General Assembly, for Eighteenth Consecutive Year, Overwhelmingly Calls for End to United States Economic, Trade Embargo against Cuba

28 October 2009
GA/10877

General Assembly, for Eighteenth Consecutive Year, Overwhelmingly Calls for End to United States Economic, Trade Embargo against Cuba

28 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/10877
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Plenary

27th & 28th Meetings (AM & PM)

General Assembly, for Eighteenth Consecutive Year, Overwhelmingly Calls

for End to United States Economic, Trade Embargo against Cuba

Vote on Resolution 187 in Favour to 3 Against, with 2 Abstentions;

Adopts Text on International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala

Even though many delegates expressed a newfound optimism that United States-Cuba relations could improve with the change of Administration in Washington, the United Nations General Assembly today once again adopted a stern resolution calling on the United States to end a trade embargo, which had created human suffering and wrecked havoc with the economy of the island nation.

With a recorded vote of 187 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United States and Palau), and 2 abstentions (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands), the 192-Member Assembly in its resolution urged the lifting of stiff commercial, financial and economic sanctions that were slapped on Cuba in the aftermath of the cold war.  This marked the eighteenth year the world body had adopted a similar resolution on the issue.  (See Annex.)

As happened last year, a burst of applause greeted the Assembly’s passage of text that reaffirmed the sovereign equality of States, the non-intervention and non-interference in their affairs, and the freedom of international trade and navigation.  The two-page document again called upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures such as that promulgated in the 1996 “Helms-Burton Act” which carried extraterritorial effects that impacted the sovereignty of other States.

Introducing the resolution on the Cuban trade embargo, Bruno Rodriguez Parrila, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, called the blockade an “uncultured act of arrogance” that had hampered the development of Cuba’s economy and was also applied to other countries that wanted to carry out business with the Caribbean nation.  He said it was an “absurd policy” that caused suffering and led to shortages of basic necessities.  The embargo was a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights.  In the Geneva Convention of 1948, it was classified as an act of genocide, he added.

With executive powers, President Obama had an historical opportunity to lead a policy change and lift the blockade.  He was vested with the executive powers to substantially modify the implementation of the measures by granting “special license” or waivers, making humanitarian exceptions, or acting for the sake of the United States national interests.

Speaking ahead of the vote, the United States’ representative said “here we go again”.  The Cuban Government’s hostile language seemed straight out of the cold war and the United States would not respond in kind to such familiar rhetoric.  She would, however, acknowledge “a new chapter to this old story”.  In recent months, the United States had taken several steps to reach out to Cubans to help ensure they could freely determine their country’s future.  Like all countries, the United States had the sovereign right to conduct economic relations with another country as it saw fit, and the embargo was part of a broader set of relations.

She drew attention to distortions in the Cuban position and said she regretted that Cuba continued to incorrectly label trade restrictions as an act of “genocide.”  It was equally erroneous to charge that sanctions were the cause of Cuba’s deprivation.  The United States maintained no restrictions on humanitarian aid -- it was the largest provider of food to Cuba and exported other items like wood and medicine.  Given that scenario, she called on Cuba to take steps to respond to the desire of its citizens to enjoy social, political and economic freedoms.

The representative of St. Kitts and Nevis, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), opposed the embargo and said the unilateral imposition of extra-territorial laws on third States was contrary to both the letter and spirit of the United Nations.  The Caribbean Community was especially concerned by the punitive embargo as it impeded the region’s overall development. CARICOM maintained close relations with Cuba through a wide range of programmes in areas from trade to health care to infrastructure.  Yet the delegation believed that a new beginning was possible in United States- Cuban relations even with the long history of dashed hopes.

The representative of Indonesia also expressed hope that the once icy relations between the two countries would end and a new era of cooperation would blossom in coming years.  “This year, we have reason to be optimistic”, he said, citing recent steps taken.  He said relations between States would constantly be tested as countries faced the challenge of balancing cooperation and competition.

Providing a view from another hemisphere, the representative of South Africa said the embargo’s relentless consequences had created untold suffering and the time to end it was long overdue.  He lauded Cuba’s support to other nations around the world, notably in the areas of health, education and biotechnology, and said the island nation’s role in South Africa’s liberation history was celebrated last year.  He welcomed the rapprochement initiated by the current United States administration and called on Washington to end the embargo and engage in meaningful dialogue.

Before considering the situation in Central America in the afternoon, General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki conveyed his deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the five United Nations staff members who were killed in the recent “shocking and shameless” terrorist raid in Afghanistan.  He joined the Secretary-General in condemning all threats and acts of violence against humanitarian personnel and United Nations personnel, and reaffirmed the need to hold accountable those responsible for such acts.

The Assembly then adopted by consensus a resolution requesting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to undertake with the Government of Guatemala the steps necessary to enhance the role that the United Nations played in providing effective and efficient assistance to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.

That work would fall within the framework of the Commission’s founding agreement of 12 December 2006.  The resolution, introduced by the representative of Guatemala, also called on the Guatemalan Government to keep providing all necessary support to overcome the challenges outlined in a recent report of the Secretary-General and to strengthen the institutions that buttressed the rule of law and defence of human rights.

Finally today, delegates also debated the volatile situation in Honduras, which had plunged into a serious political crisis after Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya had been ousted in a coup in June.  The representative of Brazil, in whose Embassy in Tegucigalpa President Zelaya had taken refuge, said the coup d’état was no longer acceptable in a region that had outgrown years of instability and bloody violence.  She stressed that President Zelaya’s reinstatement was the only way to ensure peace and a return to constitutional legitimacy.

In other business, the Assembly also decided to consider the report of the Human Rights Council on its twelfth special session (document A/HRC/S-12/1) on 4 November 2009, without setting a precedent.

Also speaking today on the United State’s embargo against Cuba were the representatives of Sudan (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Mexico, China, India, Viet Nam, Algeria, Zambia, Venezuela, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Gambia, Russian Federation, Iran and Brazil.

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote on the resolution A/64/L.4 were the representatives of the United States of America, the Congo and Nicaragua.

The Foreign Minister of Cuba spoke again after the vote.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote were the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Uruguay (on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bolivia, Ghana, Solomon Islands, Syria, Libya, Norway, Uganda, Benin, Belarus and United Republic of Tanzania.

The President of the General Assembly also delivered remarks on that topic.

Also speaking on the situation in Central America were the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Switzerland, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, Spain, Argentina, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras and United States.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 29 October to take up the reports of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Background

The General Assembly met today to discuss the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba”, and was expected, as it has for the past eighteen years, to take up a similarly titled resolution.

For its discussion, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (A/64/97), which contains replies of 122 Governments and 25 United Nations bodies, received as at 30 July 2009, following the request of the Secretary-General for information on that matter.  Replies received after that date will be reproduced in addenda to the present report.

In its submission to the report, the Cuban Government said that nothing fundamental had changed since the new United States Administration took office in January 2009.  Nor had anything been done to implement General Assembly resolution 63/7, adopted 29 October 2008 by 185 votes in favour and only 3 against.

An “extremely conservative” calculation of the direct economic damage to the Cuban people since December 2008 due to the embargo amounted to $96 million, or $236,221 million at the dollar’s current rate of exchange.  The embargo is not only illegal; it is morally unsustainable.  No such sanctions system had been imposed on any other country for such a long period and the United States should therefore lift it without further delay or excuse, the Cuban Government says in the report.

The Assembly was also to take up the situation in Central America and had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the Activities of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (document A/64/370), which provides an overview of the Commission’s work, results, challenges and its strategy outline for the next two years.  The Commission’s goal is to support, strengthen and assist Guatemalan institutions responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes allegedly committed by illegal security forces and clandestine security organizations, among others.  While an international body, it investigates and promotes criminal prosecutions within Guatemala’s national justice system.

The report observes that, while the Commission maintains positive collaboration with its Government counterparts, frequent personnel changes within Government institutions, notably the justice and security sectors, was a challenge.  Problems within the judicial system continue to hamper the fight against impunity and some judges appear to be subject to external influence.  While the Commission has insisted on the urgent need to create specialized courts in Guatemala City to hear high-impact cases, implementation challenges remain.  In particular, there is an urgent need to create a maximum security judicial and penitentiary facility.

