General Assembly Demands End to Cuba Blockade for Twenty-Second Year as Speakers Voice Concern over Impact on Third Countries

29 October 2013
GA/11445

General Assembly Demands End to Cuba Blockade for Twenty-Second Year as Speakers Voice Concern over Impact on Third Countries

29 October 2013
General Assembly
GA/11445
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

38th & 39th Meetings (AM & PM)

General Assembly Demands End to Cuba Blockade for Twenty-Second Year

As Speakers Voice Concern over Impact on Third Countries

 

Foreign Minister Cites Economic Damage;

United States Delegate Says Resolution Distracts from Real Problems

The General Assembly, voting nearly-unanimously, adopted its twenty-second consecutive resolution calling for an end to the United States’ decades-long economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.

By the text, adopted by a recorded vote of 188 in favour to 2 against (United States and Israel) with 3 abstentions (Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau), the Assembly expressed concern about the continued promulgation and application by Member States of laws and regulations, such as the 1996 “Helm-Burton Act”, the extraterritorial effects of which affected the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation.

The resolution reiterated the call on States to refrain from applying such measures, in conformity with their obligations under the Charter, and urged those that had applied such laws to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.

Introducing the text, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the human damages caused by the blockade were incalculable, with 76 per cent of Cubans living under its devastating effects since the day they were born.  The resulting economic damages accumulated after half a century amounted to more than $1 trillion.  The embargo was also the main obstacle to broader access to the Internet, the free circulation of persons, the exchange of ideas and the development of cultural, sport and scientific relations.

The blockade had been further tightened under President Obama’s administration, particularly in the financial sector, he said.  The United States had historically used the enormous technological power of its recently denounced mass espionage system to persecute and monitor Cuba’s financial transactions and economic relations.  From January 2009 to September 2013, fines imposed on 30  United States and foreign entities for relations with Cuba and other countries amounted to more than $2.4 billion.

The essence of the United States’ Cuba policy remained unaltered and anchored in the Cold War, he said.  There were big differences between both Governments, but the only productive way to proceed would be to find a civilized way to relate to one another.  Dialogue, negotiation and cooperation must prevail for the benefit of both peoples and hemispheric relations.  The recent resumption of talks on migration, the reestablishment of direct post services and the development of contacts on issues of mutual interest, such as combating oil spills and maritime and air search and rescue missions, showed that such an approach was both possible and useful.

“Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower,” he said.  “Then, why can’t Americans have access to first quality Cuban products or Cuban last generation medicines?  Why are their business people losing opportunities?”  Cuba aimed to move towards normalization of bilateral relations and was willing to establish a serious, constructive dialogue on an equal footing and with full respect for its independence.

The representative of the United States, however, said the Cuban Government sought to identify an “external scapegoat” for its economic problems, which were actually caused by its own policies over the last half a century.  It was unrealistic to expect Cuba to thrive unless it changed its policies, opened up for competitions, respected international property rights and allowed unfettered access to the Internet, among other things.

As a “deep and abiding friend” to the Cuban people, the United States placed high priority on strengthening the connections between American and Cuban citizens.  In 2012, around $2 billion in the form of remittances and private support were sent from the United States to Cuba.  His country was also the largest supplier of food and agricultural products to the island country as well as its principal trade partner.  In addition, United States companies were among the leading providers of humanitarian assistance to Cuba

The United States strongly supported the Cuban people’s desire to design their own future, he said.  However, such an aspiration was obstructed by the Cuban Government.  The Assembly should not ignore Cuba’s various human rights problems.  The resolution only served to distract from the real problems facing the Cuban people.

In the debate, many delegates lamented the severe consequences of the embargo on Cuba.  India’s representative said since the island country was denied access to major markets with which it shared geography, Cuba had to pay enormous extra costs for sourcing products, technology and services from third countries located thousands of kilometres away and find markets for its own products.  Citing the Food and Agriculture Organization, he pointed out that the embargo had very negative implications for Cuba’s balance of trade and foreign exchange earnings, and for the country’s supply of food and agriculture products as well as a direct effect on the food security of the vulnerable segments of the population.

