For the 14th year in a row, the United Nations General Assembly today overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for an end to the 41-year-old commercial, economic and financial embargo by the United States against Cuba and objecting to laws and regulations compelling third countries to adhere to it.
The resolution passed with a vote of 182 in favour to four against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau and United States) with one abstention (Federates States of Micronesia). Last year's resolution garnered 179 in favour with the same countries voting no and abstaining.
Introducing the resolution, Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said that over the decades-long blockade, the measures had not been enforced with such brutality as in the last 18 months. As a result, for the first time an American would be barred from smoking a Cuban cigar even when travelling to another country. "Such insanity should go into the Guinness Book of World Records," he said.
Travel to Cuba from the United States and elsewhere had dropped markedly since the imposition of the heightened sanctions. The blockade had cost Cubans nearly $82 billion, and had as well deprived the United States of low-cost goods, cholesterol-reducing drugs, drugs for HIV/AIDS and much more.
The Foreign Minister claimed the strengthened embargo was an economic war against Cuba, carried out on a global scale.
Ambassador Ronald Godard of the United States said his country's trade embargo against Cuba was merely bilateral, or a matter between the two countries, which should not come before the Assembly. However, since Cuba had raised the issue, he responded that Cuban President Fidel Castro was using it to try to blame the United States for the failures his economic policies.
"If the people of Cuba are jobless, hungry or without medical care, as Mr. Castro admits, it is because of his economic mismanagement, not because of the embargo," he said.
He said that the Cuban President continued with his "cynical and baseless" claims that the embargo denied Cuba access to food and medicine, but he knew that since 1992, the United States had licensed over $1.1 billion in the sale and donation of medicines and medical equipment to the Cuban people, as well as over $5 billion worth of agricultural commodities in the past five years.
In its resolution the Assembly reiterated that, since its first resolution on the matter in 1992, the United States had taken further measures to strengthen and extend the restrictions, adversely affecting the Cuban people at home and abroad.
It also expressed concern about the implementation of laws and regulations, such as the US's Helms-Burton Act of March 1996, "the extraterritorial effects of which affect the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interest of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation."
It noted that the declarations and resolutions of different governments, intergovernmental forums and bodies had rejected those laws and regulations and it called on all states to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.
Among those countries speaking on lifting the United States embargo against Cuba today were the representatives of Jamaica on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, Saint Lucia on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Uruguay on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).