GENERAL ASSEMBLY, FOR THIRTEENTH STRAIGHT YEAR, ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON ENDING UNITED STATES EMBARGO AGAINST CUBA

28 October 2004
GA/10288

GENERAL ASSEMBLY, FOR THIRTEENTH STRAIGHT YEAR, ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON ENDING UNITED STATES EMBARGO AGAINST CUBA

28/10/2004
Press ReleaseGA/10288

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

Plenary

44th Meeting (AM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY, FOR THIRTEENTH STRAIGHT YEAR, ADOPTS RESOLUTION

ON ENDING UNITED STATES EMBARGO AGAINST CUBA

 

For the thirteenth straight year, the General Assembly today overwhelmingly adopted a resolution on the perennial necessity of ending the four-decade-old economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.

By a recorded vote of 179 in favour to four against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau and United States) with one abstention (Federates States of Micronesia), the Assembly expressed its concern that since its earliest resolution on the issue in 1991, further measures had been taken by the United States to strengthen and extend the restrictions, which adversely affected the Cuban people and Cuban nationals living in other countries.  (See annex for details of the vote.)

Chiefly concerned by the application of laws and regulations, such as the United States 1996 Helms-Burton Act, “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”, the Assembly, once again, urged States to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate such measures, as soon as possible.

The representative of the United States said the resolution on the table today attempted to blame the failed economic policies of the communist regime in Cuba on the United States and to divert attention from that country’s human rights record.  The Cuban Government was not a victim, but rather, a tyrant, aggressively punishing anyone who dared to have a differing opinion.  President Fidel Castro had steadfastly refused to allow any kind of political opening and continued to deny Cubans their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Arguments that the United States denied Cuba access to medicines and food were baseless, he continued, stressing that, since 1992, his country had licensed over $1.1 billion in sales and donations of medicines and medical equipment –- 80 per cent in donations.  Moreover, since 2001, the United States had licensed the export of over $5 billion of agricultural commodities to Cuba, and over $700 million in such commodities had been exported there.  Cuba also could and did buy everything it needed from nations other than the United States.  “Let there be no doubt,” he declared, “if Cubans are jobless, hungry, or lack medical care … it is because of the failings of the current Government”.

The attempt to justify the blockade as a measure to improve human rights in Cuba was a distortion, stated Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque.  The United States Government did not have enough moral credibility around the world to speak of human rights in any country, following its unilateral wars in violation of international law and the Charter.  And while the United States maintained that the embargo was not a blockade, as it did not interfere with trade between Cuba and other nations, Member States knew otherwise.  It was not just an embargo because, as the Assembly knew, the United States had unleashed a genocidal economic war on Cuba.

The United States, he continued, also prevented Cuba from using the dollar as currency for trading with the rest of the world, and any Cuban charges or payments in that currency were confiscated.  All necessary actions had to be promptly implemented to defend Cuba from the new aggression that attempted to prevent the use of the dollars earned to pay for its imports.  As such, President Castro had decided 72 hours ago to replace the circulation of the dollar with the convertible Cuban peso all across the national territory.

Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Jamaica’s representative said that the embargo levied against Cuba was particularly relevant in the Caribbean, since it inhibited development of economic relations, distorted trade and investment flows, and impeded business opportunities between neighbouring States.  Cuba was an important partner and its neighbours supported its full integration into regional affairs.  The embargo had gone on too long and served no purpose other than to preserve tension between two neighbouring countries. The result was hardship and suffering for Cubans.

Regrettably, he added, measures had been introduced this year that would tighten the embargo -- a troubling development when Cubans were still struggling after being battered by two recent hurricanes.  He urged the United States to respect the verdict of the international community and end the embargo.

The European Union reiterated its opposition to the extraterritorial aspect of the embargo, the representative of the Netherlands stated, speaking on behalf of that regional group.  He also condemned the current human rights situation in Cuba, which, since 2003, had not shown any significant improvement.  The ongoing violation of human rights, including the continuing detention of a large number of prisoners of conscience, was a major concern.  He called for the immediate release of or amnesty for all political detainees, and appealed to the Cuban authorities to cooperate fully with international human rights bodies and mechanisms.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Mexico, China, Malaysia, South Africa, Viet Nam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Qatar (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Zambia, Myanmar, Venezuela, Syria, Lesotho, Indonesia, Namibia, Iran, Belarus, Zimbabwe and Libya.

Statements in explanation of vote were made by the representatives of the Russian Federation, Brazil (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Japan, Iceland, Australia and Norway.

In addition, Cuba’s representative spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. today to elect 18 members of the Economic and Social Council.

Background

The General Assembly met this morning to consider the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  The Secretary-General’s report on the issue (document A/59/302, Parts 1 and II) reproduces the replies of governments and of organs and agencies of the United Nations, that had been received as of 16 July, on the implementation of the resolution adopted last year by the Assembly on the same issue.

