Flash Player Foul? Adobe Apparently Misreads Sanctions, Cancels Venezuela Accounts

Oct 8, 2019

The Trump Administration recently issued new economic sanctions that bar U.S. companies from doing business with the regime in Venezuela. But one major U.S. tech firm may be taking that prohibition too far.

This week software giant Adobe says it’s canceling all its user accounts in Venezuela. Adobe says it’s the surest way to comply with the Trump Administration’s new, tighter sanctions against Venezuela and its authoritarian socialist regime.

But Adobe, which is based in California, seems to be misreading those sanctions. A lot. The rules do bar U.S. companies from doing business with Venezuela’s regime, officials and state-run firms like its oil monopoly and banks. But it does not prohibit business with ordinary Venezuelans.

“It would seem that Adobe has gone overboard and just throwing out the baby and the bathwater,” says Russ Dallen, who heads the investment firm Caracas Capital in Miami.

Adobe did not give detailed reasons for the blanket cancellation. But analysts like Dallen suggest the company simply found it easier than determining which Venezuelan users of its products are related to the regime and which aren't.

Either way, Dallen says Adobe’s move could be a big blow to some Venezuelans struggling to survive the worst economic collapse in the world today. He points out that outsourced website development is a cottage industry there now – and software like Adobe’s Flash player is a critical tool.

Dallen also fears the effects if other U.S. tech firms were to follow Adobe’s example – like the message platform WhatsApp, which is today a key means of anti-regime protest for Venezuelans and communication for the political opposition.

“The opposition relies on WhatsApp because of its encrypted technology to prevent their messages from being read by the regime," Dallen says. "So it would be the exact opposite of what the Administration would like to see when they put those sanctions in order.”

Adobe also told Venezuelans it “was unable” to issue them refunds.