World Condemns US Embargo on Cuba
November 3, 2018
UN News & Voice of America News
A total of 189 UN Member States voted in favor of condemning the US embargo on Cuba. The resolution shines a spotlight on the nearly total isolation of the US regarding the embargo, which was first imposed in 1960. The only country to side with the US was Israel. Cuban officials noted that restrictions on lifesaving medicines have caused "Incalculable human damage . . . which is qualified as an act of genocide" in violution of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide.
UN General Assembly Renews Long-standing
Call for End to US Embargo against Cuba
UNITED NATIONS, New York (November 1, 2018) -- A total of 189 UN Member States voted in favor, with Israel and the US voting against the resolution, urging all States to "refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures" which among other things, in the case of the embargo, interfere with the freedom of trade and navigation. There were no abstentions.
The Assembly called upon States "that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible."
Through the resolution, the General Assembly also decided to include the agenda item entitled "Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba," in the provisional agenda of next year's session.
The vote on the resolution is unenforceable, but the Cuban-sponsored resolution shines a spotlight on the relative isolation of the US regarding the embargo, which was first imposed in 1960, when former leader Fidel Castro came to power, following the revolution.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla outlined the impact of the embargo on Cubans, especially due to restrictions on lifesaving medicines. "Incalculable human damage has been caused by the blockade, which is qualified as an act of genocide" he said, referring to the convention on the prevention of genocide. "It is also a violation of International Humanitarian Law, if it were a conflict," he said.
Before the resolution was adopted, eight amendments, relating to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), human rights and rule of law, proposed by the US, failed to pass.
Introducing the amendments, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said that the draft resolution "changes nothing" in terms of addressing the problems faced by Cuban citizens. "The United States will continue to stand with the Cuban people, until their rights and freedoms are restored. We won't back down," she said.
Member States who spoke on the resolution over two days, overwhelmingly called on the US to end the embargo and other punitive measures against Cuba.
National representatives said that the nearly six decades long blockade imposed on the Caribbean island by Washington impeded its right to development and its ability to participate fully in the global economy. They also urged the US to heed the Assembly's repeated calls to lift its restrictive policies.
US Vastly Outvoted at UN Over Its Cuba Embargo
Margaret Besheer / Voice of America News
UNITED NATIONS (November 1, 2018) -- UN member states overwhelmingly supported lifting Washington's more than half-century-old economic, commercial and financial embargo of Cuba on Thursday, saying it is the main impediment to the island nation's economic and social development.
"The embargo is a flagrant massive and systematic violation of human rights of Cuban men and women," Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla told the General Assembly. "It has been, and still is, the main obstacle to well-being and prosperity of several generations."
The assembly voted 189 in favor of ending the blockade, with only the United States and Israel in favor of continuing it. No country entered an abstention, while Moldova and Ukraine were present but did not cast votes.
"There are no winners here today, there are only losers," US envoy Nikki Haley said. "The United Nations has lost. It has rejected the opportunity to speak on behalf of human rights. The UN Charter commits every country here to the promotion of peace, security and human rights and that charter was betrayed today."
For the past 27 years, the UN General Assembly has held an annual vote condemning the economic, commercial and financial blockade that was imposed in 1962 during the Cold War.
The exercise is largely symbolic, as the General Assembly does not have the power to end the embargo, only the US Congress does. But it highlights Washington's isolation on the issue. Ambassador Haley said the United States doesn't care if it is isolated.
"We have no problem standing alone on behalf of the things we believe in, and we will proudly do so again today if necessary," Haley said ahead of the vote.
More than thirty-six countries and regional groups took the floor, with a debate that began on Wednesday and concluded Thursday with the vote. Many argued the embargo runs contrary to the UN Charter and the organization's principles.
"Every attempt to justify this embargo has failed to convince 191 member states," said Ambassador Rhonda King of the Caribbean island-nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. "It is an affront to us all that the legislature of one country can make a decree on trade matters of another, thereby affecting third countries."
"The blockade is a vivid example of the unilateral way in which the United States acts in the world," said Iranian Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo. His country is also under U.S. sanctions re-imposed by the current administration.
"It is not justifiable to apply sanctions in perpetuity," said Kenyan envoy Lazarus Amayo. "In the long run, they are unsustainable and largely cause pain and suffering to the weak and vulnerable members of society," he added.
This year, the U. tried a different strategy, offering up eight separate amendments focused on Cuba's human rights situation, in a bid to lessen the emphasis on the embargo. But all eight amendments failed to garner more than a few votes in favor and were not adopted.
Haley argued the annual General Assembly exercise is "a waste of everyone's time" and does nothing to help the Cuban people.
"Cuba and its allies do the same thing every year. They propose a resolution blaming Cuba's poverty, repression, and lack of freedom on the United States," she said. "But this resolution changes nothing. It doesn't help a single Cuban family. It doesn't feed a single Cuban child. It doesn't free a single Cuban political prisoner."
In 2016, there was a brief shift in the US position under former President Barack Obama. The United States abstained that year on the vote, as the Obama administration worked to normalize ties with Havana. Obama's efforts included making an historic trip to the island nation and reopening the U.S. embassy there.
But relations chilled again under President Donald Trump. He has blamed the Cuban government for the mysterious sonic attacks that sickened and injured more than two dozen U.S. diplomats and others in Havana that began in late 2016.
The most recent suspected case happened in June this year. US investigators still do not know exactly who and what caused the injuries, but 15 Cuban diplomats were expelled from Washington in retaliation last year.
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