In its reply, Cuba states that the 12-year-old, and now virtually unanimous, condemnation by the Assembly of the embargo is constantly ignored.  Nor does the Government of the United States President George W. Bush pay heed to the questions raised about its Cuban policy among broad sectors of American society, who increasingly call for that policy to be changed.  Instead, the period addressed by the current report (the second half of 2003 -- the first half of 2004) will be remembered as one of the most bitter and hostile periods in the history of the embargo.  According to an economic study carried out by the National Economic Research Institute, with help from various Cuban ministries, the direct damage suffered by the Cuban people as a result of the embargo amounts to more than $79 billion.  Moreover, this calculation does not take into account most of the indirect economic harm caused by the embargo.

Citing some of the notable attempts to strengthen the embargo, Cuba states that on 10 October 2003, President Bush established the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, as well as measures to tighten controls and increase vigilance in implementing bans imposed on travel to Cuba.  On 6 May this year, he received a report from this Commission which includes some 450 recommendations and proposals for new measures to destroy the Cuban revolution and install a regime under the full control of the United States.  Specifically, the report recommends devoting an additional sum of more than $59 million to increase international campaigns against Cuba and to finance internal subversion.  On 30 June, regulations strengthening the measures announced on 6 May were brought into force, which constitute a violation of Cuban independence and sovereignty, and an unprecedented escalation of the violations of the human rights of the Cuban people.

Cuba goes on to say that during the reporting period, the United States applied considerable pressure on banks of third countries in order to hinder and impede Cuban financial transactions.  Cuba uses foreign income to import medicine, food and other consumables, as well as for inputs to run its economy and provide basic social services.  Cuba states that the “humanitarian” Administration of President Bush cynically claims to be promoting democracy and the enjoyment of human rights by Cubans, through actions which merely worsen the genocidal nature of his policy, seeking to destroy, by way of hunger and disease, the Cuban people’s belief in their own sovereignty and independence.  According to Washington’s mentality, if Cubans refuse to “change” and submit to the dictates of the United States, they deserve no other fate than to perish.

The Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System for Operational Activities for Development states that, for as long as his office has been preparing reports on the effects of the embargo, it has not been possible to show any real improvement.  Supporting Cuba’s charge in the report of the Secretary General, he states that, at the beginning of May 2004, the United States Government announced a new embargo strengthening measures, which entered into force on 30 June.  Some of those measures include:  restriction on Cuban imports; restrictions on family visits; reduction in education exchanges; and reductions in family monetary remittances.  The Resident Coordinator goes on to say that the United States Government has stated that the new measures are designed to use socio-economic suffocation to hasten the replacement of the existing Cuban Government with a transitional administration.

The Resident Coordinator notes that the adverse effects of the embargo, which are becoming more pronounced include:  a negative effect on Cuban commercial relations with countries other then the United States due to fear of reprisals; scarcity and high cost of capital due to perceptions of investment risk; increased freight, transport and fuel costs due to importation of goods by circuitous routes and distant source countries; increasing difficulties in caring for the vulnerable; and limited sources of technology.

The related draft resolution (document A/59/L.2) would have the Assembly, concerned by the application of laws and regulations, such as the United States 1996 Helms-Burton Act, “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”, once again urge States to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate such measures, as soon as possible.

Statements

ENRIQUE BERRUGA (Mexico) reiterated his country’s rejection of the application of unilateral laws and measures of economic blockade against any nation, as well as the further usage of coercive measures without the approval envisaged in the Charter of the United Nations.  Along with their humanitarian consequences, those measures were contrary to the norms of international law and they ultimately represented the gradual withdrawal of diplomacy and dialogue as the way to settle disputes among States.  All political, economic or military sanctions imposed on States must emanate only from decisions or recommendations by the Security Council or the Assembly.  His delegation had rejected the unilaterally imposed economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, and had consistently supported all resolutions adopted by the Assembly regarding the necessity to end it.

He was concerned those kind of resolutions, debated in the Assembly on a yearly basis, were not delivering the transformative effect that they were supposed to have in modifying the situation.  The majority position of the international community was clearly ignored, he said, damaging the sense and utility of those exercises.  Therefore, one of the pillars of multilateralism, namely joint deliberation and the positioning of States through the vote, was seriously injured.  Mexico would, once again, renew its support for the resolution on lifting the economic blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba, as unilateral measures affecting the sovereignty and freedom of trade of States contravened his country’s foreign policy principles and the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that for the past 12 years, the Assembly had adopted resolutions urging all countries to comply with the Charter and the principles enshrined in international legal instruments, and to repeal or invalidate all laws and measures that carried “extraterritorial effect”, bearing on the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate rights and interests of peoples or entities under their jurisdiction, and the freedom of trade and navigation. Regrettably, the country concerned continued to act wilfully, obstinately sticking to the wrong position and ignoring the just demands of the international community.  That country had repeatedly failed to implement relevant resolutions adopted by the Assembly, he said.

