GENERAL ASSEMBLY OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORTS END TO UNITED STATES EMBARGO ON CUBA; CUBA’S FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS BLOCKADE ‘LONGEST AND CRUELLEST’ IN HISTORY

8 November 2006
GA/10529

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORTS END TO UNITED STATES EMBARGO ON CUBA; CUBA’S FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS BLOCKADE ‘LONGEST AND CRUELLEST’ IN HISTORY

8 November 2006
General Assembly
GA/10529
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Plenary

50th Meeting (AM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORTS END TO UNITED STATES EMBARGO ON CUBA;

CUBA’S FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS BLOCKADE ‘LONGEST AND CRUELLEST’ IN HISTORY

‘No-Action Motion’ Suppresses First-Ever Amendment to Resolution;

New Provision Would Have Noted Cuba’s Lack of Democracy and Political Freedom

For the fifteenth consecutive year, the General Assembly called on States to refrain from promulgating laws in breach of freedom of trade and navigation, as it overwhelmingly passed a resolution on the need to end the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.

By the resolution, adopted by a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 4 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States), with 1 abstention (Federated States of Micronesia), the Assembly urged States that had such laws and measures to repeal, or invalidate them.  It also requested the Secretary-General to report on the text’s implementation at the Assembly’s next session.  (For details of the vote, see annex II.)

Prior to taking action on the text, Australia’s delegate submitted a first-ever amendment, which would have added an operative paragraph noting that such laws and measures “were motivated by valid concerns about the continued lack of democracy and political freedom in Cuba”.  The additional provision would have had the Assembly call on the Cuban Government to release, unconditionally, all political prisoners, cooperate fully with international human rights bodies, respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and comply fully with its obligations under all human rights treaties to which it was a party.

A “no action motion” tabled by Cuba’s delegation to suppress the amendment was adopted by a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 51 against, with 5 abstentions ( Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Samoa, Switzerland, Tonga).  (For details, see annex I.)

Introducing the motion, Cuba’s representative charged that the United States had drafted the amendment as a pretext for continuing and extending the unilateral embargo against the country.  He said that concerns about human rights in Cuba should be channelled through the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), but the United States feared the face-to-face debate that would ensue there.  The real purpose of the amendment had been to legitimize the desires of the powerful to impose unilateral coercive methods on others.

Explaining his opposition to avert Assembly action on the amendment, Australia’s speaker said the amendment had been intended to draw attention to the fact that, while States had the right to pursue their own economic and development path, they were also obliged to comply with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  To call for an end to the embargo, but not to call on Cuba to implement human rights norms, was a refusal to accept reality and the linkage between the two.

Also supporting action to go forward on the amendment, the United States delegate said that the annual resolutions of condemnation against his country were inaccurate in attributing the suffering of the Cuban people to the embargo.  The Cuban Government’s own policies should be addressed, as those continued to deny the human, labour and economic rights of the Cuban people.  He called on the international community to speak up for the Cuban people and on Member States to not turn a blind eye to human rights violators.  The Assembly should not act as a protector, or an apologist, for regimes that violated human rights.

Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Minister, whose delegation had presented the draft to the General Assembly for the past 15 years, said that the economic war waged by the United States against Cuba for more than four decades had been the longest and cruellest in history; it was an “act of genocide” and a flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.  The United States was pursuing plans to re-colonize Cuba, and further tightening restrictions.  Those limitations encroached on family-related visits by Cuban residents in the United States and involved further restraints on academic, cultural, scientific, medical and sports exchanges with the United States.

Many speakers, as evidenced by the resounding support of the text, echoed the call to lift the blockade, saying that Cuba had endured the embargo valiantly, but at a forbidding cost.  The embargo had been particularly damaging to the Cuban population, in particular, to the women, children and the elderly.  Many held the view that the sanctions imposed under the United States 1996 law, known as the Helms-Burton Act, had exceeded the jurisdiction of national legislation and encroached on the sovereignty of other States that dealt with Cuba.  They deemed the Act to be incompatible with the principle of the sovereign equality of States and deemed the embargo to be a systematic collective punishment that ran counter to international law and prevailing moral and ethical values.

The debate that preceded action on the resolution also centred on the right of States to pursue their own political, economic, social and cultural systems.  Stressing that inalienable right of a State to determine its own political system and path to development, Viet Nam’s representative noted that the longest-running blockade in history had been tightened, rather than dropped, as the Assembly had urged for 14 years.  He said prolonging the blockade only caused further tension in the bilateral relations between the two countries.  The differences between the United States and Cuba should be settled through dialogue and negotiations based on mutual respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of the other.