Also, security risks increased with the profile of the Commission, the report says, and the staff’s safety is among the greatest challenges, particularly as a number of judges, prosecutors and witnesses involved in the Commission’s investigations and prosecutions faced threats.  The Commission’s status as a non-United Nations body presents unprecedented operational challenges, both for it and the Secretariat, notably in the recruitment of experienced professionals.  The lack of United Nations contracts led to incomplete benefits and entitlements for its staff.

Further, of great concern is the fact that Guatemalan staff do not enjoy immunities for the activities they perform for the Commission and are therefore at greater risk than international staff.  To protect such staff, a memorandum of understanding was drafted with the Department of Safety and Security of the Secretariat and is pending approval by the Government.

As for next steps, the report says the Commission’s main goal over the next year will be to solve serious criminal cases of impunity related to clandestine security apparatuses.  It will do so through the maximum possible coordination with national law enforcement authorities to build their capacity and show that such apparatuses can be successfully dismantled.  The Commission will also work to improve the judicial system by promoting transparent procedures in the selection of Supreme Court and Appellate Court judges, following procedures in the recently approved Law on Nominating Committees.

The Commission will also promote the urgent application of the Law on Criminal Jurisdiction in High-Risk Proceedings and the establishment of the specialized courts, the report concludes.  To ensure further advances in the application of justice, it will work closely with the President of Congress and political party leaders to promote implementation of the Commission’s legal reform proposals.

Statements

ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said his delegation had always been firmly against the embargo and, at the Second South Summit in 2005, had firmly rejected the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact and all other coercive measures.  At the thirty-third annual meeting on 25 September 2009, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the “Group of 77” had also reiterated their firm rejection of the imposition of such laws, emphasizing that such actions not only undermined Charter principles and international law, but severely threatened the freedom of trade and investment.  They called on States to neither recognize nor apply such measures.

Continuing, he said that Government communications in the Secretary-General’s report showed that the embargo remained largely unchanged and that its deepening impacts would further aggravate hardships for Cubans.  The “Group of 77”, therefore, called on the United States to heed the increasing calls to end the five-decade old embargo and fully adhere to the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in Cuba’s internal affairs.  The embargo frustrated efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and regional cooperation.  The Group was committed to working towards a better world in which all nations coexisted peacefully and would again fully support the draft resolution against the embargo.  He urged all others to do so as well.

MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, renewed his commitment to defend, preserve and promote the United Nations Charter and international law, as well as to promote, preserve and strengthen multilateralism and its decision-making process.  He rejected the adoption of extraterritorial or unilateral measures or laws, including unilateral economic sanctions or other illegal measures contrary to international law that sought to exert pressure on Non-Aligned countries.

Such measures aimed to prevent those countries from exercising their right to decide by their own free will, their own political, economic and social systems.  In accordance with international law, the Non-Aligned Movement supported the claim of affected States to compensation for damage incurred as a consequence of the implementation of extraterritorial or unilateral coercive measures.  He said the economic embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba had existed for 50 years.  That meant 70 per cent of the island’s population had been born under the embargo.  He expressed concern over the continuation of this long‑standing unilateral policy, especially after the overwhelming majority of States consistently rejected it, as evidenced by last year’s resolution that received support of 185 Member States.

During a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt adopted an exceptional declaration that reflected the importance the Non-Aligned Movement attached to the issue.  The embargo had caused huge financial losses and negatively impacted the well-being of Cubans.  In conclusion, he expressed concern over the widening of the extraterritorial nature of the embargo and urged the United States Government to end it.  Lastly, despite the embargo, he noted that Cuba had conducted its presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement in a highly capable and commendable manner, which preserved the interests of the member States of the Movement.

DELANO F. BART (Saint Kitts and Nevis), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his delegation reiterated its unequivocal opposition to the United States’ imposition of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, which had been opposed by the overwhelming majority of the international community for the past 17 years.  The unilateral imposition of extraterritorial laws on third States was contrary to both the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.  The embargo ran counter to the principles of multilateralism, international law, sovereignty and free trade that the body traditionally championed.

The punitive embargo was of particular concern to CARICOM, which maintained close relations with Cuba through wide-ranging cooperative programmes in areas such as trade, health care, infrastructure, human resource development and other areas.  Its future regional development was reliant in many ways on the area’s collective advancement and progress.  The embargo was not just a punitive act against Cuba, but an impediment to the region’s shared development.  The Secretary-General’s report showed that the embargo even impacted the manner in which organs and agencies of the United Nations system carried out their work in Cuba.  The embargo’s impacts on the Cuban economy and its humanitarian impacts on the people of that island nation in the areas of health care and food were especially saddening, he said.

Continuing, he said that with the increasing frequency and strengthening of hurricanes wrought by climate change, the embargo’s unacceptable humanitarian impact was even more acute.  It was remarkable that Cuba continued to help other nations in the developing world even as it struggled with a recent string of natural disasters and the impact of the global economic crisis.  Despite the long history of dashed hopes, CARICOM believed that a new beginning was possible in the relationship between the Governments of Cuba and the United States.  But the lifting of the embargo was a prerequisite of any meaningful rapprochement between the two countries, not a negotiated end result.  Even with recent positive indicators of flexibility, CARICOM noted that the United States’ Trading with the Enemy Act, which listed only Cuba as its target, was renewed just last month.

CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) vehemently expressed his country’s opposition to economic, commercial and financial sanctions that had been imposed on Cuba, likening them to coercive actions that were not supported by the United Nations Charter.  Such measures had grave humanitarian consequences and went against international law, as well as the principles of dialogue and diplomacy.  He stressed that political, economic and military sanctions could only stem from decisions made by the Security Council or the General Assembly.  Global conflict resolution and peace could ultimately be solved through multilateralism and international law.  A number of United Nations agencies had noted the negative impact of the embargo on Cuba’s economic and social development, demonstrating that such decisions could not be taken unilaterally.

The United State’s embargo against Cuba had “affected the population in a silent, systematic and cumulative manner for almost half a century”, he said.  Despite the island nation’s economic and political isolation, Mexico had supported its regional and global integration, to foster economic growth, trade and development.  Facts had shown that exclusion could only serve to amplify disputes.   Mexico welcomed the United State’s decision to allow the flow of remittances and Cuban Americans across both territories.  Nonetheless, much more remained to be done to mitigate the negative effects of the embargo against Cuba, he said, and reminded the Assembly that “societies evolve and change according to their own circumstances and not as a result of measures imposed from outside”.

ZHANG YESUI ( China) regretted that even though for 17 consecutive years, the General Assembly had adopted consecutive resolutions urging all countries to repeal or invalidate all laws and measures that compromised the sovereignty of other States, those resolutions had not been effectively implemented.  The result had been that the long-term economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba was still in place.  Not only did the United States embargo against the Caribbean island nation constitute a serious violation of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, it also immensely undermined the Cuban people’s rights to survival and development.

Noting the new Obama Administration’s announcement in April this year to lift travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban Americans, he welcomed the move and hoped that the United States would continue to improve its relations with Cuba and promote normal exchanges between peoples of the two countries.  In today’s world, multilateralism and democracy of international relations struck at the root in people’s hearts, and opening up, cooperation, mutual respect and win-win progress had become the consensus of the international community, he added, noting that when disputes arose, dialogue on an equal footing and friendly consultation was the best course to take.

GIRIJA VYAS ( India) said that for the past 17 consecutive years, the General Assembly had deliberated on this agenda item and had categorically rejected the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact.  The repeated resolutions remained unimplemented and the nearly 50-year embargo had continued.  In the report of the Secretary-General, various United Nations entities detailed the impact of the embargo.  In addition, the Resident Coordinator in Havana had noted that humanitarian and development coordination implemented by the United Nations system was significantly affected by the embargo.  It also affected the functioning of United Nations offices and travel of staff.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated that the effects of the embargo could be observed in all spheres of Cuba’s social and economic activities, and that it affected the most vulnerable groups and human development in general.  The negative consequences of the embargo increased project costs by 15 per cent.  The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had also reported negative impacts.  The health sector was most impacted due to enhanced cost and restrictions on equipment and technologies.  Natural disasters in Cuba last year coupled with the current financial crisis had made the impact of the embargo more acute.