The embargo and sanctions imposed by the United States against Cuba had been in place for more than two decades, he continued.  The United States claimed that its proscriptions were aimed at enhancing democracy, freedom and human rights in Cuba.  “But what are the realities”, he asked.  First, by attempting to use the embargo and sanctions to force another country to give up its independently chosen path to development, and even to overthrow the existing government, the United States had gravely violated the purposes and principles of the Charter, and in effect, mocked the principles of democracy and freedom.  The embargo had obstructed and restrained the Cuban people’s own nation-building efforts, particularly towards the eradication of poverty, improving livelihoods, and promoting socio-economic development.

If the situation were reversed, and it was the United States that had been forced to suffer under a 40-year trade and financial embargo imposed by another country, would it still feel that such restrictions were aimed at enhancing its democracy and human rights, he asked.  China opposed the embargo and would support the resolution to be introduced on the matter later.

ABDUL WAHAB DOLAH (Malaysia) said his nation was opposed to all forms of unilateral economic, commercial and financial sanctions and embargoes.  It joined the international community in calling for the end of the embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States.  The Assembly had pronounced its rejection of the use of measures by one MemberState to effect political reforms in another.  The adoption of resolution 58/7 by the Assembly had reflected the wishes of nations to reject the embargo and called for its immediate termination.  He was confident that, at this session of the Assembly, there would be another rejection of the embargo.  The application by the United States of laws, in particular the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts, were intended to hurt the Cuban people, including the most vulnerable.  They were aimed at limiting Cuba’s access to markets, capital, technology and investment in order to exert pressure on Cuba to change its political and economic systems.  In his view, that was not consistent with international law.

The embargo was not only a violation of international law but violated the rights of the Cuban people to life, to well-being and to development, he said.  It had caused damage and aggravated the plight of the people, more than two-thirds of whom had lived their lives under the cloud of the unilateral embargo and sanctions regime.  He appealed to the United States to respect the Charter and the norms of international law.  He called on the United States to rethink its overall approach towards Cuba and evolve its policy from one of isolating its neighbour to one of dialogue and accommodation.  It was his hope that in the new spirit of the times, the United States would evolve its policy.

DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said he viewed the continued imposition of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba as a violation of the principles of the sovereign equality of States and of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign States.  The United States delegation had, at a recent discussion in the Second Committee, supported that role that remittances could play in promoting development.  He would hope that the view would become widely accepted within the United States Administration, which had targeted remittances in the most recent tightening of the embargo against Cuba.  Placing further restrictions on remittances Cuban Americans could send to their families back home had turned an instrument of development into one of punishment and coercion.

South Africa was a country committed to working toward a better world for all, in which nations coexisted peacefully, he continued.  The achievement of such peaceful coexistence required an adherence by all nations to the rule of law, including international law.  The need to respect international law in the conduct of international relations had been recognized by most members of the Assembly, as had been evidenced by the growing support for the resolution.  South Africa would again support the draft resolution, because unilateral action had caused untold suffering to the people of Cuba.  Considering the impact that the embargo had on the everyday lives of the Cuban people, he added, it was no surprise to see that the overwhelming majority of Member States joined in supporting for the Cuban people.

STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Charter called for respect for the sovereign equality of States, non-interference in their internal affairs, the self-determination of peoples, the peaceful settlement of disputes and the maintenance of friendly relations between States.  Standing by those principles, CARICOM States opposed the imposition of unilateral punitive measures, especially where they involved and restricted freedom of trade and navigation, State freedom and sovereignty.  All that reverberated with particular acuteness in the Caribbean region, where that economic embargo against Cuba inhibited the development of normal economic relations, distorted trade and investment flows and impeded business opportunities between neighbouring States.

For the CARICOM family, Cuba was an important partner and a country with which it had well-established programmes of cooperation and ties of friendship.  Cuba was a threat to no one, and its neighbours supported its full integration into the affairs of the region.  The embargo against Cuba had gone on far too long and it served no other purpose than to preserve a state of tension between two neighbouring countries.  The result was only untold hardship and suffering for the people of Cuba.  Regrettably, measures had been introduced this year that would tighten the embargo, a troubling development when the Cuban people were still struggling with the after effects of two major hurricanes that had recently battered the island.  The CARICOM, in the spirit of its friendly and neighbourly relations with the United States, would urge that country to respect the verdict of the international community and end the embargo.  The CARICOM supported the draft before the Assembly today and would vote in favour of it.

LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam) said the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba was the longest in history.  It served no other purpose than to maintain tension between two neighbouring countries and impose untold hardship and suffering on the Cuban people, especially women and children.  He was greatly concerned by the Cuban Government’s report that the direct damages suffered by the Cuban people due to the embargo represented about 2.5 times the gross domestic product (GDP) of Cuba in 2003.  Also, while repeatedly refusing to end the embargo, as demanded by previous Assembly resolutions, the United States had introduced additional measures such as restrictions on travel and the sale of life-saving drugs, causing further hardship and suffering among Cubans and seriously hindering that country’s economic, cultural and social development.