Also taking part in the debate were the representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Saint Lucia (on behalf of Caribbean Community), Mexico, China, United States, Indonesia, Syria, India, Iran, Malaysia, Namibia and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Others speaking in explanation of position on the “no action” motion to the amendment were the representatives of the United States, South Africa (on behalf of the Group of 77) and China.

The representatives of Finland on behalf of the European Union, and the Russian Federation also explained their positions before the vote on the draft resolution.

Speaking after the vote on the resolution were the representatives of Brazil (on behalf of the Southern Common Market), the Sudan, Bolivia, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Lesotho, Libya, Zambia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Egypt.

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

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 13 November, to convene a joint debate on humanitarian assistance of the United Nations, and assistance to the Palestinian people.

Background

The Assembly met today to consider the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.

For its consideration of that agenda item, the Assembly has before it the Secretary-General’s report on the necessity of ending the embargo of the United States against Cuba (document A/61/132) containing replies from 98 Governments from across the globe, plus the European Union, as well as organs and agencies of the United Nations system.  Those were submitted in response to requests for information on implementation of related General Assembly resolution 60/12.

In its reply, the Government of Cuba reports that the four-decade embargo has had a direct impact on the economic, political and social life of the Cuban people.  The embargo not only impacts on relations with the United States but also with third countries.  Direct and indirect economic damages have exceeded $86 billion since the embargo was imposed, with the economic damage within the past year totalling $4.1 billion.  The Bush Administration has escalated its actions against Cuba through the so called “Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba”, issuing stricter economic sanctions and increasing reprisals for United States companies trading with Cuba, the reply says.

The more than 20-page reply, reproduced in the report, covers the following areas of concern of the Cuban Government, among others:  direct damage caused by the United States embargo; intensification of the embargo; pressure, threats and penalties against persons, institutions and non-governmental organizations; persecution of, and reprisals against, citizens and companies; pressure on religious and academic organizations and United States-based non-governmental organizations; opposition to the embargo within the United States; extraterritorial aspects of the embargo policy; prosecution and punitive action against Cuban financial assets; extraterritoriality in other sectors; impact on foreign trade; trademark-related violations; impact on economic and social sectors, including food, health, education, sport and transport; adverse effect on academic, scientific, cultural and sport exchanges between the peoples of Cuba and the United States; and effects of the embargo on the economy of the United States, on its people and on other peoples of the world.

The Assembly has before it a draft resolution entitled Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (document A/61/L.10).  By its terms, the Assembly would reiterate its call on all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures not in conformity with obligations reaffirming of the freedom of trade and navigation.

By a further provision, the Assembly would call on States to repeal or invalidate such laws and would request the Secretary-General to report on implementation of the resolution at the Assembly’s next session.

An amendment to the draft text submitted by Australia (document A/61/L.19) contains an addition to the preambular section relating to human rights.

Statements

SABELO SIVUYILE MAQUNGO (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group, at the Second South Summit held in 2005 in Qatar, had condemned the use of economic coercive measures designed to prevent countries from exercising the right to decide their own political, economic and social systems and had called for all countries not to recognize the embargo against Cuba, which had had a negative impact on the well-being of that country’s people.

Believing that constructive dialogue could foster mutual trust and understanding, as well as engender harmony and peaceful coexistence, the Group viewed the continued imposition of the embargo as a violation of the principles of sovereign equality of States and non-intervention in the domestic affairs of a country, he said.  The need to respect international law in international relations had remained steadfast at the United Nations, where more Member States were supporting a resolution opposing the United States embargo.  This was evidenced by the votes in favour of the text, which had grown from 59 in 1992 to 182 in 2005.  The Group of 77 and China would support this year’s draft resolution against the embargo.

ANTHONY B. SEVERIN (Saint Lucia), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), aligned himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, expressed his consistent opposition to the embargo against Cuba.  Cuba was the most populous State of the Caribbean region and an integral part of the Pan-Caribbean process.  The CARICOM States maintained close relations with Cuba through a wide range of programmes, including in the areas of trade, health care, and the global fight against HIV/AIDS.  The CARICOM continued to engage Cuba in a constructive and mutually beneficial partnership.