Given the geography, Cuba and the United States could be expected to be natural partners in trade, the potential for economic ties existed.  For example, he said that under its Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, the United States became the largest exporter of agricultural products to Cuba.  Efforts to relax the embargo indicated substantial interest, especially by the business sector, for unhindered access to the Cuban market.  India was encouraged by the steps announced by United States President Barack Obama to ease restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, and on United States telecommunications.  He looked forward to the full lifting of the embargo and related sanctions against Cuba.

LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said that for 17 consecutive years, the Assembly had demanded an end to the unilateral economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba.  The United States’ unilateral imposition of the embargo seriously violated international laws, including those related to the freedom of trade and navigation, sovereign equality and non-interference in States’ internal affairs.  It ran counter to universally recognized norms governing relations between sovereign countries and both the principles and spirit of the United Nations Charter.  For the past year, the embargo had made it difficult for Cubans to fully recover from successive natural disasters, and had hit those wishing to develop legitimate trade relations with Cuba, including American businesses.

He agreed with comments by the United States President at the Assembly’s general debate this year that democracy could not be imposed on any nation from the outside and that “each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect”.  State disputes should and could only be resolved through peaceful dialogue on the basis of equality, mutual respect for sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States.  As such, Viet Nam joined others in demanding that the United States end its embargo to reduce tension and create an atmosphere conducive to normalizing relations between the two countries.  Reaffirming support for the Government and people of Cuba, he said Viet Nam would vote in favour of the draft resolution.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said relations between States would be constantly tested by “waves of change”.  They would always face the challenge of balancing cooperation and competition, and while differences would always remain, they should not prevent movement towards creating a space for cooperation.  Highlighting the spirit of global partnership, laid out in the Millennium Declaration and 2002 Monterrey Consensus, he said that such commitments urged countries to set aside differences and work for the common good of billions of people.  One area for cooperation that would be mutually beneficial was in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and the United States could bring much needed assistance by lifting its embargo.

As such, he reiterated the call made at the fifteenth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement to bring an immediate end to the embargo in the name of humanity.  Indeed, that would help Cuba, a developing country, continue its efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, and bring hope of prosperity to millions of Cubans.  Dialogue and negotiation were the most viable solution to resolve disagreements and the Charter clearly stipulated its preference for that avenue of peace.  Despite that the issue had been on the Assembly’s agenda for many years, tangible results had yet to be seen.  “This year, we have reason to be optimistic,” he said, as steps were being taken.  He expressed hope that the once icy relations between the two neighbours would come to an end and that a new era of cooperation would blossom in coming years.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba was still in place after half a century.  He called for an end to the unjust situation that was contrary to international legal norms.  Indeed, the blockade ran counter to development in the world and was a violation of the principle of non-interference in the affairs of a third State.

The blockade was a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and international laws, he continued.  It disturbed the circulation of capital, trade and navigation in Cuba and the rest of the region.  It also hampered the development of Cuba.  Many declarations by the international community had rejected the extraterritorial law imposed on developing countries.  Algeria requested the United States to lift the blockade that had been nearly unanimously denounced.

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said his Government continued to support the resolution before the Assembly today, as the embargo’s relentless actions had caused untold suffering.  Last year’s vote on the resolution was testimony that the time had come for it to be lifted.  Indeed, the time to end the embargo was long overdue and South Africa’s position was guided by the norms of international law to help bring about an end to coercive measures.  The continued imposition of the embargo violated the sovereign equality of States, and South Africa joined majority of countries in expressing its opposition to the embargo.

Moreover, Cubans had extended a hand of friendship to other nations around the world, notably in the areas of health, education and biotechnology, he explained.   Cuba’s contribution in support of self-determination, freedom and justice had been noted, and the island nation’s role in South Africa’s liberation history was celebrated last year.  Cuba, through bilateral cooperation projects, was greatly assisting South Africa in addressing its shortage of skilled workers in various areas.

The embargo was an obstacle to Cuba’s economic and social development, and he urged adherence to United Nations Charter principles.  Further, it was unacceptable that Cuba had been prevented from integrating into the world trade system, especially as the harsh global financial climate had only worsened Cubans’ fate.   South Africa welcomed the rapprochement initiated by current United States Administration, and called on Washington to end the embargo and engage in meaningful dialogue.  His Government would join majority of States in supporting the draft resolution.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE ( Zambia) commended the Secretary-General for his report on the necessity of ending the embargo against Cuba.  Indeed, the embargo’s continuation violated international law, as contained in international covenants.  The Assembly had called on the United States to reconsider its position and the actions of States on the relevant resolution had consistently shown the clear conflict of the embargo with the tenets of international relationships.

As such, he reaffirmed his Government’s position that lifting the embargo would be the best way forward.   Zambia continued to regard the extraterritorial effects of the embargo on third countries as worsening the already desperate socio-economic conditions in Cuba.  He urged that today’s discussions did not end up as mere formalities but, rather, result in measures that could be effectively implemented.  The Assembly should, indeed, send Cubans a strong message that it cared for their plight.  In closing, he reiterated the call to end the embargo against Cuba and that Zambia would vote in favour of lifting it.

JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) reiterated the necessity of ending the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  He condemned the application of any unilateral measures with extraterritorial effects that violated the principles and rules of international law.  The embargo violated the principles of self-determination and sovereignty of peoples and States, and was a repeated violation of the right to development of a Member State by another State signatory to the United Nations Charter.

That policy was a systemic violation of the human rights of the people and the constitutional rights of United States people, including their right to travel to Cuba.  The embargo against Cuba was the longest, most cruel and most unfair in the history of humanity.  It was the main stumbling block to social and economic development in Cuba.  And its impact on the Cuban economy was huge, he said.

It could be classified as genocide, according to the tenets of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  It was an act of economic war for which there was no historical precedence, he said.  It violated international laws on trade and navigation.  The extraterritorial aspect of the law and the hostility against companies in third countries was a threat to international peace.  The blockade also impacted the Venezuelan people.  The United States Government recently refused to grant a multinational company permission to carry out a commercial transaction, conducted with support from Cuba, which involved the sale of defibrillators to address heart disease in Venezuela.

Despite the expectations generated by President Barack Obama’s Administration, the laws and administrative arrangements that underpinned the measures were still in place.  Since President Obama had received this year’s Nobel Peace Price, Washington should pay close attention to the call of the Assembly to lift the blockade against Cuba.  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had called on the President Obama to lift the blockade.

SIN SON HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the United State’s unilateral sanctions on Cuba gravely violated the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference as enshrined in the United Nations Charter and international law.  The United State’s cruel embargo, which he described as “a silent economic war against the people of Cuba” was, illegal and inhumane.  He said coercive, unilateral measures that served one’s own sinister political interests and imposed economic and social systems, could not be justified or tolerated in any shape or form.

He recalled that over the last 17 years, the General Assembly had adopted numerous resolutions calling for an immediate end to the unilateral embargo, with overwhelming support from most Member States.  He urged the United States to snap out of its cold war mentality and to conform to people’s expectations by demonstrating its will to better relations with Cuba.  His country systematically opposed all forms of interference, threats of force and sanctions against sovereign States and urged the United States to lift the embargo on Cuba and to pay reparations for decades of economic loss that had crippled the island.  In this regard, his country supported the draft resolution before the Assembly, and stood by Cuba in its quest to defend its sovereignty and to attain economic and social growth and prosperity.