The representative of Sudan said his own country had experienced economic, social and development blockades, just as Cuba had been deprived of importing spare parts for vital sectors that could have led to development in infrastructure, industry and medication.  Embargoes had fuelled conflicts in Sudan, and all conflicts were attributable to underdevelopment, he said, raising the question:  How could the United Nations achieve a road map for a post-2015 development agenda to combat poverty when there were laws that hindered international trade, imposing blockades on countries striving to achieve lives with dignity for their people?

Many speakers expressed concerns about the extraterritorial dimension of the blockade.  The representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said United States’ legislation had extended the effects of the embargo to third countries.  The European Union continuously opposed such extraterritorial measures.  While appreciating small measures that lifted remittance obstacles, she could not accept unilaterally imposed restrictions that were contrary to international trade rules and impeded the European Union’s economic and commercial relations with Cuba.

Several speakers commended the progress that Cuba had achieved despite the difficulties, as well as the assistance it had provided for other countries.  The representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that in the Caribbean alone, Cuba had built hospitals and clinics as well as provided medicines and healthcare professionals.  Students from CARICOM countries had benefited from free university education in Cuba.  The country had also extended generous help to Haiti after its devastating earthquake.

Some delegates called on the United States and Cuban Governments to work together towards a lasting solution.  The representative of Zambia said the unilateral embargo had no role in an era of “setting the stage” for the post-2015 global development agenda.  The time was ripe for the two countries to free themselves from a standoff of a long-gone era when the majority of their citizens had not even been born.  “The present generations know little of the cause of the age old impasse, hence we must give them a chance to enjoy normalcy,” he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Russian Federation, Fiji (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Mexico, Chile (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group), Djibouti (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Venezuela (on behalf of the Common Market of the South and in its national capacity), Ecuador, Egypt, Bolivia, China, Indonesia, Algeria, Viet Nam, Brazil, Angola, South Africa, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United Republic of Tanzania, Argentina, Solomon Islands, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Syria, El Salvador, Myanmar, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Uruguay.

Cuba’s representative also made a statement in exercise of the right to reply.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on 30 October to take action on a by-election to fill vacancies resulting from four members from the Western European and other States relinquishing their seats, an election of seven members of the Committee for Programme and Coordination and an election of eighteen members of the Economic and Social 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/68/116), as well as an eponymous draft resolution on the matter (document A/68/L.6).

Statements

DMITRY MAKSIMYCHEV ( Russian Federation) said that that States had unilaterally expressed their disagreement over the blockade.  He emphasized that his country had advocated for the immediate lifting of the embargo on Cuba, which was a “leftover” from the Cold War.  It not only damaged the economy of Cuba but infringed on the lives of Cubans and third countries.  The measures of coercion used regarding the sanctions went against the United Nations Charter and led to a worsening of relations in the international sphere.  On 24 October the Duma adopted a letter to the General Assembly which reflecting the views of parliamentarians, urging the end of the sanctions.

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77”, developing countries and China, said the embargo contravened international law and the norms and principles governing relations among States.  The blockade had deep impacts on Cuba and its people, applying extraterritorial laws against Cuba and frustrating agreements on internationally agreed development goals.  The Group firmly rejected the unilateral sanctions against developing countries. 

He called for the United States to end the embargo against Cuba, underscoring that the Group was committed to working towards the peaceful coexistence of all nations and the rule of law, including international law.  Last year, 188 Member States had voted against resolution 67/4, representing an overwhelming majority of nations.  The Group would again this year vote to end the embargo and he urged all Member States to do so, as well.

JORGE MONTAÑO ( Mexico) said his country had for more than two decades used the Assembly to express its opposition to the United States blockade, which was not supported by law.  He noted that Cuba had set out plans for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals despite those sanctions.  Stressing his delegation opposition to the economic blockade of any State, he said that what was happening in Cuba contradicted the ideas and views of his country.  Any type of sanctions imposed on any State could only be done so by the Security Council.  Mexico and Cuba enjoyed historical links in a climate of renewed trust.  During the Mexican Foreign Minister’s visit to Cuba, a high-level political dialogue had been pursued.  As such, his delegation would vote in favour of the resolution.  That was the least his country could do to condemn something that was going on for more than 40 years.

