‘Archaic, Punitive’ Embargo Must Be Consigned to History Books, Say Speakers, as General Assembly, for Twenty-First Year, Demands End to Cuba Blockade

13 November 2012
GA/11311

‘Archaic, Punitive’ Embargo Must Be Consigned to History Books, Say Speakers, as General Assembly, for Twenty-First Year, Demands End to Cuba Blockade

13 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/11311
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

General Assembly Plenary

35th and 36th Meetings (AM & PM)

 ‘Archaic, Punitive’ Embargo Must be Consigned to History Books, Say Speakers,

as General Assembly, for Twenty-First Year, Demands End to Cuba Blockade

Cuban Foreign Minister Sites Embargo’s Devastating Impact on Development;

United States Delegate Says Economic Woes Due to Havana’s Own Failed Policies

Voting nearly-unanimously to adopt the General Assembly’s twenty-first consecutive resolution calling for an end to the United States’ blockade against Cuba, United Nations delegates urged President Barack Obama, fresh-off a re-election victory, to “act on the right side of history” and lift Washington’s crushing economic, commercial and financial embargo on the island nation.

By the text of the resolution, adopted by a recorded vote of 188 in favour to 3 against (United States, Israel, Palau) with 2 abstentions (Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia), the Assembly reaffirmed the principles of sovereign equality of States, non-intervention in internal affairs and freedom of international trade and navigation, among others.  For details of the vote, see Annex.

The Assembly expressed concern about the continued application of the 1996 “Helm-Burton Act” – which extended the decades-old blockade’s reach to countries trading with Cuba – and whose extraterritorial effects affected the sovereignty of other States and the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction.  The resolution reiterated the call on States to refrain from applying such measures, in conformity with their obligations under the United Nations Charter, and urged States that had applied such laws to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.

Introducing that text was Bruno Eduardo Rodriquez Parilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, who recalled that, in 2008, then presidential candidate Barack Obama had electrified the American people, and after being elected, had announced “a new beginning with Cuba”.  However, the reality of the past four years had been characterized by a persistent tightening of the blockade, particularly its extra-territorial dimensions.

“Keeping this policy in force is not in the national interest of the United States”, he said.  Quite the contrary, it harmed the interest of American citizens and companies, especially in times of economic crisis and high unemployment.  Moreover, there was no legitimate or moral reason to maintain the blockade, which was “anchored in the Cold War”.  Indeed, it “is just a weapon in the hands of an ever more exiguous, isolated, violent and arrogant minority”, he said.

As was stated in recent Secretary-General’s report on the matter, the economic damage accumulated over more than 50 years, until 2011, amounted to one trillion six billion dollars.  “Any sensible person could figure out the living standards and development levels that we could have achieved if we had had those resources available”, he added, calling the blockade one of the main causes of Cuba’s economic problems and the major obstacle to its economic and social development. 

Indeed, the embargo was an act of aggression - a permanent threat to the stability of a country – and constituted a gross violation of the rules that governed international trade, freedom of navigation and the sovereign rights of States.  “President Obama has the opportunity to start a new policy towards Cuba”, he said.  It would be a difficult task and he might face serious obstacles, but there was no doubt that it would constitute a “historical legacy”. 

The representative of the United States, however, said that the resolution presented sought to “identify an external scapegoat” for Cuba’s economic problems, where in fact, they were caused by the Cuban Government’s policies over the last half a century.  In reality, the United States was a “deep and abiding friend” to the Cuban people; by its own account it was one of Cuba’s principal trading partners and it had authorized an estimated $1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance in 2011, as well as billions in remittances and other forms of assistance.

The hundreds of thousands of Cuban Americans who had sent remittances and travelled to the island since the start of the Obama Administration were a central part of the strategy to help Cubans have the opportunities that they deserved, he continued, noting that, in contrast, Cuba still had one of the most restrictive economic systems in the world.  Irrespective of United States policy, it was “unrealistic” to expect Cuba to thrive unless it opened its monopolies, respected international property rights and allowed unfettered access to the Internet, among other things.

In addition, the Assembly could not ignore the “ease and frequency” with which Cuba inflicted politically motivated detentions, impeded access to journalism and restricted similar freedoms.  The resolution before the Assembly today only served to distract from the real problems facing the Cuban people, he stressed.

The representative of India, while noting some of the detrimental effects of the longstanding embargo, agreed that there had been some relaxation of the strained relationship between the United States and Cuba in recent years.  Taking advantage of limited openings under its Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, the United States had become the largest exporter of agricultural products to Cuba, he noted.  In addition, the steps taken by the United States in January 2011 to reduce restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba were positive developments.  However, they remained “far from making a fundamental change” in the complex framework of laws and regulations, which were part of the embargo, he said.

“The path of history today is for those who choose openness”, said the representative of Cape Verde, who spoke on behalf of the African Group.  It was “inconceivable” for African countries to remain silent in the face of the adverse consequences of the longstanding embargo against Cuba, he added, recalling a resolution adopted at the African Union Summit in July through which the continent’s leaders had reissued a call inviting the United States to lift the longstanding embargo.  In that respect, he quoted Nelson Mandela, saying that “to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Some delegates stressed the negative impact of the blockade on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development and other essential pursuits.  In that vein, the representative of Kazakhstan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that the embargo impeded poverty eradication and violated the basic human rights to food, health and education, humanitarian assistance and overall national progress.

Cuba’s already harsh situation was further aggravated by the effects of climate change to which its geographical location made it particularly vulnerable, she stressed, adding that the embargo also contradicted the regulations and directions of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which prohibited the adoption of measures likely to hinder international free trade and shipping, and the widest possible partnership between two partners. 

Despite such stark challenges, many speakers offered words of support to the Cuban people, noting the strides made by the country even in the face of the blockade.  In that regard, the representative of Venezuela said that while the embargo was an expression of a “barbarous” policy, the Cuban people had nevertheless overcome that unjust practice in a “stoic and heroic” way, moving forward with the principle of solidarity even beyond their own borders.  Some “advocates of imperialism” maintained that Cuba was a threat to the region, which was a “massive lie”, he stressed.  Cuba had, on the contrary, been an element of support and hope in the area of solidarity with States, contributing to the social well being of many other countries. 