SUSAN WAFFA-OGOO ( Gambia) said the trade embargo against Cuba particularly continued to harm women and children in the island nation.  They had committed no crime.  The contribution of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to the Secretary-General’s report had further made clear that even children with special needs had not been spared suffering.  Her Government joined the overwhelming majority of States in calling for the immediate end to the embargo.  For 18 years, the Assembly, reflecting the moral voice of the world’s people, had rejected the embargo.  The harm it had inflicted on Cubans was incalculable and almost all sectors of society had been affected by it.  Damage to the health, education and tourism sectors was well documented.

Gambia had consistently opposed the embargo and believed its application served no other purpose than punishing Cubans for their political stance.  “We are in the twenty-first century” she stressed, underscoring that the best way to solve problems was through dialogue.   Gambia urged dialogue based on mutual interest and respect to build a new coalition that bridged divides, and especially called on the United States to take a look at this year’s resolution and re-evaluate its demands.  It was in the interest of the United States, Cuba and the international community to see an end to the extraterritorial regime and she expressed hope that the regime would usher in a new era of cooperation.

MIKHAIL SAVOSTIANOV ( Russian Federation) appreciated the Secretary-General’s comprehensive report, saying it presented States’ unanimous objections to the unilateral blockade against Cuba.  The Russian Federation wholeheartedly shared the opinion of the majority of States in resolutely condemning the embargo.  Ending it, and normalizing United States-Cuban relations, would help redress the situation around Cuba, and help it reintegrate into continent-wide structures.

Indeed, the blockade was an anachronism, and he welcomed the April decision of the United States President to lift various restrictions on United States citizens’ visits to Cuba, as well as monetary and postal transfers.  He hoped that other actions would lead to the full end of the obsolete embargo.  He urged the Assembly to continue supporting the resolution, guided by the Charter principles on the inadmissibility of discriminatory measures and interference in States’ internal affairs.

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said the embargo seriously undermined the collective force of the Member States to achieve growth.  Despite so many calls from the Assembly, the Human Rights Council and several major United Nations conferences, the unilateral measures continued to be imposed with all their negative impacts.  Iran repeated its long-standing position that the embargo ran counter to the principles of international law governing relations among States and contradicted the letter and spirit of the Charter.

He said that the blockade against Cuba was in blatant violation of the internationally agreed principles governing relations among States, such as the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention in their internal affairs, and freedom of international trade and navigation.  The measures continued to adversely impact the living conditions and human rights of the Cuban people and hampered the Government’s efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger and achieve the Millennium Goals, he said.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said the embargo against Cuba had held the Assembly’s attention for some fifty years, and she expressed hope that the world body could celebrate long-awaited consensus on the item.  Indeed, history had already “left dead and buried” other anachronisms of the cold war era and she urged freedom from an international order which Brazil did not wish to hand down to future generations.  The winds of change had at last begun to blow, as seen in Cuba’s full incorporation into the Rio Group.  Its presence in the mechanism of political consensus-building would be valuable in the pursuit of a common destiny.

Recalling a historic decision by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in June, she said such strides expressed the yearning of peoples for “tolerant regionalism”, predicated on progress and the prosperity of all.  Such principles were universal in their scope and demanded a resolute commitment to multilateralism.   Brazil welcomed United States decisions to loosen travel restrictions on individuals to Cuba, the resumption of bilateral dialogue on migration issues and more open parameters for telecommunications companies.  Notwithstanding that progress, the embargo seemed even more irrational.  Nothing less than a swift and resolute end of the blockade was needed, she said.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, began his statement highlighting the plight of Cuban children born under the brutal United States embargo, which was having especially deleterious health impacts.  Children suffering from lymphoblastic leukaemia could not be treated with a United States-produced medication Elspar because the Washington had forbidden Merck & Company from supplying the treatment to Cuba.  As a result, the life expectancy of such children was reduced and their suffering increased.  Since the election of President Obama, there had not been any change in the implementation of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade, which was an “absurd policy” that caused scarcities and sufferings.  It was a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights.  In the Geneva Convention of 1948, it was classified as an act of genocide.

He called the blockade an “uncultured act of arrogance”.  For example, the United States Government had recently prevented the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from performing in Cuba, and Cuban artists could not receive compensation for their performances before American audiences.  He asked:  “How can artistic creation be considered a crime?”  He also gave several examples of how the blockade had hampered the development of Cuba’s economy and was applied not only against Cuba, but against other countries.  The United States Government forbade the food company, “Sensient Flavors”, a subsidiary registered and based in Canada, to export to Cuba.  The Australian and New Zealand Bank Group based in Australia had been slapped with a fine tallying millions of dollars for conducting operations with Cuba.  The Cuban market was banned for American business people.

No serious person could assert that Cuba was a threat to the national security of the world’s only super Power, and the inclusion of Cuba in the “spurious” lists of alleged States sponsoring terrorism, a reason behind some blockade measure, should cease.  The country’s five anti-terrorist heroes, who had been unjustly imprisoned in this country, should be freed, he declared.

President Obama had a historical opportunity to lead a change of policy towards Cuba and lift the blockade.  He was vested with the Executive Powers to substantially modify the implementation of the measures by granting “special license” or waivers, making humanitarian exceptions, or acting for the sake of the United States national interests.  While Cuba purchased significant amounts of agricultural products from the United States, those were cash payments made in advance without any access to private credits.  Cuban vessels were not allowed to transport any cargo.  He said Washington used false data and lied when it asserted that it was the main donor of humanitarian assistance to Cuba.

The economic blockade had not met and would not meet its purpose of bending the patriotic determination of the Cuban people.  It generated shortages and restricted the country’s development potential and was the fundamental obstacle that hindered the country’s economic development, he said.  It was difficult to estimate the cost, but a conservative record of the economic damage tallied hundreds of billions of dollars.  The Cuban people were determined to move ahead, in sovereignty, to solve its problems and perfect the island nation’s political, economic, and social systems, within socialism.  The Cubans had the right to do that, without blockades or foreign pressures, without the foreign interference in the decision that only Cuba was entitled to take.  That was the purpose of the resolution the Assembly intended to adopt.

Explanation of Vote before Vote

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States said “here we go again”.  The hostile language by the Cuban Government seemed straight out of the cold war and the United States would not respond in kind to such familiar rhetoric.  She was here today to acknowledge that there was “a new chapter to this old story”.  In recent months, the United States had taken several steps to reach out to Cubans to help ensure they could freely determine their country’s future.

The United States had promoted family visits and the free flow of information, lifted restrictions on visits and remittances, expanded the amount of humanitarian items to be donated to Cubans, enhanced the ability of telecommunications companies in Cuba, and had made it easier for agricultural producers to pursue contracts with Cuban buyers.  She expressed hope that such measures could be a starting point for future changes.  The United States was prepared to engage Cuba on various issues.  Her Government had resumed discussions on migration and initiated talks to restart mail services.  Also, the United States stood by to provide assistance, should Cuba be again ravaged by hurricanes.

Any resolution should reflect those constructive developments, she explained.  Sadly, however, the resolution failed in that regard and Cuba had not yet reciprocated those important steps.  The United States, like all States, had the sovereign right to conduct economic relations with another country as it saw fit.  The embargo was part of a broader set of relations.  The steps taken had been in line with firm commitment to encourage the Cuban Government to respect the norms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In discussing differences, States must remember the commonality:  the United States was firmly committed to supporting Cubans’ desire to determine their future.  “We should not lose sight of that in a stale debate bogged down in rhetorical arguments of the past,” she asserted.

Drawing attention to two distortions in the Cuban position, she said, first, that she regretted that Cuba continued to incorrectly label trade restrictions as an act of “genocide”.  Second, it was erroneous to charge that sanctions were the cause of Cuba’s deprivation.  The United States maintained no restrictions on humanitarian aid -- it was the largest provider of food to Cuba and exported other items like wood and medicine.  In 2008, the United States was Cuba’s fifth largest trade partner.  Given that scenario, she called on Cuba to take steps to respond to the desire of its citizens to enjoy social, political and economic freedoms.   Cuba could liberate prisoners of conscience, ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reduce charges on remittances flowing into the country and permit visits by the United Nations Rapporteurs on torture, among other mandates.  She urged not losing sight of the fact that Cuba’s restrictions on such freedoms were the main obstacle to the country’s development.