EDUARDO GÁLVEZ (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), recalled that since 1992, twenty one resolutions had been adopted by the Assembly requesting an end to the embargo imposed against Cuba.  Today Member States were meeting again to consider the twenty-second one, which CELAC fully supported.  The embargo was contrary to the letter, spirit, principles and purposes of the Charter and international law.  It had transformed into a strict system of unilateral measures that were creating severe economic losses to the Cuban people.

He also reiterated concerns over the strengthening of the extraterritorial dimension of the embargo.  The measures were affecting many companies that were conducting business in accordance with international law with Cuba.  Several restrictions and fines had been imposed to international companies last year, some of which belonged to CELAC members.  He urged the United States to align its relevant national legislation with the Charter, the Assembly resolutions, the views of the international community and the voice of its own people.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the overwhelming majority of Member States’ call last year to end the embargo had clearly demonstrated how the international community stood on the matter.  The Movement reiterated its opposition to such unilateral action.  He also noted with concern the tightening of the embargo, as well as all other recent measures taken by the United States against Cuba.  Such actions violated Cuba’s sovereignty and the rights of its people, and denied the country’s access to the global market and international financial institutions.  The embargo also was extraterritorial by nature and flaunted international law.  Despite the difficulties, Cuba had achieved significant progress, particularly in education, health and international cooperation.  He called on the United States to comply with the Assembly resolutions and put an end to the embargo.

AMAN HASSEN BAME ( Ethiopia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said for more than two decades the Assembly had adopted by an overwhelming majority a resolution that had not yet been implemented.  Dialogue and negotiations were the way forward.  Africa hoped that the resolutions would put an end to the embargo on Cuba and that all countries would benefit, promoting development in the entire region.  The African Union’s May meeting in Addis Ababa had invited the United States to lift the embargo.  He hoped the United States would begin a new chapter in the United States-Cuba relations, for which the lifted embargo would be a solid foundation.  Cuban had a proud history with Africa, a role that would continue to be remembered and that the Cuban people should be proud of.

ROBLE OLHAYE (Djibouti), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said he was concerned about the embargo, as it violated international law.  Since 1992, the Assembly had adopted every year a resolution on ending the embargo, highlighting the humanitarian and economic costs on the Cuban population that harmed that country’s efforts to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Many companies and entities conducting business had also been affected.  OIC was fully committed to achieving a peaceful coexistence among nations.  All nations, regardless of their power and size, must fully adhere to international law.  The prevailing situation was sustainable as the blockade served no purpose.  The United States should end its embargo and he urged all States to support the resolution.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), said the embargo went against the rights of a sovereign State and contravened the norms of international trade.  It was also a violation of human rights and restricted economic and social progress, preventing the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  The increase in restrictions on financial transactions between Cuba and other countries was unwarranted.  MERCOSUR rejected such unilateral measures, which prevented regional integration.  The blockade had proven to be the main obstacle to economic development in Cuba.  Multilateralism was a legitimate way to resolve conflicts and to promote understanding among peoples.  The international community must reject the blockade, which had tried to restrict the Cuban Government’s abilities to have access to the technology and means of improving its development.

Mr. Moncada, speaking in his national capacity, said the blockade was a flagrant violation of international law.  Those unilateral measures had an effect on the freedom of international trade and had prevented third States from holding trade relations with Cuba.  However, the illegal blockade had not prevented solidarity among people.  The reciprocity between Venezuela and Cuba existed, shown by the 2000 agreement on health between the countries with an aim of helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline.  The Venezuelan people demanded that the United States comply with Assembly resolutions, adopted since 1991, leading to the final lifting of the blockade.

DELANO F. BART ( Saint Kitts and Nevis), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), lamented the fact that for 53 years the Cuban people had endured severe economic loss and stagnation.  Despite the repeated calls from the international community, the embargo against Cuba continued and was actually becoming more and more acute.  Cuba’s safety and pace of recovery were compromised by the embargo’s many direct and indirect effects.  When viewed in the light of the generosity and selfless assistance that Cuba had kindly accorded to other States in time of need, the unilateral application of the embargo against the country was especially ill-conceived.