As a nation that had suffered greatly from similar embargoes because of its fundamental foreign policy of respect for the legitimate right of each nation to choose its own social and political system and its own path of development, Viet Nam opposed any unilateral embargo or blockade imposed by one State on another.  It had backed all previous Assembly resolutions demanding the end of the sanctions against Cuba by the United States.  He was ready to support the draft resolution contained in document A/59/L.2, and believed that the United Nations should undertake early and concrete steps and initiatives to ensure implementation of all the resolutions adopted.  The differences between the United States and Cuba had to be resolved through dialogue and negotiations, while respecting each other’s independence and sovereignty.

ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said he profoundly regretted the fact that the embargo continued to make the relations between the two neighbouring countries tense.  It was time for Cuba and the United States to embark on serious negotiations, so as to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution as early as possible.  In today’s world of multifaceted cooperation among States, discriminatory trading practices were unjustified and contrary to the principles and objectives of the Charter of the United Nations.  Furthermore, the sovereign right of every nation to freely participate in international trading and financial systems was sacrosanct.  No country was entitled to interfere in the internal affairs of any other.  Cuba had the right to choose its own political system and its development model.

In order to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, he continued, Cuba should have the opportunity to maintain and promote trading relations with all countries.  The international community was duty-bound to grant assistance and support to Cuba and its people in their energetic endeavours to advance their economic development.  His country would continue to strive to put an end to the economic, financial and trading embargo on Cuba, which had thus far not benefited either party.  Cuba was a member of the United Nations and every MemberState should do their utmost to help the country recover its legitimate right to be integrated in the globalized world economy.  In that spirit, he would vote in favour of the draft resolution.

ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said that just ahead of the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations, the international community had been repeatedly calling for a return to multilateralism and greater respect for the collective will of nations, and a rejection of punitive unilateral measures like those imposed by the United States against Cuba.  It was essential to continue that call.  The measuring stick for whether a nation respected human rights should always be its desire to ensure political and social justice, respect for the law and the desire to maintain peace.  It should not be based on the views of one nation.

The issue of the United States economic embargo against Cuba has been on the agenda for 13 years and the Assembly had resolutely affirmed the respect for the sovereignty of States and had equally rejected unilateral measures imposed by a single State.  He recalled that the Sudan also suffered under an economic embargo and sanctions imposed by the United States in 1997, which had been renewed each year since.  Those restrictions had been put in place solely to put political pressure on the Sudanese Government, in flagrant violation of the Charter.  As a matter of principle, the Sudan rejected the embargo and would be voting in favour of the draft resolution and called on all Member States to vote likewise.

AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) reaffirmed his support for the necessity of ending the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  The imposition of the four-decades-old embargo was not only a serious violation of the fundamental principles of the Charter and international law, but also of the freedom of international trade.  The situation had been made worse by the passing of the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts, which sought to isolate Cuba from international trade, crippling its economy with severe consequences.  The extraterritorial aspect of the embargo had exacerbated the accumulated damage to the economy by disrupting trade relations between Cuba and third party nations.

It was encouraging to note that despite those odds, Cuba had managed to develop world-class health and educational systems, and shared them with other developing nations, he said.  His own country had benefited from training opportunities in different fields provided by Cuba, and had also received a good number of doctors who were providing much needed services in hospitals in rural areas.  It was evident that achievements in health and education, and progress in other sectors of the economy, would have been greater if there were no embargo.  He noted that Cuba had also achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals.  It was within the realm of political possibilities, he said, to find a way to lift the embargo.

NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, called for an immediate end to the embargo against Cuba.  In that regard, he reiterated the call made at the South Summit for the elimination of laws with adverse extraterritorial effect, and the concern expressed with the impact of economic sanctions on the civilian population and development capacity.  If necessary, those sanctions must be imposed only in strict conformity with the Charter, with clear objectives, a clear time frame, a provision for regular review and precise conditions for their lifting, and never be used as a form of punishment.

He recalled the Summit’s sincere appeal to the United States Government to immediately lift the economic embargo imposed on Cuba.  The embargo served no other purpose than to preserve tension between two neighbours and imposed untold hardship and suffering on the Cuban people.  The replacement of the embargo with greater dialogue and cooperation would contribute not only to the removal of tension between them, but also promote meaningful exchange and partnership between two countries whose destinies were linked by history and geography.