For such reasons, her delegation would vote against the resolution.  The United States would continue to expand opportunities for Cubans to empower themselves through access to information and resources.  “We await a constructive Cuban response to our initiatives,” she said.  It was high time for the Assembly to recognize the situation in Cuba for what it was today and encourage genuine progress to change.

Also speaking before the vote, the representative of the Congo said the embargo had caused suffering and damage, and that the related measures against Cuba were not a means of resolving the dispute.  Indeed, the unilateral measures were a violation of the Charter and resolutions of the Assembly.   Congo wanted to see the lifting of the measure and the delegation would vote in favour of the draft.  He noted the hopeful signs that a settlement could take place and that the parties would engage in the spirit of dialogue to end the embargo, which was damaging to international and regional peace and security.

Nicaragua’s representative said her delegation would vote in favour of the resolution.   Cuba, Nicaragua’s “sister”, and Nicaragua expressed solidarity and generosity.  All in the region were sisters and brothers with Cuba and recognized Cuba, except for one country.  The Government that did not recognize Cuba was acting against the will of its own people and the will of the international community.  The embargo, in place for nearly 50 years, was the highest expression of an inhumane policy that lacked legitimacy and was designed to cause hunger, disease and desperation against the Cuban population.

The embargo was a flagrant violation of human rights, she continued, adding that the United States Government could not continue to ignore the Assembly’s resolutions.  The policies of the United States would continue to isolate it from the international community.  Those policies were a threat to multilateralism.  The cold war had been left behind and dialogue should replace conflict, she said.  The United States should set aside its imperial policies and resolve its differences with dialogue and negations, without pre-conditions.   Cuba shared their sports, friendship, health, education and other necessary components of solidarity with other countries to ensure the development of people and build a better world.   Nicaragua hoped that there would be a change in Washington so that the blockade would be ended.

Action on Draft

The Assembly then adopted the resolution by a vote of 187 in favour to 3 against ( Israel, United States, Palau), with two abstentions ( Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia).  (see Annex)

Explanation of Vote after the Vote

The representative of Sweden, speaking in explanation of vote on behalf of the European Union and the associated States, said the United States trade policy towards Cuba was fundamentally a bilateral issue.  Yet United States legislation such as the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, and the 1995 Helms-Burton Act had extended the effects of the embargo to third-party countries.  The European Union had firmly opposed such extraterritorial measures.  The European Union welcomed the United States’ recent decision to lift restrictions on remittances and family travel to Cuba, but could not accept that unilaterally imposed measures impeded economic and commercial relations with Cuba.

The European Union’s policy towards Cuba was clearly set out in a Common Position in 1996.  He said the objective of the Union’s relations with Cuba was to encourage a peaceful process of transition, led by the Cuban people, to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The European Union intended to continue it s dialogue with the democratic opposition and civil society in Cuba.  The Cuban Government continued to deny its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms.

He said the European Union remained seriously concerned about the continuation of human rights violations in Cuba despite a drop in the number of political prisoners.  He urged the Cuban Government to release unconditionally all political prisoners and was particularly concerned with the deteriorating health of several prisoners and members of the Group of 75 that were detained in March 2003.

Continuing, he said domestic Cuban economic policy seriously hampered Cuba’s own economic development, and the United States embargo continued to such problems and negatively impacted people’s living standards.  The European Union clearly believed that the lifting of the embargo would open the Cuban economy to the benefit of the Cuban people, and it rejected all unilateral measures directed against Cuba that were contrary to commonly accepted rules of international trade.

Also speaking in explanation of vote, after the vote, the representative of Uruguay, on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) said that as in previous years, the Member States of his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution because the embargo went against the principles of the United Nations Charter and breached the rules of international law.  Such rules included the defence of multilateralism, non-intervention and pacific settlement of disputes, core principles of diplomacy in South America.

He said that the embargo had been condemned before, and that MERCOSUR continued to reject the application of coercive unilateral measures that were detrimental to free trade, caused irreversible damage to the welfare of peoples and obstructed regional integration processes.  By voting in favour of the resolution, MERCOSUR and the associated States reiterated their commitment to multilateralism as a legitimate instrument of pacific settlement of disputes between States and in the promotion of international cooperation, human rights, security and understanding among peoples.

Also speaking after the vote, the representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic opposed the United States’ unilateral blockade on Cuba.  Its continuance violated States’ sovereign equality and the principle of non-intervention in their internal affairs.  The extraterritoriality of a State that sought sanctions on another ran counter to the Charter and international law.  Since 1992, the embargo had been systematically condemned by the global community in 17 nearly identical resolutions adopted by an overwhelming majority.  The blockade’s continuation would only bring about new tensions between the countries and create more suffering.  She reiterated her Government’s unstinting solidarity with Cuba and urged the United States to end its blockade.  For such reasons, she voted in favour of the resolution.

Bolivia’s representative said the resolution unequivocally reflected the international community’s rejection of the blockade.  Once again, there was a clear indication of the need to end the embargo, as there was no place for it in the twenty-first century.  The Secretary-General’s report aptly covered the facts of that reality.  The embargo also broke with the basic principles that governed State relations.  “We need a change in attitude,” he said, stressing the need to give way to reason and rationality, notably by supporting economic systems that worked for people.  Why not revoke the blockade so that the huge humanitarian crisis could be overcome?  For such reasons, Bolivia had voted in favour of the resolution.

Next, Ghana’s delegate said the embargo had created negative impacts on Cubans.  Despite the fact that the Assembly had demanded an end to it, such unilateral measures were still being implemented.  For its part, Ghana had refrained from applying laws with extraterritorial effects.  He welcomed that the United States had reduced travel restrictions to Cuba as such measures would promote good cooperation between the two countries.  He also commended Cubans for their resilience in difficult economic and social conditions.

The representative of Solomon Islands said that the current agenda item was debated annually because everyone lived in an interrelated and interdependent global system.  “We need each other, both big and small, rich and poor, to tackle our global problems.  Against this backdrop, my delegation is saddened to see remnants of the cold war continued to this day.  The decades-old blockade is one of the longest running campaigns spilling over into a new country and new generation.” he said.

Today, from the subregion, there were more than a hundred Pacific Islanders studying medicine in Cuba, he continued, adding that despite the economic embargo, the Cuban people sheltered, fed and clothed children from the pacific region.  He remained thankful to Cuba and commended the resilience of the Cuban people.  Lastly, he noted that the Charter of the United Nations was centred on its people.  “We the members of the United Nations must continue to give humanity a chance, we must continue to work together to build bridges over the embargo,” he said.  Solomon Islands called for the unconditional lifting of the blockade of the Cuban people and replacing it with genuine dialogue and cooperation.

The representative of Syria noted that the United Nations Charter enshrined the right to sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs, and that the United States contributed to the drafting of the Charter.  In light of that, the embargo and the tightening of it ran counter to the Charter and the rules and principles on inter-State relations.  The embargo also ran in opposition to the integrity of States and sovereignty.  The 49-year-old embargo was “unprecedented and unheard of in multilateral relations”, she said, and exposed Cuba to economic problems and placed the United States into direct conflict with the international community.

In its turn, Cuba wanted to resolve the issue between the two parties in a spirit of good neighbourliness, mutual sovereignty and respect for the United Nations Charter.  Relations between the United States and Cuba should be normalized and needed to take into account the needs of the people.  In addition, countries should be free to choose their own governance systems.  The vote in support of the resolution today had been overwhelming, and the time had come to lift the embargo on Cuba.  He said it was very revealing to see what he called the “abnormal vote” of Israel on the resolution, which was adopted by the overwhelming majority.  “This is acknowledgement that Israel flouts international law and the voice of the international community, which makes it more difficult for the United States to resort to dialogue while respecting differing opinions,” he said.  

The representative of Libya said the blockade reduced Cuba’s capacity to import its medical and agricultural needs and hindered its development.  The imposition of those unilateral measures violated international law and did not contribute to solving disputes between States.   Libya opposed violence in all forms, including blockades.  The United States Government’s decision to ease unilateral measures was a reason for optimism.  His delegation had voted in favour of the text.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Norway said his country considered the United States embargo against Cuba to be a bilateral issue and supported sanctions adopted by the international community through the United Nations.  But Norway could not support the extraterritorial extension of unilateral measures against a third country.