Despite the challenges, Cuba remained a key regional and international partner and actor, he said.  In the Caribbean alone, Cuba had built hospitals and clinics as well as provided medicines and healthcare professionals.  Students from CARICOM countries had benefited from free university education in Cuba.  The country had also extended generous help to Haiti after its devastating earthquake.  CARICOM reiterated its solidarity with Cuba and called for an end to the embargo.  The Community also continued to value and enjoy the long-established, warm and friendly relations with the United States.  It was in that spirit that CARICOM urged the United States Government to heed the calls of the international community.

MOHAMMED ADEEB, Member of Parliament of India, said despite repeated calls from the Assembly, its resolutions remained unimplemented in contravention of world opinion.  Such disregard for the international community’s collective will undermined the United Nations’ credibility and weakened multilateralism.  The embargo caused immense suffering for the Cuban people.  Since the country was denied access to major markets with which it shared geography, Cuban had to pay enormous extra costs for sourcing products, technology and services from third countries located thousands of kilometres away and find markets for its own products.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had pointed out the embargo had very negative implications for Cuba’s balance of trade and foreign exchange earnings, and for the country’s supply of food and agriculture products as well as a direct effect on the food security of the vulnerable segments of the population.  Differences between countries should be solved through dialogue and negotiation, he said.

XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA ( Ecuador) said his country condemned any type of interference with sovereign States.  It was ironic that in the United Nations, discussions were now being held on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda while the Organization was also discussing an embargo that had caused so much damage to Cuba and its people.  The current situation demonstrated the inability of the United Nations to implement its resolutions and as such, Ecuador supported ending the decades-long embargo.

MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL ( Egypt) said that the embargo against Cuba was morally unjustifiable, legally indefensible and contrary to international law.  It affected crucial sectors of Cuba’s economy and the wellbeing of its people, with negative repercussions on companies and citizens of third countries as well.  Despite the undue economic and social hardship, the Cubans had continued to make developmental gains, and he saluted their determination and resilience in the face of adversity.  The United States’ administration had in the recent past stated that it would engage with Cuba.  However, those encouraging words had regrettably not been translated into actions.  The punitive measures persisted.  The United States could not indefinitely ignore the international community’s will or turn a blind eye to what was right and just.  This went against its values, history and tradition.  He hoped this time the international community’s call would not go unheard.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ ( Bolivia) said the embargo had severely hampered Cuba’s health services, food security, international trade, foreign investment and many other sectors.  The unilateral embargo imposed by the United States was illegal, immoral, extraterritorial by nature, and contrary to the United Nations Charter.  It also violated Cuba’s sovereignty and its people’s right to self determination.  He urged the United States to comply with the Assembly’s resolutions and end the embargo immediately.  He also thanked Cuba for its assistance to Bolivia.

WANG MIN ( China) said for 21 consecutive years, the Assembly had adopted resolutions on ending the United States embargo against Cuba, urging all countries to abide by the Charter.  Unfortunately, those resolutions had never been effectively implemented.  Statistics showed that by April 2013, the embargo had resulted in financial losses of $1.5 trillion, seriously undermining the Cuban economy.  The embargo had also caused enormous pain to the Cuban people, hampering them from achieving the Millennium Development Goals and violating their rights to development.  The embargo was a blatant violation of the Charter, and the call of the international community was getting louder and louder.  China had always advocated that countries should develop mutual relations based on the Charter.  China had implemented relevant Assembly resolutions, and it had cooperated with Cuba in a range of fields.  China hoped for an improvement of United States-Cuba relations and an end to the embargo.