He said that, in addition to Cuba being an integral part of the region, it threatened no one.  It should not be isolated or excluded from participation in regional and hemispheric process.  Cuba’s commitment to the social and economic development of the Caribbean continued to be well demonstrated, and CARICOM reiterated its unwavering support for the right of the Cuban people to self-determination, in a manner beneficial to their social and economic development.

The embargo imposed against Cuban was an “anachronism”, and served no useful purpose in the twenty-first century.  It had only served to preserve a state of tension between two neighbouring countries, and to generate concern, disquiet and discomfort throughout the Caribbean basin.  The Caribbean Community enjoyed friendly relations with the United States, and in that spirit, it urged the United States Government to end the embargo and normalize relations with Cuba.

ENRIQUE BERRUGA ( Mexico) expressed his delegation’s rejection of embargoes and other unilateral or coercive measures that did not correspond with the principles of the Charter.  Mexico believed that such measures could be set out or imposed only by the Security Council of the General Assembly.  He regretted the serious humanitarian impacts of the United States embargo against Cuba.  Indeed, the embargo was hostile, and the damages it had caused to Cuban society over so many years were well known.

He said that various United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had drawn attention to the impacts of Washington’s unilateral measure, particularly how those had harmed Cuban children and hampered the ability of the Cuban State to acquire necessary technical or medical equipment, especially those materials that were under United States patent.  “This embargo must end”, he said, also calling for a halt to all unilateral measures that would affect or alter free trade and regional socio-economic cooperation.  Mexico supported the draft resolution under consideration and stressed that it was time that the text, which had always received near universal support in the Assembly, be applied in reality.

LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said the United Nations had urged the United States to end the embargo against Cuba for the past 14 years.  Instead, the embargo had been tightened, with the enforcement of laws and provisions of a distinctly extraterritorial character.  Running counter to the fundamental principles of international law, the Charter and the fundamental principles of the World Trade Organization, the embargo was the longest-running blockade in history.  Prolonging it only caused further tension in the bilateral relations between the two countries and increased the hardships of the Cuban people, particularly those who were vulnerable, such as women and children.  The situation required an urgent solution.

Every State had the inalienable right to determine its own political system and path to development, he asserted.  The differences between the United States and Cuba “should and can be settled through dialogue and negotiations” based on mutual respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of the other.  Normalization and development of friendly relations between the two close neighbours would serve the interests of their peoples and those of regional and international peace and security.

LIU ZHENMIN (China), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group 77 and China, said that it was regrettable that, in the age of globalization, that the embargo against Cuba was still in place.  Having normal economic and commercial ties among countries was in the interest of all and was not a favour given from one country to another.  Dialogue on an equal footing was the best way to resolve any difference.

He said that, for more than 40 years, the embargo and sanctions against Cuba have been carried out under the pretext of “promoting democracy, freedom and human rights in Cuba”, but the reality was that the practice of attempting to force another country to give up its independently chosen path of development, even to overthrow its Government, through embargo and sanctions, was a violation of the Charter and the basic norms governing contemporary international relations.  That kind of practice had nothing to do with promoting democracy and freedom.

Furthermore, he said, the embargo was extraterritorial in nature and, therefore, violated international law and international trade rules.  It also ran counter to the principle of trade liberalization.  The blockade had also seriously obstructed and constrained the efforts of the Cuban people to eradicate poverty, improve their living standard, and achieve economic and social development.  Not only had the embargo harmed the interests of Cuba and other countries, but, it also went against the principles of democracy, freedom, rule of law and human rights, thus completely defeating the policy goals claimed by the country concerned.

RONALD GODARD ( United States) said that his country’s embargo on Cuba was a bilateral issue, and, as such, should not come before the Assembly.  The measures had been maintained in an effort on the part of the United States to ensure and promote the exercise of human, political and socio-economic rights for all Cuban people, and to ensure that such rights were only enjoyed solely by privileged Cuban leaders.  Indeed, Cuba introduced this text, year after year, cynically asking everyone to blame the United States and ignore the truth:  that the Cuban Government’s denial of the political, human, economic, and labour rights of its people -- for some 40 years -- was the real source of the problem.

While Cuba had asked the Assembly to blame the United States for Cuba’s own blatant denial of the rights of its citizens’ freedom of expression and association, that Government had steadfastly refused to accept the need to promote the free market reforms and human rights models, which would actually help the Cuban people.  Washington’s embargo did not, as the resolution suggested, interfere with navigation in Cuban waters, or prevent others from trading with Cuba.  The United States continued to provide Cuba with billions of dollars in agricultural commodities, and billions more in medical equipment.  It had been independently confirmed that the United States was Cuba’s biggest food supplier, he added.