Norway welcomed the United States Government’s recent decision to lift restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba, and encouraged both countries to make additional efforts.  He said Norway repeated its call to Cuba to release unconditionally political prisoners and repeated its call for freedom of expression and free access to information.   Norway did not consider isolation to be an appropriate response to the developments in Cuba, and believed that more could be achieved through a constructive dialogue with the Cuban Government.   Norway voted, as in previous years, for the draft resolution.

Speaking in explanation of vote, after the vote, the representative of Uganda aligned with the Group of 77 developing countries and China.  “The embargo is unjustified.  It has had an adverse impact on the people of Cuba for too long,” he said, adding that unilateral measures with extraterritorial application were inconsistent with the United Nations Charter, as well as with international and humanitarian law.

Next, Benin’s delegate said his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution, as it believed in friendly relations between States.  By their extraterritorial nature, measures imposed in the context of the cold war had hampered Cuba’s exercise of its rights and sovereignty.  He reminded delegations that the United Nations Charter was all-important and that Cubans deserved peace and justice.

The situation provided an historic opportunity to end the blockade.  Profound changes that had taken place in both nations should lead to improved relations, in line with the Charter.  He appealed to both Governments to launch a frank dialogue with a view to normalizing relations.  He welcomed the United States President’s measures to reduce travel restrictions, saying it was a step in the right direction.  He expressed hope of seeing both countries emerge from the illogical impasse.

The representative of Belarus said the eighteenth resolution had been adopted on ending the blockade against Cuba.  Indeed, some 99 per cent of States, including the closest political partners of the United States, had appealed for that country to end its blockade.  He hoped that this time, the United States would heed the global community’s call.  During the general debate, Belarus had noted that the world was again thinking of a single system of coordination, and that politicians were starting to speak in the same language -- that of common sense.  He called on the United States to act in keeping with that and end its embargo and restrictions.  In light of the global financial crisis, such coercive measures were especially inappropriate.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, aligning himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his delegation supported the resolution to end the embargo because economic and political realities between the two countries warranted that.  Contact between the two countries was crucial, notably in the area of trade and people-to-people communication.  Welcoming the lifting of travel restrictions, he said that confidence-building measures should be developed on both sides after the embargo’s removal.

Finally, Mr. PARRILLA, Cuba’s Foreign Minister, responded to the remarks made by the United States, the representative of Sweden, on behalf of the European Union, and Norway.  Cuba did not recognize any moral advice given by the European Union as it had no credibility.  To United States Ambassador Susan Rice, who was not in the room right now, he said he respected her opinions, but she had the sad task of defending a blockade policy that began in 1960 with the declared aim of causing hunger and despair to the Cuban people. 

Continuing, he said that the United States had said Cuba abused the term of “genocide”.  He referred to the Geneva Convention and invited the United States Department of State to study that treaty closely.  The United States should lift the embargo now.  Cuba did not occupy any part of its territory or discriminate against the United States.  It was in the best interest of the people.  Lifting the blockade on technology and communications, for example, would allow progress in that field.

The blockade was not a bilateral issue.  It was an example of an extraterritorial issue.  In a recent speech given outside the United Nations, Ms. Rice had said the United States was leading by example and would correct its direction when necessary and forge strategies of cooperation.  But, she had said the opposite this morning, he added.

Wrapping up the debate, General Assembly President ALI ABDUSSALAM TREKI said that with the adoption of the resolution, the international community had insisted on respect for the United Nations Charter, and he cherished the hope that appeals made today for the resolution’s implementation would be heard.  “We need to see the importance of multilateralism,” end embargos and open the way towards peace, development and progress, he said.  With that, he urged that all States find solutions through cooperation and dialogue.

In other business, the Assembly then decided to consider the report of the Human Rights Council on its twelfth special session (document A/HRC/S-12/1) on 4 November 2009, without setting a precedent.

Statement by the General Assembly President on Afghanistan

Before considering the situation in Central America, General Assembly President TREKI conveyed his deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the five United Nations staff members who were killed in the recent “shocking and shameless” terrorist raid in Afghanistan.  He joined the Secretary-General in condemning all threats and acts of violence against humanitarian personnel and United Nations personnel, and reaffirmed the need to hold accountable those responsible for such acts.  All States were encouraged to comply fully with their obligations under international humanitarian law in protecting humanitarian and United Nations personnel.

The Situation in Central America

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was an initiative started in September 2007 to deal with the culture of impunity that had developed in the country since the Peace Accords were signed in December 1996.   Guatemala had turned to the United Nations once again to create a singular instance of cooperation between the Organization and the Government of Guatemala.

Last year, that initiative had received the collective support of the Assembly with the adoption by consensus of resolution 63/19.  The text had asked the Secretary-General to present a report on the work of the Commission.  The report, issued on 23 September, was an objective assessment of the Commission’s important achievements during its first two years of activity and of the ongoing challenges.  The Guatemalan Government basically agreed with the Secretary-General’s assessment and renewed the agreement between the Government and the United Nations to extend the Commission’s mandate for two years.

The draft resolution under consideration followed up on resolution 63/19, adopted last year, with some updated language to reflect observations contained in the Secretary-General’s report.  He hoped the draft resolution would be adopted by the Assembly by consensus.

He covered three additional points.  First, the Commission responded to a Guatemalan initiative and reflected the Government’s profound conviction that in order to deal with organized groups that operated with impunity, international cooperation was needed, not to take over the role of national institutions, but to support and strengthen them.  The Government had approached the United Nations because it was perceived as an objective and independent Organization, without its own agenda.

Secondly, the Commission was fully funded with voluntary contributions from the donor community.  He expressed gratitude to the many Governments that had supported the country with the initiative and he stressed that the draft resolution did not involve additional financial or budgetary implications for the Organization.  Thirdly, he recognized the work of the Commissioner, Carlos Castresana, for his selfless and exceptional work.

Statements on Central America

ANDERS LIDÉN ( Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the activities of CICIG, which his delegation supported fully.  He described the panel as a positive force and key player in security and justice matters that strove to combat impunity in that country.  Nonetheless, despite strides made by the Commission, the European Union was still deeply concerned about violence and impunity in Guatemala.  It thus urged the United Nations to ensure that the Commission’s operational, security and safety challenges were addressed.

More importantly, it would be crucial for the Guatemalan State to institutionalize the work of the International Commission in order to make it long-lasting and independent judicial body to curb widespread impunity in the country.  In that regard, he said the European Union endorsed the Commission’s efforts to assist Guatemala in bolstering democratic institutions, which were vital for peace, development and the rule of law.  Turning to recent events in Honduras, he said that the European Union desired a rapid, peaceful negotiated solution to the crisis, based on the seminal San José accord.  That was crucial to ushering in constitutional order, especially in the lead up to elections in November.  In conclusion, he said the European Union supported the initiatives of the Organization of American States (OAS) to facilitate dialogue for that purpose.

HEIDI GRAU ( Switzerland) began by expressing support for the establishment of the International Commission since its inception, and said the Guatemalan Government showed courage in trying to find ways to come to terms with impunity.  The Commission offered a solid framework for pursuing the goal and strengthened State institutions.  That was important in areas where there were large amounts of violence and corruption.  Thus, the Commission was a pioneering transitional justice instrument, which based its activities on national assessments, national participation, national needs and aspirations.  Its strategy sought to support both technical capacity and political will for reform.

She went on to say that the Commission faced several challenges in the area of safety and financial support.  Danger was part of the Commission’s daily existence and thus, enhanced protection for staff was crucial.  Given the strategic issue addressed by the Commission, it was important to dismantle parallel power structures linked to international organized crime.  In terms of financial support, Switzerland provided support and experts to the body and would continue to do so.  Parallel to its specific criminal investigations, the Commission reinforced the competencies of the prosecution services of Guatemala.  It also updated and improved the legislation of Guatemala by making reservations in terms of vetting, while fostering reorganization of justice and security sectors.  Only if it received the support needed, would the Commission be able to contribute to ending the long-standing impunity and to provide tangible accountability.

GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ REINEL ( Peru) said the resolution on the International Commission in Guatemala outlined the joint endeavours undertaken to ensure that the rule of law be respected.  No peace could occur without justice.  This year, a decision had been taken to extend the Commission’s mandate for two years.  While the Secretary-General’s report had identified significant progress, major operational challenges remained, given the unique nature of the Commission.  The Commission must submit a consolidation strategy, and a dialogue should continue between the State, civil society and the press, among others, to ensure that all fully joined in that process.

Turning next to the situation in Honduras, he said Peru was committed to the consolidation of democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Indeed, the strengthening of democratic institutions and protection of political and social rights should not be subject to conditions.  He regretted that the world had witnessed a turnabout with the defiance of the Honduran Constitution, a situation which continued today and which Peru had condemned.  His Government supported regional efforts by OAS, which aimed at restoring the Honduran President.

Peru strongly supported regional efforts, pursuant to rules of the Charter, to lead to a just solution to the Honduras situation.  He condemned the violence and harassment by the de facto Government against the Brazilian Embassy, and renewed Peru’s call for guaranteeing the safety of President José Manuel Zelaya and his family, as well as for the Brazilian Embassy.  In closing, he expressed hope that the dialogue process would continue as soon as possible in Honduras, in line with the San José agreement.  A peaceful solution to the crisis must be achieved.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) took the opportunity of the meeting to address the situation in Honduras, which was of grave concern to her Government and many other Member States.  Since Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya’s arrival, seeking shelter at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the Embassy had been under virtual siege, and had been constantly been subjected to acts of harassment and intimidation by the “de facto” authorities.

The Brazilian Embassy continued to be surrounded by military forces, she continued, saying that tear gas had been used against the building.  Basic services were suspended and later restored.  In addition, sound and light devices continued to be employed as a tactic to deprive those sheltered inside the embassy of much-needed sleep and therefore affect them physically and psychologically.  Further, scaffolds had been mounted outside the premises to monitor movement inside and humiliating security procedures were used to screen those entering and leaving the building.  Garbage was not collected for days.

Such measures taken by the “de facto” authorities constituted flagrant and unacceptable violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and of the human rights of persons inside the embassy.  Brazil was pleased that the international community had clearly and forcefully repudiated those aggressions, and was also grateful for the solidarity shown by organizations and many countries or groups of countries, including OAS.  Stressing that Brazil believed the return of President Zelaya was indispensable, he pointed out that coups d’état were no longer acceptable in a region that had outgrown, often with blood, years of instability and violence.  Similarly, elections by themselves would not solve the problem in Honduras, since its legitimacy would be seriously compromised.  Under current circumstances, conditions were simply not in place to allow the holding of free, fair, transparent and democratic elections in the country.

CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said the work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala had set a successful example of how multilateral action could work in favour of States.  That Commission was a fundamental tool for fighting impunity in Guatemala and bolstering legal institutions that had been charged with investigating and prosecuting crimes against the people.  Positive outcomes had shown that with the support of the international community, the Commission could fight impunity, which slowly restored the people’s confidence.  Since much remained to be done in that regard, Mexico had co-sponsored that draft resolution before the Assembly and would support the Commission’s work in the future.

The situation in Central America had “its bright spots and its shadows”, he cautioned.  He described the current situation in Honduras as disruptive and wholly unacceptable, with the illegal expulsion of President José Manuel Zelaya, who had subsequently been forced to take refuge at the capital’s Brazilian Embassy.   Mexico utterly condemned the events of 28 June 2009 and demanded the restoration of democracy in that country in line with United Nations Charter and other international instruments.  Right from the start, the OAS had worked tirelessly to help President Zelaya regain power.  Mexico had supported that and numerous other regional and international mechanisms and initiatives.

He said Mexico would carry on playing an active role in multilateral regional efforts until constitutional order was restored in Honduras.  He went on to urge OAS’s Secretary-General to carry on with negotiation, mediation and conciliation efforts in a bid to encourage dialogue for a solution to that political crisis.  Furthermore, Mexico had become particularly alarmed by the opposition’s harassment of the President, his supporters and Brazilian officials.  He called for that to stop, as it was inhumane and illegal.  The international community could no longer tolerate such intimidation, as the diplomatic status, immunity and privileges of all representatives residing in it had to be upheld.

MASUD HUSAIN ( Canada) said his country was pleased to be part of a long list of like-minded co-sponsors who continued to back the Commission against Impunity in Guatemala through voluntary contributions.  His country had also worked closely with the Commission and United Nations colleagues to fight corruption, and had provided an impartial voice in public debates about security and justice issues in Guatemala.

He said in response to the Secretary-General’s report, which called attention to the pressing operational challenges faced by the Commission as it moved forward into the second phase of its mandate, Canada strongly encouraged the United Nations, with the ongoing support of the Guatemalan State and allies of the Commission, to bolster its assistance to the panel in order to strengthen its security, its credibility, its capacity, and its stability.  Specifically, Canada was supportive of measures to provide the Commission staff with immediate and full diplomatic privileges and protections.

He encouraged the United Nations to act swiftly in offering much-needed assistance to the Commission in key areas, including guaranteeing the safety and security of its staff as it undertook important and often dangerous work.  The fact that the Commission faced increasing pressures against its work suggested that it was having an impact in Guatemala, he said, expressing Canada’s hope that the United Nations system and the international community would take further, tangible steps towards sustaining and improving support to the Commission.

JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) welcomed efforts to establish the International Commission towards consolidating the rule of law in Guatemala.  He also congratulated Guatemala for efforts that found the former military commissioner guilty by the courts for the disappearance of six indigenous farmers.  On the coup d’état in Honduras, he said such events could lay the basis for a new wave of dictatorship in the region, which could see disappearances, jailing and the death of innocent civilians.  The Honduran President had been overthrown, captured and exiled, and the human rights of Hondurans had been repeatedly violated.  Indeed, the oligarchy and elites had attacked the constitutional order of a nation.

He said General Assembly resolution 58/239 (2003), on the situation in Central America, noted the existence of freely elected Governments and called for political, economic and social change, with a view to the flourishing of democratic societies.  Today, not all Central American Governments had been freely elected.  The de facto Government in Honduras had managed to overturn years of efforts to consolidate democracy.  Several resolutions, notably by the Organization of American States, had been violated by the coup’s perpetrators.  “This is an affront to the international community that cannot remain unpunished,” he said.  Venezuela saw the importance of resolution 63/301 (2009) approved on that matter.

Venezuela condemned the harassment of the Brazilian Embassy, Honduras’ constitutional President José Manuel Zelaya, his family and supporters.  He also urged full respect for international law, notably the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and condemned attempts to legitimize the coup d’état by means of elections.  “Elections are a right, not a way to resolve a coup d’état or situations that are devoid of legitimacy,” he stressed.  He emphasized Secretary-General’s decision to suspend United Nations assistance to the Honduran supreme electoral tribunal.  Coup perpetrators must be brought before national and international bodies and held responsible for their crimes.  All members of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas had decided not to recognize any elections that might take place under the aegis of the Government that perpetrated the coup.

JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the International Commission.  That body was having an increasing impact on Guatemalan society and was carrying out its tasks in difficult conditions.  He trusted that safety conditions would improve for the Commission’s staff, with help from the United Nations.   Spain had supported the establishment and operation of the Commission by way of an agreement with Guatemala, and was a main contributor.   Spain was ready to continue its support to strengthen the rule of law in that country and was a co-sponsor of the current resolution, which he hoped would be adopted by consensus.

On the situation in Honduras, he said the 28 June events constituted a coup d’état, which had led to the illegal overthrow and expulsion of the legitimate President.  He demanded President Zelaya’s restoration to office and demanded that measures be taken to return constitutional order.   Spain supported efforts of OAS and Costa Rica’s President, notably in the San José Agreement, which was the clear point of reference for a solution.  He regretted that negotiations had been broken off and hoped that would not be the case for long.  The coup should not impede a peaceful solution to the crisis.  He urged sending a firm message and reject tactics like military intervention to overturn constitutional order.