MWELWA C. MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) said that the world had changed since 1959. Just as there was a need to adapt to the changed circumstances in international relations since then, it was necessary to review the effectiveness of embargoes and sanctions.  The embargo imposed on Cuba was a breach of international law and a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter.  In that regard, he found the extraterritoriality of the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Act as unacceptable.  They were an infringement upon the sovereignty of other States, and an impediment to international navigation and free trade as embodied in the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He appealed to all Member States to support the noble principles that were enshrined in the Charter by a unanimous vote for the immediate lifting of the embargo.  Given the importance of lifting the embargo, he would support the inclusion of the item in the agenda of the sixtieth session of the Assembly in order to allow the international community to be seized with the issue until its final conclusion.

OLIVER GARZA, (United States) said his country’s trade embargo against Cuba was a bilateral issue that should not come before the Assembly.  The resolution on the table today attempted to blame the failed economic policies of the communist regime there on the United States, and to divert attention from Cuba’s human rights record.  Arguments that the United States was denying Cuba access to medicines and food were baseless, he said, stressing that since 1992, his country had licensed over $1.1 billion in sales and donations of medicines and medical equipment –- 80 per cent in the form of donations.  Moreover, since 2001, the United States Government had licensed the export of over $5 billion worth of agricultural commodities, and, in that same period, over $700 million in such commodities had been exported to Cuba.  Remittances by people living in the United States to Cuba had been estimated at close to $1 billion a year.

It was also manifestly true that Cuba could and did buy everything it needed –- an estimated $4.3 billion in imports annually -- from nations other than the United States.  “Let there be no doubt”, he declared, “if Cubans are jobless, hungry, or lack medical care, as the regime admits, it is because of the failings of the current Government”.  That Government had shown no interest whatsoever in implementing any economic or political reform that would lead to democratic change and a free-market economy.  By example, he said that as of 1 October, the Cuban Government no longer issued new licenses for 40 different categories of self-employment.  That meant that the Government no longer allowed its citizens to run a small restaurant out of their homes or even be a clown at a birthday party. “That is absurd”, he said, adding that more recently the regime had imposed confiscatory penalties on the use of dollars in Cuba, reversing a decade-old policy.  That kind of economic mismanagement was the reason why a country that 45 years ago had a per capita income equal to that of Spain was now one of Latin America’s most economically depressed.

The Cuban Government was not a victim, he continued.  Rather, it was a tyrant, aggressively punishing anyone who dared to have a differing opinion. [Cuban President Fidel] Castro had steadfastly refused to allow any kind of political opening and continued to deny Cubans the human rights and fundamental freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The March 2003 “crackdown”, in which 75 members of the opposition, including independent journalists, economists, trade unionists and human rights advocates, had been sentenced to an average of 20 years in prison, had been brutal even by Cuban standards.  The regime continued to harass those who had been released, subjecting them to near-daily, hours-long interrogations.  For nearly two years, he added, Cuba had refused to permit a visit by the personal representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The United States would vote against the draft and would urge others to do likewise.

U WIN MRA (Myanmar) said that both as a matter of principle and also as a country affected by unilateral sanction of the United States, Myanmar fully sympathized with the Cuban people and understood the extent of the hardship and suffering caused by the embargo on the people of Cuba, particularly women and children.  The will of the international community was clearly expressed yearly by the adoption, with overwhelming majority, of the resolution calling for an end to the embargo.  Regrettably, the United States had not responded to the call and had tightened measures against Cuba.  Myanmar shared the view that the embargo did not serve any purpose and did not benefit either country or peoples.

He believed that it was the inalienable right of all States to choose their own political and economic systems, based on the wishes of the people.  The embargo against Cuba by the United States not only contravened the provisions of the United Nations Charter but was also contrary to international law.  His delegation particularly found objectionable extraterritorial measures that infringed on the sovereign rights of other States.  In a globalized world, it would be counterproductive to set artificial barriers between countries, because it would not be conducive to achieving better understanding among peoples of the world.  Myanmar firmly believed that only through dialogue and cooperation could countries nurture good neighbourly relations, assure peace and stability, and promote common interests.

FERMIN TORO JIMENEZ (Venezuela) rejected the application of laws with extraterritorial effects and which ignored the sovereignty of other States.  The blockade imposed on Cuba, which had a coercive and extraterritorial character, constituted a unilateral act of force that violated international laws, as well as economic and commercial exchange rules among nations.  The Torricelli Act constituted another step towards the creation of, on the part of the United States, a universal empire with headquarters in Washington.

The United States intensified the development of new armaments and the unfolding of armies around the world, trying to impose a military and global empire that sought to force all nations to adopt the same political and ideological behaviour, he said.  The actions of the United States had only increased the consciousness of the Cuban people, and had consolidated their Revolution.  In spite of all that, the United States, instead of suspending the blockade, had intensified it with other measures that now attempted to restrict visits to Cuba of American citizens and Cuban residents in the United States. Those measures violated human rights.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that all members of the United Nations should respect the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.  The embargo imposed on Cuba had subjected it to all forms of economic, social and political losses, and had also impacted the Cuban people’s intensive efforts to achieve prosperity.  He commended Cuba’s continued efforts for instructive dialogue with the United States, and said both countries should resolve issues on the basis of equality and human respect, and the principles of the United Nations Charter, among other things.  The resolution of the issue of the embargo was in the interest of both countries.