He went on to highlight some of the reforms the United States believed would benefit the Cuban people, including the holding of free and fair elections, promoting an open economy, and free trade unions, among others.  Upon taking office, United States President George Bush had vowed that evidence of serious efforts to implement such concrete change would be matched by serious consideration in Congress on ways to ease restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba.  Since that time, Cuba had answered Washington’s call for action by only imprisoning more educators, human rights leaders and trade unionists.

The text before the Assembly blamed the United States but did not refer to the Cuban Government’s own embargo against its own people, he said, stressing that Cuba continued to deny United Nations and independent human rights investigators from visiting the country and meeting there with its citizens.  The United States would vote against the draft resolution and would encourage all delegations that supported the human rights and transition to freedom for the Cuban people to do the same.

PRAYONO ATIYANTO (Indonesia) associated himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and thanked the Secretary-General for a comprehensive document, which included statements by Member States unanimously opposing the unilateral and extraterritorial embargo against Cuba.  Indonesia had had a long-standing position against the embargo, which, he said, had been based on the fact that the application of unilateral and extraterritorial economic and financial embargoes violated the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.

The principles of non-intervention must be respected and upheld, he said, adding that the embargo presented a major impediment to the right of development of sovereign States and their people.  The right to development was a basic human, economic and cultural rig/ht, and the embargo was an obstacle to the call for achieving the global development agenda, as embodied in the Millennium Summit outcome document.  Continuing the embargo would only maintain high tensions between neighbouring countries and fail to lay the foundations for a more peaceful coexistence.

FELIPE PEREZ ROQUE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said his country was coming to the Assembly for the fifteenth time with a draft resolution entitled “The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”  The economic war waged by the United States against Cuba for the last 48 years was the longest and cruellest act ever known.  It was an “act of genocide” and a flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

Declaring that the United States was lying when it alleged in its statement before the Assembly, that Cuba used the embargo as an excuse for its own shortcomings, he said the embargo posed incredible limitations on his country.  It banned trade and tourism from the United States; it blocked Cuba from using the United States dollar in its external financial transactions; it forbade United States banks and their subsidiaries in other countries from working with Cuba; and it stopped the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) from granting credits to Cuba.  More importantly, the United States imposed those “criminal” provisions on Cuba’s economic relations with other countries, preventing businessmen from other countries from investing in Cuba, and threatening those who ignored the ban from entry into the United States.

He said that the United States was continuing with its plans to “re-colonize” Cuba –- plans that had been introduced in 2004, and updated in 2006.  The restrictions in the plan had been tightened.  They included limiting family-related visits by Cuban residents in the United States and further restraints on academic, cultural, scientific and sports exchanges with the United States.  The plans also included a secret annex that would not be made public “for national security reasons,” he added.  Exchanges between Cuban and United States churches had also been introduced, and Cuba’s international medical programme was being affected by the United States ban on the purchase of medical equipment and medicine by Cuba.

The United States had being trying to reverse the overwhelming support generated by the draft resolution in the Assembly, he said.  It was also trying to sabotage the vote by introducing an amendment, which it had convinced Australia to present to the Assembly today.  Australia, an “accomplice” to United States imperialism, did not have the moral authority to refer to the human rights situation in Cuba, he charged.  He urged Member States to vote in favour of the motion of no action, which Cuba would be presenting to prevent passage of the Australian amendment.

He also said he was offended by reference to Jose Marti in the United States’ statement.  Such mention in favour of the embargo had stained the glorious name of Marti, he insisted.

BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said the embargo imposed on Cuba for more than 45 years had established a precedent for the unilateral behaviour of States outside the framework of international law.  Cuba’s people had a right to freely select their political, economic, social and cultural systems, and in accordance with international law.  The support of 182 States to the related resolution adopted during the Assembly’s last session had been a clear indication of the international community’s determination to end the embargo.  That had also emphasized the need to respect the political, economic and social systems every country selected as its own.

