Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Barack Herbert Walker Jefferson Obama (Updated)

Ok, it’s an unfair headline. Very unfair.

President Obama has been in office four months, the challenges he inherited at home and abroad are huge, and he hasn’t had time to put his mark on every aspect of every policy he inherited from Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Bush.

But there will come a time when an absence of decisions will turn inherited policies into Obama policies.

The case of Cuba and Microsoft’s Instant Messenger is a case in point.

Last week it came to light that Microsoft blocked the use of its chat program by users in Cuba and other countries under U.S. economic sanctions. The company explains the action in this note, saying it acted at the behest of the Treasury Department. Cuba complained about Microsoft’s restriction of Cubans’ use of the Internet, and the irony wasn’t lost on this British website, which summed up: “That is our job, comrade.”

If anyone can explain why it would be a bad thing for Cubans to use this program, I’m all ears.

Treasury’s action certainly doesn’t fit the Obama Administration’s expressed desire to encourage more communication with and within Cuba. Clearly, it was taken by a bureaucracy on auto-pilot. This is one more reason for the Obama Administration to conduct a full-scale review of Cuba policy, as the Secretary of State promised in her confirmation process.

[Update: from the Center for Democracy in the Americas, a request for Treasury to explain (pdf).]


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Of course, this COULD (might?) go much deeper than anyone would suspect....PERHAPS this action by Microsoft to block IM'ing was taken via through the U.S. Treasury Dept. at the behest of the Cuban government. (of course,this is just an unproven theory...) IF this theory of mine is absolutely untrue, then we should see an UNblocking of this service to Cuba and its citizens.