The increasing support of the international community for the need to end the embargo, he continued, was an affirmation of the need to respect the political, economic and social system that every country selected of its own will and in light of its national interests.  The international community had frequently stated that it rejected the sanctions imposed on Cuba, and such sanctions were incompatible with the principles of the sovereign equality of States and of international laws.  He hoped that all forms of the embargo would be lifted and that the calls of the international community would receive an adequate response by the United States.  For those reasons, he added, Syria would vote in favour of the resolution.

LEBOHANG MOLEKO (Lesotho) said the support shown by Member States in favour of lifting the sanctions against Cuba reflected the view that the unilateral embargo, as well as the new measures aimed at tightening the blockade, were contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter, particularly the principles of the sovereign equality of States and non-interference in their internal affairs, and the right to international trade and navigation.  It was the sovereign right of the people of any country, including Cuba, to determine the system of government and the model of development most appropriate for their country.  It was unfortunate that, in order to exercise that right, millions of Cubans had to endure untold misery caused by the economic blockade.

He regarded all coercive measures, whether economic, political or otherwise, by one State against another as dangerous and inadmissible.  Such measures could never enhance peace and stability but only compromise them.  He strongly opposed the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba and urged the lifting of it.

REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said the General Assembly was once again addressing the issue of the United States embargo against Cuba, which had been in effect for more than 40 years.  It was regrettable that 12 years after the adoption of the original resolution, no steps had been taken to lift the embargo.  Extraterritorial aspects of the embargo impinged on the sovereignty of other Member States and were contrary to the spirit of the Charter.  Indonesia recognized the principles of the sovereignty and equality of States, as well as non-interference in the affairs of other nations and their freedom to trade.  Those principles, which were in many international legal instruments, were not being upheld.

After four decades, there was an unwanted stalemate with regard to the embargo, he said.  The embargo, whose main victims were the Cuban people, did more harm than good and served little purpose.  It amounted to economic warfare, causing considerable damage.  The people of Cuba were being victimized by the embargo on a daily basis.  He wanted to see an end to the embargo and would vote in favour of the draft resolution.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the international community was still witnessing the continuous suffering of the people of Cuba as a result of the unjust economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on them by the United States Government.  That unilateral blockade continued despite repeated calls by the Assembly to bring it to an end.  What was even more worrying, he said, was the fact that the blockade had been further strengthened under the current United States Administration, notwithstanding the negative impact and human suffering on the people of Cuba, particularly women, children and the elderly.  The embargo ran contrary to the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter, international law and the Millennium Declaration.  It directly violated the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of not only the people of Cuba, but also of the citizens of the United States who wanted to have personal and business contacts with the people of Cuba.

The Assembly, he continued, had expressed its opposition to the unilateral sanctions through its resolutions, but those resolutions had not been implemented. That made one wonder why a double standard was applied in the implementation of the United Nations resolutions.  As a result, the people of Cuba continued to suffer under the imposition of the United States blockade.  His Government continued to uphold the principle of a peaceful coexistence of nations and open trade, and non-interference in the internal affairs of States.  He reiterated his country’s call for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.

MEHDI MIRAFZAL (Iran) expressed “deep disappointment” over the ongoing embargo against Cuba.  Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries went against the United Nations Charter, and against promoting cooperation and friendly relations among countries and nations.  Such measures contradicted all laws and principles in the fields of global trade and economic interaction among countries.  The use of unilateral measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries had been condemned by such United Nations components as the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, and the international community should become more vocal about repealing them.

Embargoes impeded the full achievement of economic and social development by the population of the affected country, in particular children and women, he said. They also hindered the full enjoyment of human rights, including the right to food, medical care and social services, among other things.  It was an established fact that unilateral coercive measures jeopardized the economic interests of targeted countries.  Member States needed to consolidate endeavours toward the creation and strengthening of a conducive economic environment capable of providing equal opportunities to all countries.  States should also consider ways and means for compensating losses of targeted countries.  His delegation would not only vote in favour of the resolution, but would ask the international community to double its efforts to have an environment free from sanctions and embargoes.

NIKOLAI CHERGINETS (Belarus) said that despite repeated appeals, the United States Government had not taken any steps to reverse its unilateral punitive embargo against Cuba.  Furthermore, six months ago, the United States had passed a measure to strengthen its restrictions.  In light of that, and the fact that Belarus suffered under the effects of sanctions, it was up to the international community to ensure that no single State had the right to punish an entire people in another country.  Further, the continued imposition of that economic embargo must force the Member States of the United Nations to ask themselves why the Organization readily discussed issues like poverty eradication but did not show the same consistency or urgency to discuss the suffering of entire populations.