Noting calls for removal of the embargo by the non-aligned movement and by the Group of 77 and China, he said the United States had taken no steps in the last 15 years to satisfy the international community’s desires.  It had “intentionally and stubbornly” continued its mistaken position of disregarding a legitimate request of the international community.  Further, it had imposed new measures to tighten the embargo, with policies that directly threatened the stability of the region and constituted a threat to international peace and security.  The Security Council should act in accordance with its mandate and take all necessary steps to end the embargo, the economic sanctions and the aggressive policies of the United States against a neighbouring country and against other States.

VIJAYA RAGHAVAN (India), aligning himself itself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the embargo was having a negative impact on Cuban efforts to eradicate poverty and promote socio-economic development, and it hindered the full enjoyment of human rights.  In addition, the embargo had also negatively affected the right to food, medical care and social services.  Indeed, the American Association for the World Health had concluded that the embargo had caused a significant rise in suffering in patients having to do without essential drugs or doctors, or medical equipment.  The negative impact of the embargo in the educational sector was also linked to trade restrictions, which prevented the purchase of needed inputs at more competitive prices.  Cuba’s access to markets, capital, technology and investment had also been limited.

He said that such constraints were not in conformity with multilateral trading regimes and could not be justified, including in terms of essential security interests.  In a normal situation, Cuba and the United States would be natural economic partners, benefiting mutually from trade.   India, one of the largest democracies in the world, had consistently opposed any unilateral measures by countries, which impinged on the sovereignty of another country, and he shared the view of the Assembly that sanctions, irrespective of their purpose, have to comply with the customary international law principle of non-intervention and proportionality.  He called on the international community to redouble its efforts to have an environment free from sanctions and embargoes.

HOSSEIN GHARIBI ( Iran) said that unilateral coercive economic policies and measures should be regarded as major impediments for the international community in pursuing its common causes and interests.  The adoption of 14 consecutive Assembly resolutions had been the reaction of the international community to the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  Resorting to embargo as a tool to achieve political objectives undermined the collective efforts of the Member States for achieving economic growth and sustainable development.

He recalled that the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation called upon States to refrain any unilateral measure, which contravened international law and the United Nations Charter, and impeded the economic and social development of the population of the affected countries.  In September 2006, the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, held in Cuba, had called upon the United States to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, which, in addition to being unilateral and contrary to the United Nations Charter and international law, was causing huge material losses and economic damage to the people of Cuba.

HAMIDON ALI (Malaysia), reaffirming his delegation’s commitment to the principles of international law and its solidarity with the Cuban people, urged the United States to look beyond the confines of vested interests and change its policy from one of isolation of its smaller neighbour, to that of dialogue.  Aligning itself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, his delegation rejected the use of unilateral measures by one Member State to affect political change in another.  Laws, such as the Toricelli and the Helms-Burton Acts, had limited Cuba’s access to markets, capital, technology and investment.  His Government remained fundamentally opposed to the illegal nature of those laws and the embargo, which were used to exert pressure on Cuba to change its political and economic orientation.

KAIRE MBUENDE ( Namibia) said that it was a near universal consensus throughout the international community that the Helms-Burton Acts contradicted international law and could not stand the test of the United States’ own legal tradition.  Namibia would vote in favour of the resolution, not only as an expression of solidarity with the Cuban people, but, above all, in defence of the sovereignty of so many nations on which the terms of Washington’s embargo encroached.  Namibia was committed to the principle, if free trade and international market participation.  The entire international community should be working towards freer market access for developing countries, and he could not support policies which contravened that noble aim.

He said he believed in the autonomy of market forces and rejected undue interference in the marketplace.  The embargo had raised the cost of doing business, not only with Cuba, but also with third countries.  “It is a threat to a healthy business environment”, he said, adding that the measure was also a blow to economies and societies in other developing countries, particularly in Africa and wider Latin America.  Cuba, notwithstanding its own troubles, remained an important partner for Africa in its struggle to overcome poverty.

He, then, asked Assembly delegations to imagine the position of many poor African villages where the only doctor was from Cuba.  Indeed, he recalled that some 30 years ago, the only dentist in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, had been Cuban.  He wondered whether anyone had thought to consider the impact of withdrawing so many Cuban doctors from African countries.  It was against that background that the United States Government must heed the call of the international community and end its blockade.

PATRICK C. MOMBO (United Republic of Tanzania) joined other Member States in calling for the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo unilaterally imposed against Cuba by the United States.  The country had endured the embargo valiantly but at a forbidding cost.  The blockade had been particularly damaging to the Cuban population, in particular the women, children and the elderly.  Like many countries, his was concerned that the sanctions imposed under the Helms-Burton Act exceeded the jurisdiction of national legislation and encroached on the sovereignty of other States that dealt with Cuba.  He, therefore, deemed the Act as incompatible with the principle of the sovereign equality of States.