DESRA PERCAYA ( Indonesia) said the Cuban people had endured the embargo for 53 years at a forbidding cost.  The embargo violated international law and had indirectly impacted countries that had economic and commercial ties with Cuba.  There was immense confidence in the international community that engagement would do more than isolation to advance the noble causes that all Member States ascribed to.  “The time is ripe for relations between the two main parties to be transformed through constructive engagement,” he said.  Lifting the embargo would be in keeping with the spirit of the times and demonstrate unambiguous respect for the principles of non-intervention.  Despite small changes, such as easing of travel restrictions to Cuba and the removal of obstacles to transfer remittances, the preferred outcome was for the embargo to be lifted immediately.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said that his country had always condemned the imposition of extraterritorial applications of laws and all forms of coercive economic and trade measures, including the embargo against Cuba, which contradicted international law and the Charter. The blockade was affecting the well-being of the Cuban people on a daily basis and causing huge material losses and economic damages to Cuba.  Those consequences were exacerbated by the adverse effects of the ongoing global economic and financial crisis.  The embargo undermined efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and negatively affected international cooperation.  His country would vote in favour of the draft resolution.

WALUBITA IMAKANDO ( Zambia ) was concerned that after more than two decades, the Assembly was still debating an agenda item over which there had been overwhelming consensus.  Despite the clear message from the United Nations, the United States had maintained the embargo against Cuba.  Unless immediate efforts were made, “history will judge all of us in the United Nations family rather harshly.”  The unilateral embargo had no role in an era of “setting the stage” for the post-2015 global development agenda.  Zambia stood with the global chorus for the unconditional lifting of the embargo.  The time was ripe for Cuba and the United States to free themselves from a standoff of a long-gone era when the majority of their citizens had not even been born.  “The present generations know little of the cause of the age old impasse, hence we must give them a chance to enjoy normalcy,” he said, calling on the two parties to commit to searching for a solution.

LE HOAI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) said his country shared the view that the unilateral embargo imposed by the United States was at variance with the purposes of the United Nations and constituted a violation of the Charter and international law.  He stressed the need for dialogue and negotiations to settle differences or disputes among States, which was essential for peace, security and normal international interactions.  Viet Nam called on the United States, in the implementation of the United Nations resolutions, to lift the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.  Viet Nam supported the rights of the Cuban people to choose their path of development and appreciated their significant achievements in spite of numerous challenges.

ANTONIO PATRIOTA ( Brazil) said his country was firmly opposed to the embargo.  He urged all States to support the resolution and put an end to the embargo.  Brazil and other founding members of the United Nations had expressed commitment to international diplomacy and the principles of the Charter.  It was urgent to put an end to the embargo, as it flagrantly violated international law.  Brazil’s aid to Cuban victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was an example of his country’s support to Cuba.  He also commended Cuba for updating its economic model and supported that model.  However, progress in Cuba was impeded by the embargo.  Brazil would continue to oppose the embargo as well as foster ever-warmer relations with countries in the region.  The region needed Cuba.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS( Angola) said his country regretted the continued embargo, a flagrant violation of the Cuban people’s inalienable rights and of international law.  The ban reached beyond the commercial and financial relations between the United States and Cuba.  Its implications severely penalized the Cuban people, preventing the implementation of economic programmes aimed at ensuring the socio-economic stability of that country, as well as its global integration.  Angola supported the decisions contributing to the elimination of all coercive economic measures used as a means of political persuasion against any sovereign State.  He called on the international community to deepen the commitment to promote a constructive dialogue between the two countries.

MANIEMAGEN GOVENDER ( South Africa) said that although the Assembly had been seized of the matter for 22 years ago, the embargo against Cuba persisted.  The unilateral action ran counter to international law and the Charter and it violated the Cuban people’s rights.  At heart of this embargo was the attempt to prevent Cuba from independently deciding its own political system and path to development.  The blockade was a major cause to Cuba’s economic problems and had affected every aspect of its trade.  As long as the status quo remained, it was difficult for Cuba to benefit from the post-2015 development agenda.  Despite the challenges, Cuba adhered to the principle of solidarity beyond its borders, with South Africa being a beneficiary of its assistance.

Action on Draft Resolution

BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, introduced 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/68/L.6).

The blockade had, among other things, prevented patients from getting the treatment they needed, he said, adding that the human damages were incalculable, with 76 per cent of Cubans living under its devastating effects since the day they were born.  The blockade had been classified as an act of genocide pursuant to article II of the Geneva Convention and as an act of economic warfare based on the Declaration on the Right to Maritime Warfare.  The resulting economic damages accumulated after half a century amounted to more than $1 trillion.  Cuba had made progress in eradicating hunger and poverty and in improving health, education, gender equality and social indicators.  But he asked, “How much more could we have done without this colossal obstacle to our development and the enormous human and financial costs it has imposed on us?”