He noted that President Obama had managed to connect with the majority feeling of the Latin American population living in the United States, and urged him to continue along those lines by finally ending the embargo.  If the new United States Government moved forward in that regard, President Obama would indeed be “acting on the right side of history”, he stressed in that respect.

The representative of Egypt said the embargo against Cuba was the longest and toughest system of sanctions ever applied against any country in modern history, and agreed that it must be lifted.  At a time when peoples in his region were bravely fighting for freedom and justice, and some of them – like in Egypt - were establishing the foundations of a genuine democracy, it was troubling that the United States continued to adopt coercive measures to prevent a neighbouring nation from freely deciding its own political and economic system.

He also agreed with other speakers that the re-election of President Obama last week offered the American administration a fresh opportunity to rectify the historic injustice inflicted on Cuba.  In that regard, he expressed his delegation’s hope that such an important opportunity not be missed.

Also speaking today was a Member of Parliament of Indonesia.

Taking part in the discussion were the representatives of Algeria (speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Barbados (speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Chile (speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), Brazil (speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)), Iran (speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement) and Cyprus (speaking on behalf of the European Union).

Also speaking were the representatives of Mexico, Sudan, the Russian Federation, China, Ecuador, Bolivia and Viet Nam.

Also making a statement in explanation of position before the vote was the representative of Nicaragua.

Speaking in explanation after the vote were the representatives of Nigeria, Zambia, Saint Lucia, Uruguay, Namibia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Belarus and Syria.

Also speaking in explanation after the vote were the representatives of Zimbabwe, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Myanmar, Ghana, Argentina, Iran (in his national capacity), South Africa and the Solomon Islands.

Exercising his right of reply was the representative of Cuba.

The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, 14 November at 10:00 a.m. to consider the report of the Human Rights Council.

Background

The General Assembly met today to consider 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 (document A/67/118), which summarizes the responses of 145 Governments and 26 United Nations bodies, received as at 9 July 2012, following a request by the Secretary-General on that matter.  Replies received after that date will be reproduced in addenda to the present report.

In its 27-page submission to the report, the Cuban Government reviews the history of the 53-year embargo and calls it an act of “genocide”, as understood by the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.  In addition, it stresses that the embargo is an act of “economic war”, per the Declaration concerning the laws of naval war, adopted by the Naval Conference of London in 1909.

It goes on to state that the economic damage caused to the Cuban people by the embargo as of December 2011 - taking into account the depreciation of the dollar against the price of gold in the international market - amounted to $1.066 trillion.  At current prices, the damage amounts to more than $108 billion, based on “very conservative estimates”.

The report covers such areas as the main elements of the embargo, its impact on socially sensitive sectors and on different sectors of the Cuban economy, as well as opposition to the policy.  It concludes, among other things, that the embargo is an “absurd, obsolete, illegal and morally unsustainable policy” leading to shortages and suffering for the Cuban people, hampering and delaying Cuba’s development and seriously harming the country’s economy, and calls for its unconditional lifting, without delay.

Also before the Assembly was a relevant draft resolution (document A/67/L.2) by which it would call upon all States – in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations - to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures whose extraterritorial effects affected the sovereignty of States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation.  It would also urge States that had and continued to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.

Also by the text of the resolution, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to prepare a report on the implementation of the present resolution in light of the purposes and principles of the Charter and international law, and to submit it to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session.

Statements

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the embargo against Cuba contravened the fundamental norms of international law, international humanitarian law, the United Nations Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States.  Furthermore, its continued imposition violated the principles of the sovereign equality of States and of non-intervention and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.  The measures announced by the United States Government two years ago, which related to a certain relaxation of restrictions on travel and transfer of remittances, had had a “very limited effect” and did not change the framework of laws, regulations and provisions of the embargo, which was still in place, he added.

The deepening impact of the ongoing global economic and financial crisis and the continued embargo would continue to further aggravate hardships for the Cuban people, he went on to say.  In addition, the embargo frustrated efforts towards the achievement of all the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and negatively affected regional cooperation in the area.  Today, the Group once again reiterated its longstanding and principled position on the matter of the embargo, and recalled the Ministerial Declaration of the thirty-sixth annual meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held in New York in September, to the effect that the Ministers “firmly rejected” the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact and all other forms of coercive measures.  They had also called on the international community neither to recognize those measures nor apply them, he said.

JOSEPH GODDARD (Barbados), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that this was the twenty-first consecutive occasion that the Assembly was meeting to raise the sustained chorus of opposition to the United States’ imposition of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.  While in some parts of the world, twenty-first “birthdays” were especially commemorated, the twenty-first year of adoption of the annual resolution on the Cuban embargo should instead give that Assembly pause for reflection.  The embargo had persisted for too long in spite of the unambiguous reprove of an overwhelming majority of Member States, as demonstrated by the annual adoption of the resolution before delegates.

He went to stress that CARICOM member States had camaraderie with Cuba, which had remained cordial and resilient even through a continually evolving hemispheric and international geo-political landscape.  Cuba maintained embassies in all independent countries of the Community and continued to show itself as an integral part of the region.  The Community and Cuba had developed and enjoyed mutually beneficial programmes of cooperation and trade in several key areas including physical education and sports, accounting, natural sciences, humanities, economy, special education, health and medicine.  CARICOM States also continued to value and enjoy long-established, warm and friendly relations with the United States.  It was in that spirit that the Community urged the United States to heed the calls of the international community to bring an end to the embargo.

ANTONIO PEDRO MONTEIRO LIMA (Cape Verde), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said it was “inconceivable” for African countries to remain silent in the face of the adverse consequences of the longstanding embargo against Cuba.  By a resolution adopted at the African Union Summit in July, leaders had reissued a call inviting the United States to lift that embargo, he said; the Group’s vote today in favour of the Assembly’s annual resolution would be another step in advancing that call.  Indeed, he said, quoting the famous statesman Winston Churchill, “criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary”.  Criticism played the same role as pain in the human body, bringing attention to the fact that “things are not right”, he added.