He went on to say that the embargo was a “systematic collective punishment in violation of human rights and international law”.  It ran counter to all prevailing moral and ethnical values as innocent people suffered.  Its extraterritorial nature continued to cause considerable damage to Cuba, as well as to third countries, which were prevented from taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by the Cuban economy.  He, thus, supported the draft resolution to end the embargo, and he called on the United States to end the blockade and normalize relations with Cuba.  That might prove to be the most constructive way of reconciling decades-old differences with positive spin-off to the region and the world, he suggested.

Introduction of Amendment

ROBERT HILL ( Australia) said that, since 1992, the Assembly had passed annual resolutions on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  His country, along with an overwhelming majority of Member States had supported those resolutions, because it believed that the trade embargo was wrong and that it should be lifted immediately for the benefit of the Cuban people

His country had understood that the United States embargo had been motivated by concerns about lack of democracy and political freedom in Cuba.  Australia shared those concerns, as his delegation explained every year; while it voted to oppose the embargo, it had concerns about the state of human rights and political freedoms in Cuba.

This year, however, Australia wanted to propose a different approach, he offered.  His country was asking the Assembly to pass an amended motion that would call on Cuba to improve its human rights performance.  That could be done with adoption of an amendment (document A/61/L.19), which called on Cuba to release all political prisoners, respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and comply with all human rights treaties it had signed in the past.

He said that the amendment gave the Assembly the opportunity of a “win-win outcome” by calling for an end to the embargo, but also by making a statement that those without political rights in Cuba deserved better.  He deplored the attack made in the Assembly by Cuba against his country, saying that it was no wonder that no other Member State would take a similar stand, because it would be abused by the Cubans with such offensive language.

Introduction of No Action Motion

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba), introducing a motion for no action on the amendment, argued that the additional text drafted by the United States, and introduced by Australia, was contrary to the letter and spirit of the resolution, which had already asked for a removal of the embargo.

He said that Australia’s amendment sought to create a pretext for continuing and extending the unilateral embargo against Cuba.  If the Bush Administration and the subordinate Government had any concerns about human rights in Cuba, they should have channelled that amendment through the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), but it did not dare engage in the face to face debate that would result from such an introduction in that Committee.  What was being attempted today was to legitimize the desires of the powerful to impose unilateral coercive methods on others.

Mere consideration of the Australian amendment would go against the basics of international relations, as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, he said.  Thus, Cuba was submitting a motion of no action on the amendment, and requested all Member States to support such action.

Explanation of Position

Speaking before action on the amendment, the representative of the United States said the Assembly’s resolutions, approved every year, condemning the United States embargo against Cuba, were inaccurate in attributing the suffering of the Cuban people to the embargo, and in not addressing the Cuban Government’s own policies, which continued to deny human, labour and economic rights to the Cuban people.  This year, it was important that the international community spoke up for the Cuban people and recognized that it would be best for them if Cuba pursued a transition to democracy, and gave Cubans the right to enjoy their full economic rights.

He called on Member States not to turn a blind eye to human rights violators because that would undermine the effectiveness of the Organization.  The Assembly should not act as a protector, or an apologist, for regimes that violated human rights.  The United States would be voting against the motion, and he asked other States to do the same.

The representative of South Africa said that the Group of 77 rejected all use of unilateral measures and economic sanctions as a severe threat to international trade and investment.  Such measures also contravened the Charter.  The amendment introduced by Australia was not acceptable, since it asked Cuba, and other developing countries, to abdicate their responsibility of defining democracy for themselves, or what constituted political freedom.  Adopting the amendment would not be a win-win situation, it would be a “lose-lose” situation.

The representative of China said the contents of the amendment were not new to the Assembly; it distorted the spirit of the draft resolution at hand.  That resolution reflected the overwhelming view of the international community on the United States embargo against Cuba.  He, therefore, favoured the motion not to take action on the amendment.

Australia ’s representative then said that, not surprisingly, his delegation opposed the “no action” motion.  Respectfully, he would emphasize that there was some confusion between the aims of the amendment’s text and the aims of Cuba’s annual draft.  Every State did have the right to pursue its economic and development path, but all States were also obliged to comply with the principles of the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The amendment had sought to draw attention to that fact.  To call for an end to the embargo, but not to call on Cuba to implement human rights norms, was a refusal to accept reality, as there was a linkage between the two.