He appealed to the Assembly to closely examine which country was helped when the United States imposed its economic blockades.  The representative of that country had just stated that his Government had this past year provided Cuba with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.  Now that was strange logic:  bringing a nation to the very brink of destitution before showing magnanimity.  The wider international community must recognize that the continuing imposition of those economic sanctions was dangerous for the region and the world as a whole.  Belarus supported the immediate lifting of the economic sanctions against Cuba.  It would also continue to support Cuba and to enhance its economic cooperation with that country.

BONIFACE G. CHIDYAUSIKU (Zimbabwe) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report because it clearly reflected the common view that was what essentially a domestic law infringed on States and was inconsistent with the provisions of the United Nations Charter.  Zimbabwe was opposed to all forms of economic and financial sanctions and embargoes on States, because that ran counter to the spirit of the Charter.  The application of laws, in particular the Helms-Burton Act, which intended to restrict the access of Cuba to markets, capital and investment in order to exert pressure to change its political and economic systems, was a violation of international law.

The embargo against Cuba, he continued, was discriminatory in nature and undermined the principles of sovereignty, equality of States and fundamental human rights, among other things.  He supported the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter, and would, therefore, vote in favour of the draft resolution.

AHMED A. OWN (Libya) said it was clear that the economic sanctions imposed against Cuba had resulted in grave losses, which had affected all sectors of Cuban society, especially the most vulnerable, including women, children and the elderly.  The imposition of unilateral punitive sanctions often led to severe consequences, violated international human rights standards and contravened international economic norms.  The international community had maintained its resolute rejection of unilateral punitive measures and the continuation of such practices only entrenched the causes of tension and conflict among peoples and nations with common interests.  “Our responsibility as a civilized world requires us to reject such measures”, he said, urging the Assembly to support the draft before the body today.

FELIPE PÉREZ ROQUE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said that millions of Cubans were closely following what was happening in the Assembly Hall, and that 70 per cent of them had had to endure their entire lives the longest blockade in history, imposed by the United States.  In voting on the draft resolution, the 191 Member States would not only be taking a decision on an issue of interest to Cuba, but would also be voting in favour of respect for the Charter, international law, and the sovereign equality of States.  They would also be ensuring that no government, however mighty, could punish Cuba, or any other country for trading with or investing in Cuba.  He was struck by how the United States did not try to say anything new in its statement, which proved that it was “bankrupt of arguments” and “simply and shamelessly” repeated the same utterances as in previous years.

He said that while the United States maintained that the embargo was clearly not a blockade, as it did not interfere with trade between Cuba and other nations, the Assembly knew otherwise.  It was not just an embargo because the United States had unleashed a genocidal, economic war on Cuba.  Among other things, Cuba was prohibited from exporting to the United States; from receiving American tourists; from gaining access to the technologies produced in the United States; and from importing any United States product, equipment or raw material.

The United States, he continued, also prevented Cuba from using the dollar as currency for trading with the rest of the world, and any Cuban charges or payments in that currency were confiscated.  All necessary actions had to be promptly implemented to defend his country from the new aggressions that attempted to prevent the use of the dollars earned to pay for its imports.  As such, President Fidel Castro had decided 72 hours ago to replace the circulation of the dollar with the convertible Cuban peso all across the national territory.  “If the United States Government is so certain that Cuba is using the issue of the blockade as a pretext, why does it not lift the blockade and leave us without a pretext”, he asked.

He believed that the attempt to justify the blockade as a measure to improve human rights in Cuba was a diversion.  The United States did not have enough moral credibility to speak of human rights in any country, in light of the unilateral wars that were in violation of international law and the Charter.  “The United States should at least be silent out of shame”, he said, and should deal with its own problems, which included the severe limitation of the rights and freedoms of its own citizens.  The United States did not lift the embargo because it was afraid of the example of the “small, rebellious island”.  On behalf of a small country that yearned to be free, he would ask, once again, for States to vote in favour of the draft resolution.

Action on Draft

Speaking before the vote, NIKOLAY CHULKOV (Russian Federation) said he strongly condemned the United States blockade against Cuba, and had consistently recommended the lifting of it.  His country continued to stand by its principled rejection of all attempts to isolate countries or to unilaterally impose punitive measures.  He was also concerned that the recent tightening of the sanctions only furthered exacerbated the situation in Cuba and increased tensions between the two States and within the region.  Lifting the embargo would hasten Cuba’s integration into the international system, leading to improvements in its socio-economic situation, as well as to economic improvements and stability in the region.  He would vote in favour of the draft.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution contained in A/59/L.2 by a vote of 179 in favour to four against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau and United States) with one abstention (Federated States of Micronesia).

