Cuba Gets OK to Download Google Chrome

August 20, 2014 | Print Print |

By CaféFuerte

chromeHAVANA TIMES — Internet giant Google announced Wednesday that its Chrome browser can now be downloaded in Cuba. The change comes as part of an easing of some United States sanctions against the island.

“In the last two years we have achieved that Chrome is downloadable in Syria and Iran. We are happy to report that Internet users in Cuba can now use Chrome too, and surf the web faster and safer than ever before,” said a message posted in the afternoon at Google Plus, the social network of the company.

Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, traveled to Havana in June along with the directors of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, Brett Perlmutter and Dan Keyserling. The entrepreneurs met with Cuban authorities, visited the University of Computer Sciences, and met with the blogger Yoani Sanchez.

The availability of Google is possible thanks to the relaxation of US export controls and trade sanctions, said the message from Google.

 

 


What's your opinion?

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Due to Castro family regime policies of repression of information, few Cubans have access to the Internet so Google will make little difference. The last thing the regime wants to encourage is Cubans having full knowledge of the reality of the free world. Remember that Barack Obama offered a free internet cable direct to Cuba in his first inaugural address.

    • dani

      It’s the height of cheek for Obama to offer an internet cable to Cuba while the embargo is still in existence and while the US use every opportunity to organize smart mobs and other subversion. Also it is a gross exaggeration to say that Cuba blocks all independent and outside information. Havana Times has never been blocked and they receive broadcasts from Canal Sur and plenty of American films.
      But to get back to the subject of this post, I would like to know the US rationale behind Google Chrome not being allowed in Cuba up until now. Would anyone like to offer a justification?

      • Griffin

        That is a good question, and not one for which I have found a clear answer. The statement from Google is a bit vague on the point:

        “U.S. export controls and sanctions can sometimes limit the products available in certain countries.”

        Consider that sentence: it does not say that the US banned Google Chrome from Cuba.

        The statement continues:

        “As these trade restrictions evolve we’ve been working to figure out how to make more tools available in sanctioned countries. In the past couple years we’ve made Chrome downloadable in Syria and Iran. We’re happy to say that Internet users in Cuba can now use Chrome too, and browse the web faster and more safely than they could before.” – Google

        A report on the tech blog, The Verge, adds some details and context missing from the statement above:

        “Google Chrome is now available for download in Cuba, one of the world’s most isolated internet regimes. Google announced the move in a short Google+ post Wednesday, noting that American sanctions against Cuba and other countries have made it more difficult for the company to launch products abroad. Although Cuban internet users have been able to access Chrome through unofficial channels, they’ll now be able to download the web browser directly from google.com.cu.”

        This week’s announcement comes after Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and a delegation of web activists visited Cuba in June, pushing for a free and open internet. The government of Raúl Castro has inched toward greater web access in recent months, with new fiber-optic connections and more than 100 public internet cafes, but the outlook remains bleak. According to government figures, just 3 percent of Cubans have regular access to the internet, and broadband subscriptions are among the most expensive in the world.”

        So it seems that the Cuban government was responsible for blocking Cubans from downloading Chrome, and that it took a visit by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to convince Raul Castro to allow this timid opening. Under what conditions did Schmidt & Castro come to this agreement?

        In fact, US government policy has always allowed telecommunications products to be exempted from the embargo on Cuba:

        “In 2010, the Treasury Department issued a general license authorizing the exportation to persons in Cuba of certain services incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet.
        (Overall exemptions for telecom services were previously enshrined in the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act.)

        This includes certain services, including instant messaging, chat and email, social networking, sharing of photos and movies, web browsing (Chrome), and blogging.

        The two caveats are: 1. that the services must be publicly available at no cost to the user. 2. a prohibition if there is knowledge or reason to know that such services are intended for a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.”

        And so we see that the US embargo was never responsible for blocking Google Chrome from Cuba. The Cuban government was blocking it.