The motion for “no action” was carried by a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 51 against, with 5 abstentions ( Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Samoa, Switzerland, Tonga) (annex I).

Thus, the proposed amendment to draft resolution A/61/L.10 was defeated.

Action on the Draft Resolution

The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union before action on the draft resolution, said that, while her delegation was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Cuba, she believed that critical engagement with the Cuban Government and dialogue with Cuban civil society was the most effective way of promoting peaceful change.

While the European Union believed that the United States’ trade policy towards Cuba was fundamentally a bilateral issue, it could not accept that unilateral measures –- contrary to commonly accepted rules of international trade -- limited its economic and commercial relations with third parties, such as Cuba.  At the same time, voicing concern over cases of intimidation and harassment to repress critical voices, she urged the Cuban Government to release all prisoners and refrain from acts against members of their families.  She also appealed to Cuban authorities to cooperate fully with international human rights bodies and mechanisms, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  She echoed the call to lift the United States trade embargo, as that would open Cuba’s economy for the benefit of the Cuban people.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that his delegation continued to believe in the inadmissibility of unilateral measures of an extraterritorial nature, as those were counter-productive.  Russia, like the preponderance of United Nations Member States, rejected such measures and would support the text.  Furthermore, ending the embargo and enhancing the relationship between the United States and Cuba would improve the conditions in and around Cuba.

On a point of order, the representative of Benin said that, mistakenly, his delegation had voted against the motion for no action, when it had intended to vote for it, thereby suppressing action on the amendment.

Next, the draft resolution (document A/61/L.10) was adopted by a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 4 against ( Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States), with 1 abstention (Federated States of Micronesia). (Annex II).

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, Brazil, on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), restated his delegation’s rejection of such unilateral measures.  Washington’s embargo did nothing to promote dialogue or enhance democratic freedom.  Indeed, such a measure only led to polarization.  The international community had just spoken clearly on the matter, and the MERCOSUR reiterated its belief in the multilateral system.

The representative of the Sudan said the Cuban people had been suffering for some 40 years.  The embargo amounted to a supreme contravention of the principles of the Charter, as well as the rule of law and sovereignty of States.  The Assembly’s action today had shown that the international community rejected the persistence of the embargo and its support for the choice of peoples to choose their own political and socio-economic systems.  The embargo had been tightened over the past few years, and its unjust nature had now been heightened by Draconian measures to deter trade with Cuba.  The Sudan would call on the people of Cuba to continue to resist the measure.  He had voted in favour of the resolution.

Bolivia’s representative said that the 40-year embargo impacted the Cuban people’s attempt to promote their own democratic system, while at the same time, it interfered with Cuba’s efforts to promote, and protect, human rights.  Bolivia called on the United States to review its policy, particularly in light of the serious economic and humanitarian impacts on the Cuban people.  He demanded an immediate end to the embargo and a replacement of that oppressive policy with one of dialogue, promotion of free will and development.  He also urged the United States Government to replace sanctions with dialogue.

Agreeing with previous speakers that the embargo violated the spirit of the Charter, Myanmar’s representative said he rejected all unilateral and coercive measures.   Washington’s embargo was aimed at destroying the political and socio-economic well-being of the Cuban people.  Moreover, the measure was “inhumane,” particularly because it severely affected the women and children of Cuba.  Myanmar had joined the international community in calling on the United States to end its disastrous blockade.

The representative of Zimbabwe aligned himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and said that the fact that resolutions condemning the United States embargo against Cuba were introduced every year, but remained ignored, was testimony that the United Nations dispute settlement mechanisms had serious shortcomings.

He stressed that it was time for the United States to take bold and positive steps to end the embargo.  His country understood the negative impact that illegitimate and immoral measures had on the lives of ordinary people, because it was also a victim of an embargo.  It was ironic that leading advocates of free trade were also champions of economic blockades, in “a vile game of double standards”.  Persisting with the United States embargo undermined the development efforts aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  His country stood in solidarity with the people of Cuba.  To vote for Cuba strengthened the multilateral process and rejected unilateral approaches, he said.