Furthermore, the Assembly “status quo” on the resolution ran contrary to the pursuit of a more equitable and just world, as well as the progress of Cuba towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and regional integration.  “The path of history today is for those who choose openness”, he said.  He quoted Nelson Mandela to the effect that “to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) said on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that the commercial, economic and financial embargo imposed on Cuba was contrary to the letter, spirit, principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter and international law.  The Community was concerned about the extraterritorial effects of the embargo that affected the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation.  The embargo, commenced in 1959 had continued to this day and had transformed into a strict system of unilateral measures, which had continued over time creating huge injustices for the Cuban people.  In itself, the unilateral measure was a contradiction with the multilateralism, the openness and the dialogue promoted by the Charter.

The Community was in favour of adoption of the resolution before the Assembly.  He emphasized the inconsistency that existed between the application of unilateral measures, which had no backing in international law, and the letter, spirit, principles and purpose of the Charter, urging the United States to make necessary adjustments to its international behaviour in that regard and align its legislation with the Charter of the United Nations.  

BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), noted that the item had been on the Assembly’s agenda for 20 years with little progress to record.  Guided by the principles of international law, the OIC upheld the right of every nation to follow its own unique path of development and therefore condemned any unilateral action, which affected the sovereignty and interests of another State and its people.  Further, it did not agree with any external regulations that infringed, impeded or delayed the development of any country, including in the economic, commercial and financial spheres.  Even measures meant to relax restrictions had limited effect while the embargo remained in place to the detriment of the Cuban people.

The embargo frustrated efforts toward achieving the Millennium Goals, she continued, impeding poverty eradication, and violating the basic human rights to food, health and education, humanitarian assistance and overall national progress.  That already harsh situation was further aggravated by the effects of climate change to which Cuba’s geographical location made it particularly vulnerable.  She went on to stress that the embargo contradicted the regulations and directions of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which prohibited the adoption of measures likely to hinder international free trade and shipping, and the widest possible partnership between two partners.  She joined “the overwhelming majority of the international community” in calls to lift the embargo against Cuba.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil), speaking on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that the Group had been founded on the principles of interdependence and good neighbourly relations.  Alongside its Latin American neighbours, MERCOSUR showed respect for the sovereignty of States and for international law, and it viewed that the embargo ran contrary to the principles of the Unite Nations Charter and international law.  In particular, she said, it violated the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other States.  The embargo also ran contrary to the principles of justice and human rights, limited and delayed social and economic progress and inhibited the achievement of the Millennium Goals and other development targets.

MERCOSUR therefore regretted the fact that the unilaterally imposed embargo continued unabated, she said.  MERCOSUR rejected, in principle, all unilateral and extra-territorial measures, which caused harm to peoples and obstructed regional integration.  By once again reaffirming its support to the present resolution, her delegation would reiterate its commitment to multilateralism as a legitimate instrument for the settling of disputes and a way to promote cooperation and understanding between peoples.  Indeed, she concluded, the embargo was “no more than an example of obsolete policies which have no place in today’s world.”

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled that the delegation, at its most recent Summit, held in Tehran, had reiterated its call to the United States to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, a measure which was causing huge material and economic damage to the people of that island nation.  Iran was concerned about the widening of the extraterritorial nature of the embargo and rejected the reinforcement of the measures adopted by the United States.  The embargo had caused and would continue to cause a high degree of adverse impact on the well-being of the people of Cuba.  The direct and indirect damage was enormous.  The embargo affected all crucial sectors of the economy, including those most vital for the well being of the people there, such as public health, nutrition and agriculture, as well as banking, trade, investment and tourism. 

He said that the Movement saluted the Cuban people for what they had achieved so far, including significant progress in such areas as education and health care, despite the huge difficulties.  Yet, the embargo continued to impede socio-economic advances and created unnecessary economic hardship.  The embargo denied Cuba access to markets, development aid from international financial institutions and technology transfers, which were all important for the development of Cuba.  The United States had in the past claimed that it would reach out to the Cuban people but those words had regrettably not been translated into action.

LUIS-ALFONSO DE ALBA (Mexico), joining with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that today’s meeting once again demonstrated the international community’s “overwhelming” opposition to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  Mexico once again expressed its opposition to the measure, and reiterated its rejection of the use of coercive actions, which ran contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter, produced severe humanitarian impacts and which were a rejection of diplomacy and dialogue as a way to resolve disputes between States.  There were many harmful effects of the embargo in sensitive sectors, which had a direct impact on the citizens of Cuba as well as a negative effect on third countries.

Indeed, the international community must not forget that political, economic or military sanctions imposed on States could only emanate from the United Nations Security Council or the General Assembly.  Therefore, Mexico had supported all measures against the embargo in a number of forums, and would continue to provide its support for the inclusion of Cuba in global economic dialogue.  Dialogue and negotiation continued to be the ideal way to resolve disputes and ensure peaceful cooperation between States, he stressed.  Mexico’s proximity to Cuba and its relationship with that country suggested the urgent need for the embargo to come to an end; Mexico would therefore vote in favour of the resolution currently before the Assembly, he said.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) said the Secretary-General’s report was illustrative of the detrimental impact the embargo had had on international efforts to undertake socio-economic advancement in Cuba.  The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Havana had noted the high cost of the embargo and its negative impact on development and humanitarian cooperation implemented by the United Nations system.  There was, however, huge potential for strengthening economic and commercial ties between Cuba and the United States, especially in tourism.

Taking advantage of limited openings under its Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, the United States had become the largest exporter of agricultural products to Cuba, he noted.  America’s Congressional efforts to relax or lift the embargo had lent further credence to the annual United Nations resolution calling for the full lifting of the measure.  People-to-people contacts between the two nations held immense possibilities for fostering better understanding.  The steps taken by the United States in January 2011 to reduce restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba were positive developments but “far from making a fundamental change” in the complex framework of laws and regulations, which were part of the embargo against Cuba, he added.

IDRIS HASSAN ( Sudan) joined, at the outset, with the positions put forward by the Group of 77 developing countries and China, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation and the African Group of States.  He extended his country’s solidarity with the people of Cuba, and condemned the unilateral coercive embargo imposed by the United States against that country, which was a “flagrant violation” of the human rights of Cubans as well as international law.  The continuation of that embargo required all Member States to exert efforts on the United States administration, as the embargo threatened the dignity and economic progress of a United Nations Member State.