        • dani

          I don’t see how you get to that conclusion. “U.S. export controls and sanctions can sometimes limit the products available in certain countries.” Clearly it is US export controls “sanctions against Cuba and other countries have made it more difficult for the company to launch products abroad” again clearly sanctions against Cuba.

          From CNET “In a blog post, Google hinted that the reason Cubans had to wait so long to get Chrome was because of US sanctions against the island nation.”

          From Yoani Sanchez who spoke to the Google people “Yesterday, the giant Google AUTHORIZED the download of their well-known browser Chrome by Cuban internauts…. Hence, our satisfaction on knowing that the opinions of citizens interested in the free flow of information and technology influenced the elimination of this prohibition… If must have been a particularly bitter pill to swallow to try to download Google Chrome and see the screen appear saying, “This service is not available in your country.” Again it doesn’t sound like it was Cuba that was blocking the download.

          I agree with you that the sanctions shouldn’t have applied in this case however as you know it is a minefield and many companies avoid trade with Cuba for that reason. Sony Ericsson being a good example where the company’s lawyers thought they were compliant and yet they got fined.

          • Griffin

            You said it, “hinted at” but it is not made clear that any US law prevented Google Chrome from allowing their product to be downloaded in Cuba. We do know for absolute certainty that the Cuban government has outlawed Cubans from direct communication with the outside world. Helms-Burton specifically exempts communications equipment from the embargo.

            Schmidt met with Raul to work out the agreement for Chrome to be downloaded in Cuba, not with Obama. The agreement had to be worked out with Cuba, not with the US.

            Therefore the only logical conclusion is that the block on Chrome was in Cuba, not in the US. It seems that one of Cuba’s conditions was to require Google to issue that meally mouth statement which hinted at the US embargo. The evidence is clear that the embargo had nothing to do with it.

            The US embargo does ban exports from Cuba going into the US. That’s where Sony Ericsson ran afoul of the embargo. They were accepting broken equipment from Cuba shipped to Panama, falsifying the documentation, and then shipping it to the US for repairs. Not only was that a violation of the embargo, Sony-Ericsson knew it was which is why they falsified the shipping documents. S-E’s lawyers argued that the scheme was carried out against company policy by rogue managers in Panama. When the court found S-E guilty as charged, the managers were fired.

          • dani

            What you are doing is concocting an elaborate conspiracy theory where there isn’t and if following the logic would involve Google, Castro, Yoani and Assad all in the conspiracy.

            Let’s look at the facts again. Google didn’t allow downloads of their products to countries under sanction including Cuba, Syria and Sudan. They seem to be unsure of their legal status whether this is directly to do with the product or some spinoff. They may have been overcautious or just didn’t want to be associated with these countries. That policy has been changing. Whether they have had further instructions or clarification from the treasury we don’t know.

            Nobody else including Yoani has said that the download was blocked by nasty Castro. She specifically says that Google had authorised the download and that she is grateful to the good and mighty company for listening to “little me”. Google didn’t need Cuban permission to allow the download it was completely at their discretion. The biggest clue is the message itself “This service is not available in your country.” If you search on the internet for that message you will see that people in other countries have recieved the same message from Google for years.

            You need to apply Occam’s razor to your thoughts a bit more often.

          • Griffin

            The governments of Syria, Cuba and Iran all blocked certain websites, including Google & Twitter. They fear free communication among their people. The US embargoes on those countries never included civilian communications equipment or software.

            Google’s end user license agreements are a matter of internal corporate policy, and are required to abide by the laws of the country where the product is offered. Their EULAs are not Dictated by US government policy. Occam’s razor suggests the simplest explanation is that authoritarian dictatorships will act like authoritarian dictatorships. They will repress their own people, censor information and lie about it.