The representative of Belarus spoke in favour of the resolution and said he understood that economic wars did not yield positive results and only led to destruction.  Belarus did not understand the tightening of the blockade, following repeated appeals by the international community to end the embargo.  Belarus called on those in favour of sanctions to let the Cubans live and work in peace.  The international community needed to concentrate on real, and not spurious, problems, and the quicker they realized that, the faster order would reign.  Belarus was happy to stand together with Cuba, “our tried and true friend”, in support of the resolution.

Lesotho’s speaker rejected the unilateral imposition of all forms of economic, commercial and financial embargoes, and regarded any form of coercive measures by one State against another as dangerous and inadmissible.  It was the sovereign right of the people of any country, including Cuba, to determine their system of Government and model of development that was most appropriate.  He also reiterated his Government’s strong conviction that Cuba be allowed that right -- without suffering the hardship and misery it had endured for more than four decades because of the embargo.

Libya’s representative said he had voted in favour of the resolution because he believed that the imposition of sanctions was not the right means to resolve bilateral differences.  All discussion between countries should take place on equal footing under the Charter and embody the norms of international law.  The resolution sent the message that no progress could be made to establish peace without international cooperation anchored in mutual respect, regardless of a country’s size, economic strength and development level.

He reaffirmed Libya’s opposition to sanctions and expressed concern that those measures only deepened human suffering, contrary to the principles of the Charter.  The people of Cuba, particularly women, children and elderly, had suffered from the unfair embargo.  Hopefully, the resolution would contribute to the elimination of the embargo, and he called on the United States to resolve its differences with Cuba by peaceful means.

The representative of Zambia reiterated his support for the immediate lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo.  The embargo had resulted in negative implications for Cuba’s balance of trade and foreign exchange earnings and the volume of production.  It had also negatively impacted its commercial, food and agricultural activities.

He also expressed Zambia’s concern at the persistent imposition of restrictions by the United States against the people of Cuba.  Furthermore, measures taken under the Helms-Burton Law constituted a violation on Cuba’s free trade and navigation.  As in the past, Zambia supported the draft resolution to lift the embargo.

The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic said the embargo had benefited neither side and had been particularly tough on Cuba and its people.  The measure clearly contravened the principle of State sovereignty.  Under the Charter, no country had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country, despite different views of opinion on ways to promote democracy and economic growth.  The Lao People’s Democratic Republic would continue to support the text calling for the embargo’s elimination.

Egypt’s representative said that his delegation had voted to take no action on the amendment introduced by Australia because it believed that the human rights situation of countries should be taken up in a non-confrontational and non-selective manner, and within the competence of the Human Rights Council.  The efforts of the delegation that had presented the amendment would have been better served by presenting a separate amendment in the Assembly and the Security Council on ways to alleviate the grave humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and end human rights violations being perpetrated -– at this very minute -– against the Palestinian people by Israel.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Cuba’s representative said the inhuman increase in aggression against his country reflected the frustration of the current United States Administration after its efforts to undermine the will of the Cuban people had failed.  The Cuban people would continue to fight for their freedom.  The tightening of the Helms-Burton Act also demonstrated Washington’s anti-Cuban spirit and its undisguised attempt to derail Cuban progress.  Indeed, undermining Cuba had become an obsession in the American centre of power.  But the United States was not -- and could not –- be a judge.

After the atrocities that had been revealed in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, it was clear that the United States did not have the moral authority to comment on human rights.  The same was true of Australia, which had virtually exterminated all of its indigenous populations.  Likewise, the European Union could not take such a stand against Cuba, particularly in light of the rising incidents of xenophobia and bigotry among the Union’s member States, as well as in light of Europe’s continued dependence on the sweat and labour of developing countries to prop up its very existence.

ANNEX I

Vote on ‘No Action Motion’ on Amendment to Draft Resolution on Cuba Embargo

The ‘No Action Motion’ on the proposed amendment (document A/61/L.19) to the operative section of the draft resolution on the necessity to end the economic embargo on Cuba (document A/61/L.10) was adopted by a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 51 against, with 5 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, United States.

Abstain:  Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Samoa, Switzerland, Tonga.

Absent:  Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iraq, Liberia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu.

ANNEX II

Vote on Draft Resolution on Cuba Embargo

The draft resolution on the necessity of ending the financial embargo on Cuba (document A/61/L.10) was adopted by a recorded vote of 183 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, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, 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, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, 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, 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, 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, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

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

Abstain:  Micronesia (Federated States of).

Absent:  Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Iraq, Nicaragua.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.