DIEGO LIMERES ( Argentina) was pleased to see significant progress in the past two years with the International Commission, and expressed appreciation to the Guatemalan Government to consolidate and deal with the challenges it faced.  Adding that Argentina supported the work of the Commission, he noted the contribution of police, which protected the staff and premises.   Argentina had also co-sponsored the draft resolution, which he trusted the Assembly would adopt by consensus.

Turning to the coup d’état in Honduras last June, he expressed full support for President Zelaya and called for his return to office, to which he had been elected democratically, by the Honduran people.  Argentina deplored that four months later, despite tireless efforts that had been undertaken through the OAS and the international community, the legitimate Government had not been restored. He called for a return to democracy, rule of law, peace and respect for human rights.  Lastly, he recalled the statement the President of Argentina made during this year’s opening of the general debate, which was that it was essential that the international community build a strong multilateral strategy that would restore democracy within the country, and if that did not happen it would set a “terrible precedent” that would disrupt democracy for decades.

CARMEN MARÍA GALLARDO ( El Salvador) said Central America had great strengths that had to be exploited to bring about the sustainable development of the region.  Challenges and threats required national and regional cooperation, notably drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, illicit gang activity and weakness of democratic institutions.  As recently acknowledged by the El Salvadoran President, there was no future for any country in isolation.  We must move to a new stage of greater integration.  The European Union was perhaps the most advanced example of that.

She said El Salvador welcomed that 14 October had been chosen to commemorate Central American integration, which provided an important opportunity to renew its commitment to regional integration and actions to implement social-strategic agenda.  Her Government was firmly committed to achieving a Central American customs union -– an absolute necessity towards ensuring even greater regional integration.  El Salvador would adopt a yearly plan to ensure regional integration, and in that context, she underscored the proposal for a summit for Heads of State and Government of the Central American Integration System (SICA) to examine the transfer of powers and strengthen a supra-national approach.

She supported the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, whose goal was to support, strengthen and flank Guatemalan institutions in the prosecution of crimes committed by illegal security forces.  The Commission could bring criminal or administrative charges against perpetrators of impunity and she urged Guatemala to continue lending support to the Commission.  Finally, she reiterated concern at the situation in Honduras resulting from the 28 June coup d’état.  El Salvador had energetically condemned the coup and supported the restoration of constitutional order in that country, as well as relevant General Assembly and OAS resolutions to promote political dialogue.  She urged the de facto regime to ensure President José Zelaya’s safety, and that of the Brazilian consular staff.  Elections being prepared lacked legitimacy and transparency that would lead to reliable results.

JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) expressed his country’s support for the International Commission and pointed out that prolonging its mandate would serve as a crucial step towards addressing key issues on impunity and justice in Guatemala.  Historically, in Central America, repressive military regimes had snatched political freedoms from the people and made the move to democracy bloody and painful.  Referring to Honduras, he recalled that that ousted President Zelaya had been driven out of his country and subsequently sought refuge in neighbouring Costa Rica.  On the contrary, his country had remained peaceful over the past few decades due to its institutional approach to peaceful resolutions.  The Costa Rican President had spared no efforts in calling for common sense to reign over dialogue and to find a political solution to the crisis in Honduras.

Continuing, he said a political solution was within reach and that that could lead to reconciliation and to a return to constitutional order.  Only then could Honduras hold elections and normalize its relations with the rest of the world.  He called on the de facto authorities to comply with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and end their intimidation of Brazilian authorities in the Honduran capital.   Costa Rica supported every regional effort to resolve that crisis, so as to move towards democracy and give the Honduran people hope without the shadow of militarism and oppression looming over them.  That would enable them to tackle more important matters such as abolishing poverty and moving towards sustainable development and living together in peace.

JORGE ARTURO REINA ( Honduras) said his country had plunged into a serious political crisis four months ago today, recalling that the Minister for Foreign Relations had provided comprehensive information on the situation during the Assembly’s general debate.  Now more than ever, initiative was needed to negotiate a peaceful and civilized solution to the internal conflict in Honduras.  That process had started with the help of Costa Rican President Óscar Arias Sánchez, who laid out points which should have served as a basis for negotiations, however, those points had not been agreed upon.  The OAS also had decisively contributed to finding a solution to the problem.

The dialogue, after having been broken off due to a lack of agreement on restoring Honduran President José Zelaya to power, as required by the Honduran people and international community, was now at a new stage, thanks to action taken only a few hours ago by the United States, through its State Department.  Indeed, the United States was right this moment taking part in a meeting to achieve consensus.  He had thought he would have been able to speak after that meeting’s conclusion.  However, there was still a full possibility to achieve a clean agreement to restore President Zelaya to his rightful position.  He expressed his deepest gratitude to all countries for their help in resolving the political crisis, notably Costa Rica and Brazil.

He underscored that he would return to the Assembly, if necessary, for support in protecting the upcoming elections from being manipulated by the coup’s perpetrators, who sought only to resolve their own problems.  Just moments ago, he was informed of an action that ran counter to “friendship among peoples” -- someone claiming to be Honduran official in The Hague had accused Brazil of intervening in the State’s internal affairs.  That person did not -- and must not -- speak on behalf of the legitimate Government of Honduras.  To a burst of applause, he thanked Brazil for having sheltered the Constitutional President.

ALEJANDRO WOLFF ( United States) said his Government supported the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala and recognized the excellent work of its commissioner.  Regarding Honduras, the United States, like other States, was firmly committed to the restoration of order in that country.  The situation needed to be resolved quickly through peaceful dialogue, for the stability of the region.  The United States was fully engaged in ongoing efforts of the OAS, the competent regional body to resolve the situation.

Continuing he said that was the reason that senior United States Government officials were there today -- to encourage the resolution of the situation in a way that maximized Hondurans’ ability to determine their future.  The United States had expressed concern, both in the OAS and the United Nations, and had worked hard to find a solution to restore peace.  His Government also supported Costa Rica’s mediation between President Zelaya and the de facto regime.

He said the San José accord was the negotiating document for talks earlier this month and he strongly supported that work.  Talks launched by the OAS mission had achieved significant progress -– the de facto regime and President Zelaya had agreed on most of the updated version of the San José accord.  Unfortunately, neither side had resolved the restoration of President Zelaya.  The United States was intensively engaged with representatives of both sides to bring them back to the table to resolve outstanding issues.  In those efforts, the United States was guided by Assembly resolution 63/301, adopted on 30 June.

Indeed, Hondurans wanted a functioning democracy and a chance to express their will in free and fair elections, he said.  Democratic candidates had been chosen well before the events that led to the coup.  Those candidates had not participated in the coup and had earned their positions, and he urged continuing efforts to resolve the crisis ahead of the 29 November elections.  On the troubling situation at the Brazilian Embassy, he reassured the Assembly that the United States would help in any way possible, particularly to ensure that its diplomatic rights were respected by the de facto regime, whose behaviour must be in accordance with the Vienna Convention.  In closing, he said the United States would continue to work to expand opportunities.  A negotiated solution was the best way out of the crisis.

Action

The Assembly then adopted without a vote the resolution on the “International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala” (document A/64/L.6), by which it took note of the Secretary-General’s report on the Commission’s activities and requested the Secretary-General to undertake, with the Guatemalan Government, steps to address operational challenges.  It also called on Guatemala to redouble its efforts to strengthen the institutions that buttressed the rule of law and defence of human rights.  Finally, it requested the Secretary-General to keep the General Assembly appraised of the Commission’s work.

ANNEX

Vote on Necessity of Ending the Embargo against Cuba

The draft resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (document A/64/L.4) was adopted by a recorded vote of 187 in favour to 3 against, with 2 abstentions, 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, 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, El Salvador, 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, Iraq, 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, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, 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, 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, Palau, United States.

Abstain:  Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of).

Absent:  None.

* *** *

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