U.S. Treasury Takes Important Step to Offer Cubans Better Access to Information
News from Cuba | Monday, 15 March 2010
Statement by Centre for Democracy in the Americas
Following up on questions it raised beginning in May 2009, the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) issued the following statement in response to the Treasury Department's clarification that will help improve access by Cubans and others in sanctioned countries to Instant Messaging and other programs:
"Treasury has taken an important step to clarify for U.S. technology companies that U.S. sanctions against Cuba should not be interpreted as cutting off Cubans from what the Internet can bring them from the outside world, but it also underscores what a totally counter-productive policy the embargo is," said Sarah Stephens, Executive Director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas.
"If we need exceptions and clarifications to ensure that information reaches the Cuban people - and others living in sanctioned countries - it would be far easier and more effective to open up Cuba to travel and trade without exceptions so that Cubans can more freely access our ideas without impediments from U.S. policy," Stephens said.
On May 29, 2009, The Center for Democracy in the Americas wrote Secretary Tim Geithner and asked the U.S. Treasury to investigate why companies like Microsoft and other I/M providers had severed access to these programs for Cubans and others living in sanctioned countries, and attributed these decisions to the potential for enforcement actions against them under the existing sanctions regime.
CDA learned that the cut-off of I/M had stopped many Cubans from enjoying informal, cost-free contacts with family members and friends living outside the island.
On February 1, 2010, CDA contacted Treasury again, when it learned that Sourceforge.net, a site that makes open source software available to users, had taken similar measures.
"We're pleased that the Treasury has addressed at least some of our concerns, and responded with this clarification," Stephens concluded, "but further actions, such as repeal of the travel ban would achieve the same goal and have a greater impact. We hope the Obama administration does not stop here."
The Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) is devoted to changing U.S. policy toward the countries of the Americas by basing our relations on mutual respect, fostering dialogue with those governments and movements with which U.S. policy is at odds, and recognizing positive trends in democracy and governance.