The blockade had been further tightened under President Obama’s administration, particularly in the financial sector, he said.  The United States had historically used the enormous technological power of its recently denounced mass espionage system to persecute and monitor Cuba’s financial transactions and economic relations.  From January 2009 to September 2013, fines imposed on 30  United States and foreign entities for relations with Cuba and other countries amounted to more than $2.4 billion.  The United States had fined the British bank HSBC, Tokyo-Mitsubishi and Reuters, among others.

“Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower,” he said.  “Then, why can’t Americans have access to first quality Cuban products or Cuban last generation medicines?  Why are their business people losing opportunities?”  The blockade was, among other things, the main obstacle to a broader access to the Internet, the free circulation of persons, the exchange of ideas and the development of cultural, sport and scientific relations.

President Obama could make use of his ample constitutional powers, even without requiring the support of the United States Congress, to generate a dynamic that could lead to a change in the present status, he said.  “After all, Americans have said he was elected to bring change,” he said.  The persistence of the United States’ State Department in classifying Cuba as a State that sponsored terrorism marred the United States’ credibility, since the notorious international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles had found refuge in Miami.

The essence of the United States’ Cuba policy remained unaltered and anchored in the Cold War, he said.  There were big differences between both Governments, but the only productive way to proceed would be to find a civilized way to relate to one another.  Dialogue, negotiation and cooperation must prevail for the benefit of both peoples and hemispheric relations.  The recent resumption of talks on migration and the reestablishment of direct post services and the development of contacts on issues of mutual interest, such as combating oil spills and maritime and air search and rescue missions, showed that such an approach was both possible and useful.

Cuba aimed at moving towards normalization of bilateral relations and was willing to establish a serious and constructive dialogue on an equal footing and with full respect for its independence, he said, asking United Nations Member States to vote in favour of the resolution.

Explaining his vote before the action was taken, RONALD GODARD ( United States) said his country strongly supported the Cuban people’s desire to design their own future.  However, such an aspiration was obstructed by the Cuban Government.  The United States placed high priority on strengthening the connections between American and Cuban citizens.  Since the start of the Obama Administration, as a result of the strategy to help Cubans to have the opportunities they deserved, hundreds of thousands of Americans had sent remittances and travelled to the island.  The Cuban Government, however, sought to identify an “external scapegoat” for its economic problems, which were actually caused by its own policies over the last half a century.  It was unrealistic to expect Cuba to thrive unless it changed its policies, opened up for competitions, respected international property rights and allowed unfettered access to the Internet, among other things.

Describing his country as a “deep and abiding friend” to the Cuban people, he said in 2012 around $2 billion in the form of remittances and private support were sent from the United States to Cuba.  His country was also the largest supplier of food and agricultural products to the island country as well as its principal trade partner.  In addition, United States companies were among the leading providers of humanitarian assistance to Cuba.  The Assembly should not ignore Cuba’s various human rights problems.  The draft resolution before the body only served to distract from the real problems facing the Cuban people.  Therefore, his delegation would vote against it.

Also in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Nicaragua said it was clear that the blockade was the main obstacle to development and it hindered international cooperation that Cuba provided and received.  Cuba’s Foreign Minister had shown how the country was affected.  It was increasingly incomprehensible that a country as powerful as the United States would continue to impose such suffering.  The viciousness of various United States’ administrations against Cuban was evident.  The United States’ representative had used the same arguments to justify the absurd policy year after year.  More and more sectors of United States’ society were demanding an end to the blockade as befitted two neighbours on equal footing.  The international community would again, as at had year after year, support Cuba.  Never would the United States be able to defeat the heroic people of Cuba.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 188 in favour, to two against ( Israel, United States), with three abstentions ( Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau).

Explaining her vote after the action, RITA KAZRAGIENÉ ( Lithuania), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said United States’ legislation had extended the effects of the embargo to third countries.  The European Union continuously opposed such extraterritorial measures.  While appreciating small measures that lifted remittance obstacles, she could not accept unilaterally imposed restrictions that impeded the European Union’s economic and commercial relations with Cuba.  Dialogue between Cuba and the European Union had addressed issues, including human rights.