Following the vote, ARJAN PAUL HAMBURGER (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated the Union’s opposition to the extraterritorial aspect of the embargo that had been implemented in accordance with the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act.  It could not accept that unilateral measures imposed by the United States on specific nations limited the economic and commercial relations of those nations with third countries.  The European Union’s policy on Cuba, based on its Common Position adopted in 1996, was clear.  It sought to encourage a process of peaceful transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well sustainable economic recovery and an improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people.

Nevertheless, he strongly condemned the current human rights situation in Cuba, which, since 2003, had not shown any significant improvement.  The ongoing violation of human rights, including the continuing detention of a large number of prisoners of conscience, was a major concern.  He called for the immediate release of, or amnesty for, all those detained for political reasons, and appealed to the Cuban authorities to cooperate fully with international human rights bodies and mechanisms.  He rejected the restrictions imposed on the embassies of most European Union members States by the Cuban authorities, which impeded diplomatic contacts and constituted a de facto violation of the Vienna Convention.

The negative influence of the embargo, as well as Cuban domestic economic policy, hampered the economic development of the island and negatively affected the daily life of the Cuban population, he added.  He reiterated that the opening of the Cuban economy would benefit all people, and expressed rejection of all unilateral measures against Cuba, which were contrary to commonly accepted rules of international law.  He also urged the Cuban authorities to bring about rapid, lasting and substantial improvements in the field of human rights.

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that, as in years past, the MERCOSUR countries had voted in favour of the resolution just adopted.  The embargo negatively affected the human rights situation in Cuba and ran counter to the Charter, particularly since it interfered with the sovereign rights of a State.  It did nothing but heighten tensions in the region, and had been repeatedly rejected in various international forums.  It was also not in keeping with the relevant rules and procedures of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  He joined the near-unanimous voice of the international community demanding the lifting of the sanctions.

SHUTARO OMURA (Japan) said he shared the concern of others about the continued imposition of the Helms-Burton Act and its effects on Cuba’s socio-economic development.  While he supported the resolution, he had some questions about whether the Assembly was the most suitable forum in which the issue should be addressed.  He believed that both countries should strive to open a dialogue on the matter and come to a peaceful negotiated settlement.

HARALD ASPELUND (Iceland) said he voted in favour of the resolution because he believed it was not in the best interests of the multilateral system that States applied unilateral trade sanctions outside of the United Nations system.  However, he stressed that his vote was not intended to in any way indicate support for the policies of the present Cuban Government, as evidenced by his country’s strong condemnation of the human rights situation in Cuba, in which many fundamental rights were violated on a regular basis.  He supported the call for a free media, fair trials, freedom of expression, release of political prisoners and an end to arbitrary detentions.

RODNEY SAWFORD (Australia) shared concerns about the state of human rights and political freedoms in Cuba, but did not believe that isolating that country was the best way to bring about the realization of fundamental freedoms and political and economic reforms.  He believed that unilateral punitive laws and measures were not justified under international law and, therefore, was concerned by the imposition of the Helms-Burton Act.  Once again, Australia had voted in favour of the draft.

WEGGER CHRISTIAN STROMMEN (Norway) said that there was a clear distinction between the imposition of punitive unilateral measures, on the one hand, and sanctions or restriction put in place by the United Nations, on the other.  He did not support such unilateral measures.  At the same time, such measures could not be used as a justification for the continued prosecution of human rights defenders and journalists, among others.  He urged the Cuban Government to release all political prisoners.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Cuba said that while some delegations would try to obfuscate the effects of the unjust economic blockade, Cuba would spotlight the built-in extraterritorial aspects, which had been aimed at causing further harm to the country.  Those aspects, as well as the continued presence of so-called human rights monitors, had become an excuse to insert mercenaries into Cuba, who worked at the behest of the United States, trying to cause damage to the country and its people.  Those mercenaries and the imperialist agenda they tried to advance also aimed to undermine the will of the Cuban people and to turn back all the real progress Cuba had been able to achieve in spite of the 40-year blockade.

Some delegations, such as the United States and the European Union, said they were concerned about the human rights situations in some Third World countries, he continued.  But those same delegations tried to avoid mention of their own human rights record, ignoring their own cruel treatment of prisoners or rampant election fraud and voting irregularities in allied countries.  The European Union should particularly try to address the widespread xenophobia, racism, drug use and problems with domestic violence that many of its member countries faced.  That delegation’s hypocritical stance regarding Cuba should be rejected, and Cuba was glad to see that so many nations today had done just that.  Cuba would continue to walk its own path, in the face of open aggression by the most powerful nation the world had ever known.

ANNEX

Vote on Draft Resolution on Ending Embargo against Cuba

The draft resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba (document A/59/L.2) was adopted by a recorded vote of 179 in favour to 4 against, with 1 abstention, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States.

Abstain:  Federated States of Micronesia.

Absent:  El Salvador, Iraq, Morocco, Nicaragua, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.

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For information media. Not an official record.