Sudan had lost precious resources as a result of similar measures imposed by the United States; he went on, calling on Member States to apply ameliorative actions, and to accelerate reform of the Security Council.  Indeed, it should not be possible for one country to have the right of the veto and to threaten international peace and security for all.  He called on the United States to immediately lift the embargos on Cuba, Sudan and all other countries.  That “aggression” was a crime and it had to be put to an end, he stressed, as it alienated developing countries and hindered them from achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets and sustainable development.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) expressed disagreement with and rejection of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States.  The position of the Russian Government on that matter was well known and had not changed.  It condemned such a measure by the United States, which was an “outdated relic of the Cold War era”.  It not only had hindered Cuba’s development model but had resulted in the worsening of the living conditions of the Cuban people.

The United States had eased restrictions, for instance, allowing American citizens to visit family members and relatives in Cuba, he noted.  The easing of those restrictions must be replicated in other areas as well.  Guided by non-discrimination and other principles, the Russian Federation called for an early repeal of the embargo and urged the United States to reduce its confrontational approach.

MEUTYA VIADA HAFID ( Indonesia) said that the Assembly was convening once again to consider the 51 year-old unilateral policy banning economic, commercial and financial activity with Cuba.  Imposed during the Cold War, that embargo had cost the people of Cuba dearly and impacted the economic and commercial relations of third countries.  Further, the sanctions exceeded the jurisdiction of national legislation and encroached on the sovereignty of other States that dealt with Cuba.  Times had changed since 1961, she said; globalization had created conditions for true global solidarity and partnership among the community of nations.

The continued imposition of the embargo against Cuba violated the principles of the sovereign equality of States, and of non-intervention and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs, she said, and clearly did not conform to the United Nations Charter.  It created an unwanted standoff instead of dialogue to normalize relations, with both political complications, and economic, commercial and financial hardships that were unjustifiable on humanitarian grounds.  She urged renunciation of extraterritorial laws and measures that affected the sovereignty of other States, the lawful interests of their subjects, or of other persons under their jurisdiction, and freedom of trade and navigation.  She called for the immediate cessation of the embargo.

JULIO ESCALONA OJEDA ( Venezuela) recalled that, in October 2011, the Assembly had approved – for the twentieth time - a resolution against the unilateral embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  In that historic vote, 186 countries had expressed their support for the Cuban people, while only two countries had opposed it.  Venezuela had always supported such resolutions and had repeatedly denounced the “brutal” embargo.  It also stressed its rejection of all unilateral measures which had extraterritorial effects, which contravened the principles of the United Nations Charter and violated principles of free navigation, among other laws.  Indeed, the “Helms-Burton Act” and similar laws were an affront to people all over the world.  The Act undermined the human rights of the Cuban people - a “despicable policy” that punished the Cuban population with the aim of bringing about a change in leadership in Cuba.  “[They] will not achieve this”, he stressed of those measures.

While the embargo was an expression of a “barbarous” policy the Cuban people had nevertheless overcome that unjust practice in a “stoic and heroic” way, moving forward with the principle of solidarity even beyond their own borders.  The “advocates of imperialism” maintained that Cuba was a threat to the region, which was a “massive lie”.  Cuba had, on the contrary, been an element of support and hope in the area of solidarity with States, contributing to the social well being of many other countries.  United States President Barack Obama had managed to connect with the majority feeling of the Latin American population living in the United States, and he should continue by finally ending the longstanding embargo.  If the new United States Government moved forward in that regard, President Obama would be “acting on the right side of history”, he stressed in that respect.

WANG MIN ( China), said that the commercial and financial embargo against Cuba imposed by the United States had inflicted enormous economic and financial loses on the island nation.  Cuba’s economic losses directly resulting from the embargo had exceeded $108 billion by December 2011.  Taking into account the depreciation of the United States dollar against the price of gold in the international market, the figure would increase to $1.066 trillion.  The measure had caused shortage of commodities and huge suffering to the Cuban people.  It also violated their fundamental human rights including the rights to food, health and education as well as their right to development.  That also affected interactions between other countries and Cuba and impaired the interests and sovereignty of third countries.

The embargo seriously violated the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the relevant General Assembly resolutions, and had met the firm opposition of the vast majority of Member States.  “The call of the international community is getting louder and louder”, he said, demanding that the United States Government change its policy towards Cuba.  China and Cuba had maintained normal economic, trade and personnel exchanges.  The friendly and mutually-beneficial cooperation in various fields between two countries had been growing.  China hoped that the relationship between the United States and Cuba would improve so as to promote the stability and development in Latin America and the Caribbean region.

MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL (Egypt), aligning with the statements delivered on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, recalled that a little more than 50 years ago, an unjust and unjustifiable unilateral embargo had been imposed by the United States against Cuba.  Although the world had profoundly changed since, the “bloqueo” had persisted, in total violation of multilateralism, the norms of international law, and the principles of the Charter and was “an anachronism from a bygone era”.  He said the embargo against Cuba was the longest and toughest system of sanctions ever applied against any country in modern history and must be lifted.  Last year, 186 countries had voted in favour of General Assembly resolution 66/6 – the twentieth resolution adopted on the issue.  Lifting the embargo was not only the Cuban people’s plea, but was also the request of the overwhelming majority of Member States. 

He praised the Cuban people for their achievements under difficult circumstances, noting that despite the economic and social hardship caused by the embargo, they had made significant progress in many areas, including education, health care and gender equality.  At a time when peoples in his region were bravely fighting for freedom and justice, and some of them, like in his country, were establishing the foundations of a genuine democracy, it was troubling that the United States continued to adopt coercive measures to prevent a neighbouring nation from freely deciding its own political and economic system.  Stressing that cooperation and engagement were more effective than isolation and estrangement, he said it was high time for the embargo to end.  The re-election of President Obama last week offered the American administration a fresh opportunity to rectify the historic injustice inflicted on Cuba, he said, expressing hope that the opportunity to do so would not be missed.