She called on the Cuban Government to fully grant its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms, and to ratify the United Nations Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  The lifting the United States’ embargo would facilitate an opening of the Cuban economy, she said, expressing the European Union’s rejection of all unilateral measures against Cuba that were contrary to international trade rules.  She urged Cuban authorities to bring about real improvements in all areas mentioned.  The European Union had voted in favour of the draft text.

INGA RHONDA KING ( Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that in 2009 President Obama had said all nations must stand together to show that international law was not an empty promise.  She asked what place the embargo had in this world?  Yet the embargo remained stubbornly in place and its negative impact had intensified since the recent global financial crisis.  Her country remained unequivocal in its call to end the embargo.

Also explaining his vote, SIN SON HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said 20 years had passed since the United Nations had discussed the embargo against Cuba.  The blockade was the legacy of the Cold War.  It had hampered the Cuban Government’s development efforts.  The Helms-Burton Act had further hampered Cuba’s relations with other countries.  The embargo clearly constituted a grave violation against the Cuban people’s rights and it was a wanton violation of the Charter.  His country condemned the United States and demanded that it remove the blockade.

TUVAKO NATHANIEL MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) pointed out that for 50 years the sanctions had no evident effect except preventing ordinary Cubans from enjoying their basic right to development and happiness.  Ending the sanctions would have obvious economic benefits for both Cuba and the United States.  As a friend and ally of both countries, United Republic of Tanzania saw a glittering light at the end of the tunnel.  His country hoped and believed that the two Governments could work towards a lasting solution.  United Republic of Tanzania was encouraged by steps taken by the United States since 2009, such as the lifting of restrictions on family travel and remittances to Cuba, the expansion of humanitarian exports and the review of regulations for United States telecommunications companies.  Quoting former United States President George W. Bush, he said commercial engagement was the best way to encourage more open societies.  Ending the embargo against Cuba would also be a great victory for the values that Member States had collectively undertaken to uphold.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) said her country voted for the resolution as a rejection of the embargo, which punished the Cuban people.  Public discourse had changed and the real reason for the blockade had come to light, which was to bring suffering to the Cuban people.  However, the international community had come together to oppose the illegal embargo.  The blockade did not solve disputes, but instead violated the principles of international law and the Charter.  Argentina defended free trade but not with survival-of-the-fittest rules.  It was unacceptable that the embargo should be allowed to continue despite the virtual unanimous appeal to end it.

A representative of Solomon Islands said his country had voted in favour of the draft resolution.  He commended Cuba for taking a peaceful path in seeking a solution.  Every country had a right to define its political system and to trade internationally.  The embargo hampered Cuba’s development, and had for decades.  The resolution reaffirmed the view of the Solomon Islands and the world.  The world was changing fast.  When speaking of rights, freedom, the rule of law and multilateralism, it was time to act.  He called for full implementation of the resolution.

A representative of Belarus said, in explanation of his country’s vote, that most Member States had demanded to end the embargo against Cuba.  Embargoes went against international law.  He called upon the United States to conduct discussions with Cuba and other countries, in line with the principle of sovereign equality of States and freedom of international trade and navigation.  The United Nations and other stakeholders must bolster efforts toward that end.

Zimbabwe’s representative said the vicious sanctions spanning more than half a century had inflicted severe economic hardship on Cubans and the country as a whole.  For 21 consecutive years, Member States had overwhelmingly urged the United States to lift the embargo, which had been met with defiance.  The embargo was hypocritical and counterproductive and such sanctions were targeting developing countries.  As a country that experienced embargoes, Zimbabwe understood the effects.  The embargo against Cuba was contrary to internationally accepted trade regulations, he said, calling for its immediate lifting.