          • dani

            Most of this is again wrong. Cuba doesn’t block Twitter or Facebook. Mariel Castro and Yoani Sanchez famously had a spat on it if you remember. The US embargoes until 2010 did block these things and still only allows certain software of the publicly available “free” variety. Google blocked Chrome from being downloaded in Iran until 2011, specifically stating that it was due to the sanctions policy. Same with Syria in 2012. You say “they are required to abide by the laws of the country where they product is offered”. Really – so what laws applied in this context and how likely was Cuba of successfully sueing the company through the US courts.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Dani you miss one critical point which is simply that the average Cuban does not have access to the Internet. That is a consequence of the Castro family regime policy. I know because I live more than half my time at home in one of Cuba’s provincial capitals. There are no hotels and there are no means of accessing the Internet. Hence for prolonged periods I am unable to contribute to this site or others. (No doubt a welcome relief for the Socialismo supporters) The only sight that more than 95% of Cubans have of sites like Facebook and Twitter is when the Castro family regime TV media show carefully selected quotes from such sites all of which support regime policies and views and none of which criticize them in any way.
            Cubans at large are unaware of ths spats to which you refer. They live in a different world where for fifty five years any access to information has been controlled and manipulated by the Castro family regime. There are – as is obvious from some of the contributions to this site – those who suffering from socialist myopia and academic Fabian thinking discuss their theories in preference to addressing reality.
            The reality is that either one is opposed to the Castro family regime form of Socialismo dictatorship or one supports such oppression. There is no middle path. I oppose Socialismo – how about you?

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        As one with a home in Cuba and married to a Cubana, let me assure you that there is NO independent media in Cuba. Secondly that the regime blocks radio stations from other countries – including short wave – I can vouch for that because I have a Grundig short wave radio there.
        It was a remarkable offer made by Obama during his inaugural speech which Cuba failed to pursue because the Castro family regime does not want the people of Cuba to have access to information from the free world. Obama was endeavoring to open up better relations with Cuba and in his innocence said he would close the Guatanamo Naval Base (GITMO), not realising that the US Senate and Congress would oppose such action. The US was searched for sites to build a replacement jail to house terrorists but US citizens were frightened that they might escape – apparently they did not fear for the Cubans having them located in their country. If you are exposed as I am to Cuba’s state controlled 5 TV stations, you will know that only two types of US films are shown. Cartoons and those related to crime which demonstrate the worst aspects of US society. There is however relaxation for a humorous Canadian series named “Just for laughs” and for a few UK films featuring “Mr, Bean”.
        I don’t comprehend what a “smart mob” is, but if it is a form of demonstration, you should know that they are banned in Cuba and that criticism of the regime is an offence. You should also know that the prime purpose of the “Committee for the Defence of the Revolution” is to inform the Communist Party of Cuba – ie: the Castro
        family regime of any political misdemeanors or grumblings indicative of potenial damage to the regime. There is a “President” of the CDR on virtually every city block and it acts as the eyes and ears of the regime – just as the Stasi did in East Germany prior to the implosion of the Soviet Empire – which rotted from within and liberated over thirteen countries – none of which subsequently elected communist governments.

        • dani

          I doubt whether it is true that Cuba blocks all radio stations from abroad. I don’t believe that it is a trivial task to jam all wavelengths, but if you provide more independent evidence I’m willing to stand corrected. Cuba didn’t need to accept Obama’s offer because they were laying the underwater cable from Venezuela. I don’t think Obama ever offered to close the Guantanamo Navel Base only the prisoner camp and so had no relevance to the relationship with Cuba. As usual it is fine talk but no action. Again if you supply the evidence I’m willing to stand corrected.

          As I said in the previous post Canal Sur (though the Cuban government has minority share) is also available in Cuba – so they do have access to broadcasting from other countries. Though Cuba does block some miami based sites they don’t block sites such as the New York Times and the Miami Herald and Havana Times. Neither do they block Facebook nor email. Of course there is the issue of high cost of internet access.

          Mr Bean has been successfully exported to many countries as it is mostly mime so doesn’t need dubbing or subtitling. Cuban television also shows Spanish and Latin American programs. One of the American programs they show is CSi which I don’t think is that negative. But you may have a point – constantly showing films that depict every black person as a pimp or ho, every latino as a cocaine smuggler, every Italian as a hitman, every policeman as bent and every politician as corrupt and in league with the Mafia certainly does paint a negative picture. What would you prefer to see – the Waltons, Rambo..