DIEGO MOREJÓN ( Ecuador) said that in an expression of solidarity, his Government had provided humanitarian aid to the victims and countries in need following the recent hurricane.  Expressing concern about the United States’ Helms-Burton Act and its extraterritorial effects, Ecuador wished that the 21 resolutions on the Cuban blockade would finally be implemented in their entirety. 

A clause in Ecuador’s Constitution condemned interventions in internal affairs.  The current text before the Assembly clearly condemned violations of free trade and navigation, which were enshrined in the United Nations Charter and international law.  It was unacceptable to see the rising figures for the cost of the embargo in development.  The blockade limited the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed targets.  Aligning with the regional groups that had spoken thus far, Ecuador called for the repudiation and full lifting of the “infamous and shameful” blockade.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ ( Bolivia) said that the report of the Secretary-General highlighted, once again, the global rejection of the economic and financial embargo which had been imposed “in an arbitrary and unilateral way” against Cuba by the United States Government.  Bolivia firmly rejected the use of unilateral measures by any State seeking to impose embargoes that had humanitarian impacts.  “This blockade is unjust.  It’s illegal.  It’s extra-territorial”, he stressed, adding that it violated the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Further, the embargo contravened the rights of the Cuban people to self-determination and development, among others.

“The United States is not listening to the global appeal to put an end to this injustice”, he continued.  Such an attitude was one which represented “genocide’.  Bolivia condemned the coercive nature of the embargo, which also affected other countries around the world.  It also commended the courage of the revolutionary people of Cuba, which despite the effects of the embargo was moving forward, and recognized the efforts of the Cuban people to cooperate with Bolivia and other countries.  Indeed, while some countries sent armies and soldiers with great weapons, Cuba sent “armies” of doctors and teachers to the most needed areas of Latin America.  Cuba proclaimed solidarity, life, dignity and human value, he said, adding that, if the United States in fact defended equality and freedom, its President should immediately lift the “inhuman” embargo against that country.

LE HOAI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) noted that while 20 annual Assembly resolutions had called for an end to the blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba, the measure remained in place and continued to enforce severe economic and financial restrictions on Cuba.  The impact on Cuban lives and development caused by the embargo exceeded 1 trillion dollars, he said, adding that the majority of the international community opposed it on the grounds that it contravened the fundamental norms of international law, international humanitarian law and the fundamental principles and purposes of the Charter, especially those of sovereign equality, non-interference and self-determination. 

He supported the outcome of the Sixteenth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which had reiterated the need to end the embargo.  He also stressed his support for the statement by the “G-77” Ministers of Foreign Affairs at their 36th Annual Meeting this year, which had rejected all forms of coercive economic measures, including unilateral sanctions, against developing countries and called for their urgent elimination to ensure that the principles of the United Nations Charter were not undermined and that freedom of trade and investment was protected.  He added that he would vote in favour of the resolution. 

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, referred to a 1960 quote by then-Under-Secretary of State of the United States, Lester D. Mallory, who had written that the commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba was intended “to cause disenchantment and disaffection […] to weaken the economic life of Cuba […] to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of Government.”  That had been the vision that embodied the inhumane, failed and anachronistic policy of eleven successive United States Governments, he added.

In 2008, then presidential candidate Barack Obama had electrified the American people, and after being elected, had announced “a new beginning with Cuba”.  However, the reality of the past four years had been characterized by a persistent tightening of the blockade, particularly its extra-territorial dimensions, despite the fact that the General Assembly had approved, by a consistent and overwhelming majority, 20 consecutive resolutions calling for an end to the policy.

“Keeping this policy in force is not in the national interest of the United States”, he said.  Quite the contrary, it harmed the interest of that country’s citizens and companies, especially in times of economic crisis and high unemployment.  The blockade also harmed the legitimate interests of and discriminated against the Cuban emigration that had settled in the United States, which overwhelmingly favoured the normalization of relations with its home country.  Moreover, there was no legitimate or moral reason to maintain the blockade, which was “anchored in the Cold War”.  Indeed, it “is just a weapon in the hands of an ever more exiguous, isolated, violent and arrogant minority”, he said.

He went on to describe some of the fines and repercussions imposed against various parties who had allegedly violated the blockade, as well as the human damage caused by it, which was “huge and impossible to calculate”.  It caused hardships, shortages and difficulties that affected every family, every boy and girl, every man and women, as well as those with disabilities, senior citizens and the ill.  In that regard, he told the story of several hospitals that were unable to treat patients due to a lack of the appropriate medicines, and of children who suffered such ills as the loss of an eye due to retinal cancer because of the lack of appropriate therapies.  Given its express purpose and direct effects, the blockade against Cuba qualified as an “act of genocide” according to Article 2(b) of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, he stressed, adding that it was a “mass, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of an entire people.”

As was stated in the Secretary-General’s report, the economic damage accumulated over more than 50 years, until 2011, amounted to one trillion six billion dollars.  “Any sensible person could figure out the living standards and development levels that we could have achieved if we had had those resources available”, he added, calling the blockade one of the main causes of Cuba’s economic problems and the major obstacle to its economic and social development.  It was an act of aggression - a permanent threat to the stability of a country – and constituted a gross violation of the rules that governed international trade, freedom of navigation and the sovereign rights of States.

“President Obama has the opportunity to start a new policy towards Cuba”, he said.  It would be a difficult task and he might face serious obstacles, but there was no doubt that it would constitute a “historical legacy”.  Today Cuba was submitting to the United States Government a draft agenda for bilateral dialogue aimed at moving towards the normalization of relations, including such fundamental topics as the lifting of the blockade, Cuba’s exclusion from the “arbitrary and illegal” list of terrorism-sponsoring countries, and return of the territory occupied by the Guantanamo Naval base, and others.  An essential part of that agenda was the release of the five Cuban anti-terrorists who remained imprisoned or retained in the United States, he added.

