make our products and services available. U.S. export controls and sanctions programs, for example, prohibit us from offering certain software downloads in some countries. The fine details of these restrictions evolve over time, and we’re always exploring how we can better offer tools for people to access and share information. For example, last year we were able to make some of our products available for download in Iran. And today we’re pleased to make Google Earth, Picasa and Chrome available for download in Syria.” [Google Blog, “Software downloads in Syria,” 5/23/12]

President Obama Has Existing Authority to go Further. Earlier this year, 46 prominent former statesmen, elected officials and Cuban American community leaders joined in an open letter to President Obama making recommendations to the President on how he could use existing authority to further improve our Cuba policy. The text of the letter is available at www.cubanow.us/cubaletter.

President Obama Himself Has Acknowledged The United States Can Help and Must Be Creative. "But one of the things I was confident about was given my history and concern on issues of freedom, democracy, civil society, my own background as a grassroots organizer that the policies that the United States pursued would be ones that would focus on the idea of liberty and how do we build that from the bottom-up. And Jorge immediately was able to share with me his vision and his views. And, as a consequence, we were in a position I think to make changes that empowered, that opened the possibility of greater penetration and contact from Cuban families here in remittances and in travel. And we’ve started to see changes on the island. Now, I think we all understand that, ultimately, freedom in Cuba will come because of extraordinary activists and the incredible courage of folks like we see here today. But the United States can help. And we have to be creative. And we have to be thoughtful. And we have to continue to update our policies. Keep in mind that when Castro came to power, I was just born. So the notion that the same policies that we put in place in 1961 would somehow still be as effective as they are today in the age of the Internet and Google and world travel doesn't make sense.” [Remarks by the President at a DSCC Fundraising Reception, 11/8/13]

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