          A smart mob or flash mob is a group of rioters that coordinate themselves through social media. As such are very difficult to contain as was seen in the riots in London and other English cities. It is symptomatic of the incoherence of US policy that they require Cuba be more open etc, but every opening is seen as an opportunity for creating violence.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            It may be that Grundig is of inferior quality although I was advised that it was the short wave radio most likely to work in Cuba. My experience living in Cuba and in possession of the said radio, is that in over two years of endeavor I ONCE got one of those typical USA religious stations – no others. The Castro family regime bans the importation of dishes which would enable the reception of TV from elsewhere. There is fortunately much much more to the world than US TV programs and cinema. An increasing number of US residents are watching BBC World News for widespread information about the world and more accurate reporting than they are able to receive from US stations. My preference would be to see films irrespective of origin and there are many, about the many aspects of life other than violence in the USA.
            You are correct in saying that there are in particular romantic latin american soaps – the ladies of Cuba adore them as they show lovely houses with women wearing beautiful clothes in what for Cuban women is an unattainable and mythical world. 8.00 p.m. and the ladies are glued!
            You omit to say that Cubans at large do not have access to the Internet and in consequence are unable to access Facebook or the Havana Times. Thanks for explaining smart mob. The only Ho I can find in the dictionary is Ho Chi Minh and the former Saigon now named after him.
            Regarding broadcasting from other countries, Chanel 25 does carry probably all the interminable speeches of Nicholas Maduro, President of Venezuela – although he has sufficient gift of the gab to speak for hours, he is far from matching Fidel Castro Ruz at his peak of verbal diarrhoea. But where Madura has the edge, is that he does it day after tedious day. His energies would be better utlized in addressing inflation which is now far in excess of that achieved by Chavez (average of 26.9% for his last five years). However, sufficient about the 5 Cuban TV channels all of which are controlled by the regime.

        • Griffin

          Obama never suggested closing the Naval base at Guantanamo. He pleaded to close the terrorist detainee prison within the first 100 days of taking office. Recall that the Democrats held the majority in both the Senate and the Hise of Representatives. Closing Gitmo would require either releasing the prisoners or puli trying them on trial in the US. Both of those options were extremely unpopular among most Americans. In the end, Obama realized Bush’s decision to keep the terrorist at Gitmo was the least bad option.

      • Vahe Demirjian

        Regarding the internet cable, I remember that the Obama administration wanted to deploy a submarine internet cable from Florida to Cuba, but the Cuban authorities wanted the US to pay a charge of 60 cents per minute as a precondition for setting up the cable, and thus the planned internet cable never came into fruition.
        It’s good that Google Chrome has reached Cuba 16 years after the creation of the internet tech giant that invented Google Chrome. After all, the Obama administration gave telecom companies an opportunity to seek a license to do business with Cuba for the sake of fracturing the wall of censorship in Cuba. The fact that Google was worried about giving the regime the technology it could use for online oppression of the Cuban people was the main reason why Google waited a few years to allow Chrome into the Pearl of the Antilles.

  • Fez Fernandez

    Anyways Cuba blocks Google Voice and Google Hangouts, and used to block Gmail at all 3 years ago. My friends do have Chrome in Cuba because most cubans use VPNs or ssh proxies from the US.

  • Lieslies Hernandez Moreno

    PELIGRO PELIGRO PELIGRO……..¿POR QUE SE LOS PERMITEN?, ¿ POR QUE NO USAR FIREFOX? HAAA PELIGRO PELIGRO PELIGRO GOOGLE NO ES DE FIAR EN ABSOLUTO.

  • Rene Zuloaga

    Great idea! Since the NSA has a back door to Google, they now have even more access to spy on Cuba.

  • Dan

    Great. Now they can download videos of police shooting black teens in the head and SWAT snipers taking aim at protesters, and thus have yet more proof of the savagery of their despotic government and the enlightened manner in which we recieve dissent here in the civilized West.