Action on Draft

Taking the floor ahead of action on the draft resolution, the representative of the United States said that his country, like others, determined the conduct of its economic relationships with other States based on its best interest.  Regarding Cuba, the priority of President Obama’s Administration was to empower Cubans to determine their own future.  Connections must be built between the American and Cuban people, and those links should help to provide Cubans with the tools necessary to move forward.  In that regard, the hundreds of thousands of Cuban Americans who had sent remittances and travelled to the island since the start of the Obama Administration were a central part of the strategy to help Cubans have the opportunities that they deserved.  Such actions provided alternative sources of information and strengthened civil society, he stressed.

In contrast, the resolution presented by Cuba today sought to “identify an external scapegoat” for the country’s economic problems, where in fact, they were caused by the Cuban Government’s policies over the last half a century.  Indeed, he went on, Cuba still had one of the most restrictive economic systems in the world.  Irrespective of United States policy, it was “unrealistic” to expect Cuba to thrive unless it opened its monopolies, respected international property rights and allowed unfettered access to the Internet, among other things.  He stressed that the United States was in fact a “deep and abiding friend” to the Cuban people; by its own account it was one of Cuba’s principal trading partners, and it had authorized an estimated $1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance in 2011, among other forms of assistance.

The country remained committed to the welfare of the Cuban people despite such Cuban policies as those that allowed for the detention of Alan Gross, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba for facilitating Internet access for Cuba’s Jewish population.  In addition, the Assembly could not ignore the “ease and frequency” with which Cuba inflicted politically motivated detentions, impeded access to journalism and restricted similar freedoms.  The resolution before the Assembly today only served to distract from the real problems facing the Cuban people, he stressed, adding that the United States would therefore vote against it.

Next, the delegate of Nicaragua condemned the United States’ embargo for its negative consequences it had inflicted on the Cuban children, women and men.  For the twenty-first time, the General Assembly, which represented the Governments of the world, was speaking out for the Cuban people in a unanimous way, calling for the ending of blockage.  In that vein, her delegation would vote in favour of the resolution and for the generous nation of Cuba, which supported its people, the sick or elderly, through its social programmes. 

Nicaragua and Cuba had commenced cooperation, including technological assistance, to lift people out of poverty.  Cuba was making significant contributions to humanity.  The Assembly had just heard the representative of the United States try to justify Washington’s embargo, but such a measure was unjustifiable.  In any case, the Cuban people were determined and would never bend; they were known for their nobility in the Latin American and Caribbean region.  The United States had defied the General Assembly by continuing the criminal blockade. 

It was now high time to rectify the violations by the United States of international law and the United Nations Charter.  “The United States should not continue to be deaf” to the international community’s call.  The embargo remained an obstacle to Cuba’s social and economic development.  She also urged the United States to release the “five Cuban heroes” who had been detained.  Any coercive measures ran counter to multilateralism.  The United States’ “imperialistic policy” was unacceptable under Latin American norms, which valued good neighbourliness.  

The General Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba by a vote of 188 in favour, to 3 against (Palau, the United States and Israel), with two abstentions (the Marshall Islands and Micronesia).

Speaking in explanation of vote after action, the representative of Nigeria said his delegation believed in the inalienable right of each State to determine the development model that best suited it.  The adoption of the resolution showed the overwhelming desire of the General Assembly to see the end of the unilateral measures imposed by the United States against the Cuban people.  As a sovereign and independent nation, the Cuban people had the inalienable right to self-determination and to choose the form of Government that they wanted, devoid of all threats and interference in their internal affairs.  The African Union had recently adopted a resolution calling on the United States to end the embargo, he recalled, and Nigeria would continue to abide by that resolution, as well as by all United Nations resolutions calling for the end to the embargo.  It was in that context that Nigeria had voted in favour of the current text, and supported the dismantling of both the embargo and the underpinning logic of its existence.

The representative of Zambia called unequivocally on the Government of the United States to lift the embargo imposed on the people of Cuba, which violated international law and the Charter principles of sovereignty, equality of States, non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of States.  “The embargo has chained the people of Cuba and adversely stifled the growth of their economy”, she said in that respect.  Zambia applauded and admired the people of Cuba and its leaders for their resilience, hard work and dedication to the advancement of their country despite the embargo that was meant to shackle them.  “They have remained steadfast and risen above their problems to success in various fields for the benefit of themselves and friends abroad, including many Zambians”, she said.  Zambia strongly believed in the principle that “injustice to one is an injustice to all”, she concluded, warning that the injustice that had been perpetuated against the people of Cuba over the last 50 years could indeed “happen to any Member States of this great body”.

Speaking in explanation of vote after action, the representative of Saint Lucia aligned with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community.  She said that the embargo was counter to international law, free trade and the United Nations Charter.  Cuba provided significant support to the Caribbean region through scholarships to students who returned to their homelands and furthered development.  Further, its assistance to other countries in the area of health care was legend.  For those reasons, Saint Lucia had voted for the draft resolution.

The representative of Uruguay said his country had voted in favour of the draft resolution as it had in recent years.  The embargo against Cuba contravened the United Nations Charter and ran counter to international laws, particularly those relating to international trade.  Such norms were mandatory for members of the World Trade Organization.  Based on the principle of the legal equality of States, Uruguay was against any laws with extraterritorial effects that infringed on the sovereignty of other States.

Noting that the embargo had serious effects on the people of Cuba, he condemned the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States against that country.  They prevented dialogue.  Further, reiterating Uruguay’s commitment to multilateralism as the most effective way of settling disputes between States, he said that Uruguay had joined other Member States in voting against the embargo.

The representative of Namibia said his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution out of a belief that sovereign nations should live in peace with one another as good neighbours and embrace the principle of open trade without threat of coercive measures.  The blockade was “inconsistent” with the Charter, which called for all Member States “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours.”  To the contrary, he said, the blockade undermined good neighbourliness.

He expressed concern at the promulgation and application of laws and measures constituting unjustifiable economic, commercial or financial blockades against any peaceful country.  The blockade inflicted pain on the people of Cuba, restrained their economic and social development, and violated their basic human rights by causing irreparable damage to the economic, social and cultural way of life, key fundamentals to the pursuit of happiness.   Namibia had voted for the resolution and would continue to do so until the blockade was lifted.  He expressed the hope “that the United States will heed the voice of the international community clearly expressed so loudly here today.”

The representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic said that the people of Cuba had endured the misery resulting from the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States for over four decades.  That embargo had also impeded efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals.  “It is disappointing to witness the lingering unilateral and discriminatory commercial practices in today’s world of interdependence and multilateral cooperation amongst States,” he said.  Further, the blockade violated international law and was against the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.  It was a transgression of the right of a sovereign State to peace, development and security, and an act of aggression.

In accordance with relevant Assembly resolutions, no Member State might promulgate or enforce laws or regulations whose extraterritorial effects jeopardized the sovereignty of other Member States, he went on.  Nor, as stated in the Charter, did any nation have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another.  As a sovereign, independent nation, Cuba had the right to choose its own political system and path to development.  The vast majority of the international community demanded that the blockade be lifted, as demonstrated by the 186 Member States who had voted for the resolution last year.  He joined the majority of Member States in reaffirming the urgent need to put an end to the economic, financial and commercial embargo against Cuba.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said the ongoing embargo was “outmoded, ineffective and illegal”.  The time had long since passed for the “archaic and punitive measure” to be consigned to history books as an unfortunate remnant of a bygone era.  “No country in this Hall has the right to tell the United States how to conduct its foreign policy, who its friends should be, or how to determine its national interests.  Even if such a right existed, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines would not presume to exercise it against our cherished friend and neighbour to the north.  But every country in this Hall is obligated by the United Nations Charter to oppose instances where national foreign policy decisions become violations of international law, or disregard the Charter principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in the domestic affairs of States,” she said.

The embargo harkened to an isolationist, confrontational era of naval blockades and brinkmanship that had no place in “our modern system”.  Throughout the embargo, Cuba had nonetheless remained a staunch and abiding partner in the development of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, even in times of global hardship.  Further, during a time of increasing regional integration and interaction, the Cuban economy, markets and resources were a valuable component to collective Caribbean development.  “As we all grapple with the fallout of the global economic and financial crisis, the need to eliminate such development impediments is even more compelling,” she said.  “Let us not allow political cowardice or ideological straightjackets to perpetuate the continuation of this unjust and harmful embargo.”

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea congratulated Cuba on receiving “the absolute majority of votes” on the resolution.  Twenty-one years had passed, with all of the Member States aware that the United States enforced its full-scale blockage for the purpose of overthrowing the Cuban Government, which estimated its cumulative economic loss caused by the embargo at more than one trillion dollars.  The 1991 Helms-Burton Act, which extended extraterritorial effects, was a serious violation of the principle of non-interference in sovereign States.  His Government consistently opposed all forms of intervention in the affairs of sovereign States.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had voted in favour of the text, urging the United States to immediately end the blockage and conform to the majority vote.  His Government supported Cuba in safeguarding its nation and its sovereignty. 

The representative of Belarus, concurring with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that once again the vast majority of Member States had supported the resolution to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba.  He rejected unilateral sanctions and coercive measures against States, as a flagrant violation of international law.  Belarus had experienced such measures itself and had urged the Secretary-General and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to take greater efforts to dissuade the United States and other countries from imposing such forms of political and economic pressure on other sovereign States, from such actions.

He said, further, that it was impossible to bend sovereign States to one’s will through blackmail and economic pressure and hoped that today’s vote would be taken seriously by the United States.

The delegate of Syria stressed the importance of the principles of sovereignty, equality and non-interference that constituted the pillars of international law.  Noting the sanctity of those principles, he urged all States to respect them.  The United States embargo was illegal in terms of human rights, international trade and humanitarian affairs.  It was “embarrassing” for the United States to continue the blockade over 50 years, causing all forms of harm, whether it political, economic or social, and which had cost Cuba and its people more than one trillion dollars.  Over the more than 20 consecutive years, the Assembly’s resolution had enjoyed “unanimous” support.  Specialized organizations had adopted similar decisions but nothing had happened.

Criticising Western hegemony, he pointed out that European nations and the United States tended to intervene in sovereign States.  Those countries had also imposed unilateral sanctions against Syrian people.  He lambasted those States for simultaneously “setting fires and trying to be fire fighters”, describing such moves as hypocrisy.  Israel was one of the few nations that had voted against the resolution.  That country should lift its embargo on the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Syria wished that under Mr. Barack Obama, who had been elected President for a second term, the United States practice of intervention would abate.

The representative from Cyprus, on behalf of the delegation of the European Union said that the United States’ trade policy towards Cuba was fundamentally a bilateral issue, but American legislation such as the Cuban Democracy Act of 1972 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 had extended the effects of the embargo to third-party countries.  In the framework of the Common Commercial Policy, the European Union had firmly and continuously opposed such extraterritorial measures.  While recognizing the decision by the United States Government to lift restrictions on remittances and family travel to Cuba, the Union could not accept that unilaterally imposed measures impeded its economic and commercial relations with Cuba.  To address that problem, the Union Council of Ministers adopted, in November 1996, a regulation and a joint action to protect the interests of natural and legal persons residing in Europe against the consequences of these Acts.  At the Summit between the European Union and the United States held in London in May 1998, a package had been agreed to alleviate the problems with extraterritorial legislation.

While noting the negative impact of the United States blockade on the Cuban economy, he reiterated the European Union’s call on Cuba to fully grant its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression and free access to information, to ratify the United Nations Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Domestic Cuban economic policy seriously hampered its own economic development.  The Union urged the Cuban authorities to bring about real improvements in all such areas.  In spite of continued concerns and criticism on the human rights situation in Cuba, Member States of the European Union unanimously voted in favour of the draft resolution

Also speaking after action, the representative of Zimbabwe said that she was explaining her vote not only out of solidarity with the people of Cuba, but also “out of a sense of revulsion at the collective punishment nature of this economic blockade.  We deplore this sanction for the harm it does to the people of Cuba and for its illegal application under international law.”

She noted her country’s familiarity with the effects of such punishment, as it was currently enduring an economic blockade “of similar effect and consequence”.  In Zimbabwe’s case, those measures were based on the “racist premise” that Africans should not be masters of their economic potential or enjoy the benefits of their natural resources.  That was as abhorrent as the unacceptable situation in which Cuba had been for some five decades.  “We hope that those who are imposing this economic blockade on Cuba take cognizance of the global opposition to their behaviour and that they will relent”, she said in closing.