Syria’s representative said the decades-old embargo had subjected the Cuban people to social, political and economic damages.  For 22 consecutive years, the Assembly had voted for the resolution to end the embargo, which ran against international law regarding interference with sovereign States.  Although the resolutions were passed by clear majority votes, the embargo imposed by the United States since 1959 was still in effect.  Support by 188 Member States during the current session attested to the fact that most of the world did not support the embargo.  Israel’s vote against the resolution showed that it did not respect international law.  The failure to implement the resolution also demonstrated the weakness of the United Nations.  Syria condemned all such sanctions, saying that similar aggressive measures were now causing the Syrian people to suffer.  Aggressive policies were being adopted by some Member States.  Syria hoped that all forms of embargoes against Cuba, Syria and other countries would be lifted, including the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the Syrian Golan.  For those reasons, Syria voted in support of the resolution.

El Salvador’s representative said her country voted in favour of the resolution.  The embargo against Cuba should be lifted because the country was part of the soul of the region.  All resolutions since 1992 had emphasized that.  The embargo violated the rights of people and the freedoms of trade.  The mechanisms in place to implement the blockade violated international rules and regulations as well as the principles of the United Nations.  She demanded an end to the embargo against Cuba, which caused undue suffering of the Cuban people while not advancing in its goals, all the more reason to leave this anachronistic mechanism behind in the twenty-first century.

A representative of Myanmar said his country supported the resolution and, as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, opposed the use of economic sanctions.  Having experienced sanctions, Myanmar noted their devastating effects included hampering efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Constructive dialogue was necessary to foster mutual trust and harmony.

A representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic said the embargo violated international law, was against the Charter and constituted transgression against the rights of States to their sovereignty.  No nation had a right to interfere with the rights of another State.  Cuba had a right to choose its political system.  Last year and this year, 188 Member States voted for the resolution, which was irrefutable proof of the world’s view towards ending the blockade.

Sudan’s representative said his country had voted in favour of the resolution and supported Cuba’s position.  The Assembly had called to end the embargo for many years.  However, the call had been in vain.  Most Member States again had affirmed the Assembly’s position.  Several today had said extraterritorial laws violated States’ rights, yet the embargoes remained in place.  Sudan had experienced economic, social and development blockades, just as Cuba had been deprived of importing spare parts for vital sectors that could have led to development in infrastructure, industry and medication.  Embargoes had fuelled conflict in Sudan, and all conflicts were attributable to underdevelopment.

How could the United Nations achieve a road map for a post-2015 development agenda to combat poverty when there were laws that hindered international trade, imposing blockades on countries striving to achieve lives with dignity for their people?, he asked.  Those were not the principles on which the United Nations had been established.  He called upon the Assembly President and the Secretary-General to reject any unilateral measures that could undermine the basis for international relations.  Those measures also undermined the credibility of the United Nations.  Sudan’s President was also denied a visa by the United Nations host country, which was against international principles and the host country agreement.

Uruguay’s representative said that as in previous years, his country had voted in favour of the draft resolution.  The embargo contravened norms of international trade.   Uruguay rejected any unilateral measure that impinged upon international law and the Charter, including the blockade against Cuba.  He also rejected the extraterritorial application of domestic law on other States.  The embargo was a form of pressure and an obstacle to dialogue.  Uruguay was committed to multilateralism as a means to resolving disputes and establishing good understanding among States.

Right of Reply

Exercising his right of reply, Cuba’s Foreign Minister said the embargo was an act of genocide according to the Geneva Convention.  The United States Government had no right to be an accuser, as it had irresponsibly caused the deaths of millions of civilians, including with the use of drones.  The United States had used torture and forced feeding in the case of hunger strikes and the Government was manipulating, as it saw fit, the concept of human rights, he said, noting that the United States had boycotted the Human Rights Council.  Earlier today, the United States delegate had lied about supplying Cuba with medical products, he said, asking the delegate to give specific examples.  The United States was a country that occupied territory, including the Guantanamo military base in Cuba.  The United States had exercised State terrorism and supported a policy of destabilization and regime change.

The United States delegate had also lied when saying his country had provided humanitarian aid to Cuba, he said.  He asked why the United States prevented Cuba from accessing the Internet and using technology services.  The United States had paid mercenaries in Cuba, with millions of dollars to fund such activities.  Allan Gross’ activities were coordinated by the United States, which should discuss finding a solution to his case.  With global espionage, including its citizens and closest allies, the United States was “walking over” international law.

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