The delegate of Saint Kitts and Nevis said that over the years, his country had maintained good relations with the United States and recognized that country’s role as a leader in international affairs.  But he was ready to signal wrongdoing.  His delegation had just done so by voting in favour of the resolution that called for an end to the American embargo.  The question of the blockade touched the core of international affairs, which was State sovereignty.  For the past 21 years, the resolution had enjoyed the overwhelming support.  His delegation did not support any measures that restricted the free flow of trade, a principle position adopted by the General Assembly.  “This embargo is wrong,” he declared, adding that the sanctity of that body and its decisions should be respected.  He called on the two nations to improve relations based on partnership and cooperation.  “It is no longer a bilateral issue, it’s a multilateral concern,” he said.

The representative of Myanmar, also speaking after the vote, said that, as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, his Government strongly opposed the use of unilateral trade and economic sanctions to exert political pressure.  As a country confronted with such sanctions for decades, Myanmar understood, from its own experience, the extent of hardship and suffering such sanctions caused the people.  He expressed sympathy for the people of Cuba who had been prevented from developing the country’s economic potential.  For that reason, Myanmar had joined the international community every year in the call to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba to relieve the suffering of its people.

“ Myanmar fully subscribes to the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, especially the principle of sovereign equality of nations,” he said.  “Adherence to those principles will contribute to the elimination of tension and confrontation between States.”  Therefore the embargo and coercive measures should be replaced by dialogue and cooperation.  For those reasons, he had voted in favour of the draft resolution.

Ghana’s representative aligned with the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 developing countries and China, saying that his delegation had never supported the imposition of the economic, commercial and financial embargo by the United States against Cuba due to its commitment to its obligations under the United Nations Charter.  Ghana also believed that it was also morally indefensible to deny the people of the sovereign State of Cuba the benefits derived from external trade.

He appealed to the United States Congress to heed the call, “repeated over the past 22 years, to help rectify this major hiccup in multilateralism.  Over the years Cuba has demonstrated the spirit of multilateralism and international co-operation by playing host to thousands of students from Africa who return to [home] to contribute to the development of their countries and global progress.”  He expressed the hope that the issue of the embargo could be resolved expeditiously so that it could be “put […] behind us” in order to move forward together with the friendly peoples of Cuba and the United States.

The representative of Argentina said that its vote in favour of the resolution reflected its support of putting an end to the unilateral and illegitimate embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  Argentina was committed to full implementation of the resolution, as it was committed to multilateralism in settling disputes between States.  The embargo was a violation of international law.  In its own law 24871, Argentina proclaimed the absolute inapplicability of foreign laws that generated extraterritorial effects with the aim of bringing about regime change or that affected another State’s right to self-determination, among other things.  It was unconscionable that despite clear international opposition to the embargo, it persisted.

The representative of Iran said his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution.  Iran’s views on the subject had been articulated in a Non-Aligned Movement statement he made earlier during today’s debate.  Due to its harmful extraterritorial nature, the unilateral embargo imposed by the United States had impacted companies in third countries.  Measures threatening the prosperity of people around the world were not acceptable.  Member States should repeal and invalidate any laws that had extraterritorial effects in other States.  Sanctions increased the prices of commodities, thus contributing to the global economic stagnation.  The embargo undermined multilateralism and the credibility of the United Nations itself.  Cuba should have access to markets, technology and other benefits in order to advance its development.

The representative of South Africa said that the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba was a flagrant violation of the principle of the sovereign equality of States, and non-intervention and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.  Further, it was a violation of international law and showed disregard for the principles of the Charter.  Cuba’s financial transactions and trade were harmed.  Its bi-lateral ties, including with South Africa, were hampered by United States domestic laws.  It was the civilian population that bore the brunt of such injustice, which needed to end.  For that reason, South Africa had repeatedly joined the majority of countries in expressing opposition to the blockade and the unilateral action by the United States.

He went on to announce the ratification of an agreement on economic assistance to Cuba in the South African National Assembly, which he called a breakthrough in relations that reaffirmed South Africa’s ongoing support for Cuba.  He then said that “[t]he international community recognizes Cuba’s outstanding work in the areas of health, education and biotechnology in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa” and the world in general.  The embargo stifled that contribution to economic and social development and hindered improving the lives of the poor.  Therefore, South Africa supported lifting the embargo against Cuba and refrained from recognizing the unilateral measures and laws of a coercive nature that defied the Charter’s principles and the norms of international law.

The representative of the Solomon Islands welcomed the adoption of the resolution, which was in line with the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.  The United States should have compassion for the people of Cuba.  As it stood, “what is bad for Cuba is good for the United States”.  The General Assembly was the rightful place for addressing that issue.  His delegation humbly urged the United States once again to seek to give peace a chance.  Given that Cuban people had endured difficult circumstances for more than 50 years, it was the responsibility of the Member States to honour and live up to the expectations of all the citizens of that island nation.  The Assembly welcomed Cuban Foreign Minister’s outreach to the United States through a proposal for normalizing their bilateral relations. 

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Cuba’s representative criticized the United States’ speaker for seeking to uphold the Bush-era policy and for repeating what he had said during last year’s debate on the topic.  He went on to describe how money had been wasted in the presidential campaign in the United States and how peaceful demonstrators in the Wall Street protests had been detained.  The United States Administration should listen to the voices of the Occupy Wall Street protestors.  The embargo was an act of “genocide”, he said, noting that the use of that term had not been rejected by the United States delegate at today’s session.  The United States had no moral authority to speak about human rights, he said, citing that country’s military aggression, forced disappearances, secret prisons and “concentration camps”. 

Cuba should be allowed access to submarine cables for telecommunications and allowed to purchase communications equipment.  Its dance troupes should be able to travel freely.  The United States delegate had lied about the figures of its humanitarian aid to Cuba.  The figures were false.  Alan Gross, an American national, had been detained because he had engaged in covert operations to overthrow Cuba’s constitutional order.  President Obama had a chance to say that something had changed under his Administration.

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