ASSEMBLY AGAIN CALLS FOR END OF UNITED STATES-IMPOSED EMBARGO AGAINST CUBA, BY 137-3-25 VOTE, URGES REPEAL OF LAWS SUCH AS HELMS-BURTON ACT19961112 United States Claims Right to Choose Trading Partners; Time Has Come for New Policy Towards Cuba, Says Cuban Vice-President
The General Assembly this morning again urged States to repeal all laws and measures, the extraterritorial effects of which influence the sovereignty or freedom of trade and navigation of other States, such as the United States legislation known as the Helms-Burton Act.
Concluding its discussion of the need to end the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba, the Assembly adopted a resolution urging the invalidation of such laws as soon as possible by a vote of 137 in favour to three against (Israel, United States and Uzbekistan), with 25 abstentions. (For details of vote, see Annex.) By adopting that resolution, the Assembly called on States to refrain from promulgating and applying such measures, in conformity with their obligations under the Charter and international law.
Carlos Lage Davila, Vice-President of the Council of State of Cuba, said, while ignoring the repeated calls by the Assembly to end its blockade of Cuba, the United States Congress and Administration had decided to promulgate the Helms-Burton Act. Given that law's extraterritorial, unilateral and coercive nature, it clearly violated international law. When the Helms-Burton Act was passed there were more than 400 United States products registered in Cuba and more than 300 United States businessmen had visited Cuba. United States companies, as a rule, were more interested in doing business with Cuba than being used as a pretext for continued policies of confrontation.
It was inconceivable that in the United States, he continued, an alienated ultra-right wing, allied with a fascist minority of the Cuban exile community, should dictate foreign policy towards Cuba. He questioned how the United States could build a bridge to the twenty-first century if it was not possible to lay a bridge just 90 miles long, over which peace in the hemisphere might cross.
Reiterating Cuba's readiness to discuss any issue with the United States, he said it was recognized that during United States presidential elections that country's foreign policy was not governed by reason or justice. But President William Clinton had been re-elected and the time had come for a new United States policy approach towards Cuba.
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The representative of the United States said that only one nation in the Western Hemisphere -- Cuba -- was ruled by a regime that held to the discredited, dictatorial habits of the past. The United States Government had the right, as did every nation, to choose with whom it would trade; to protect the property rights of its citizens; and to pursue its national interests. The United States Government strongly believed that the embargo provided important leverage to promote peaceful change in Cuba.
The United States policy towards Cuba included the important element of direct support for the Cuban people, he said, with effort aimed at supporting Cuban human rights organizations and other non-governmental organizations working to better the lives of the average Cuban. The United States had licensed nearly $140 million in humanitarian assistance to Cuba over the past four years and it could be assumed that the effort would continue.
The representative of Ireland, explaining the votes which would be cast by European Union members, said while a democratic government must be installed in Cuba, democracy must come about through internal changes. The members of the European Union rejected attempts by the United States to coerce other countries into complying with the commercial measures it had adopted unilaterally against Cuba. Nor would they accept United States efforts to restrict the Union's economic and commercial relations with any other State. The European Union had initiated proceedings in the World Trade Organization to have the Helms-Burton legislation declared contrary to United States obligations, and the Union had agreed upon legislation to counter the extraterritorial effect of the United States measures.
Following the vote, the representative of Cameroon said that its affirmative vote had not appeared on the board.
Statements were also made by the representatives of China, Mexico, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Colombia, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Jamaica, Viet Nam, Libya, Ghana, Iraq, Myanmar, Malaysia, India, Benin, Russian Federation and Venezuela.
Statements in explanation of vote were made by Argentina, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Zambia, Swaziland, Brazil and Angola.
At the outset of this morning's meeting, General Assembly President Razali Ismail (Malaysia) announced that he had appointed Jose Luis Barbosa Leao Monteiro (Cape Verde) to serve as Chairman of the Assembly's informal open-ended working group on an agenda for peace, and Alex Reyn (Belgium) to serve as its Vice-Chair.
The Assembly meets again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 14 November, to discuss cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It is also scheduled to discuss the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this morning to discuss the need to end the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba. In reviewing the United States embargo against Cuba, the Assembly had before it a draft resolution on the question, as well as a report of the Secretary-General.
By the terms of the draft text (document A/51/L.15), sponsored by Cuba, the Assembly would urge States to repeal, as soon as possible, all laws and measures the extraterritorial effects of which influence the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation.
The draft would reiterate its call on all States to refrain from promulgating and applying those laws and regulations, such as the United States legislation known as the "Helms-Burton Act", in conformity with their obligations under the Charter and international law, which reaffirm the freedom of trade and navigation.
The Secretary-General would be asked to prepare a report on the implementation of the present resolution in the light of the purposes and principles of the Charter and international law. It would request that report be submitted at the Assembly's next session.
The report of the Secretary-General (documents A/51/355 and Add.1) contains responses of governments to Assembly resolution 50/10 adopted last year, urging countries to repeal laws which affect the sovereignty of another State, the legitimate interests under their jurisdiction, or freedom of trade and navigation. The report includes the replies of 61 governments and five bodies of the United Nations.
In its reply, the Government of Cuba states that, despite the efforts of the international community, the United States enacted in March new legislation known as the Helms-Burton Act which increased and exacerbated the United States blockade of Cuba -- a blockade used by the United States for more than three decades to stifle Cuba's economy and undermine its political, institutional and social order. The Act incorporates past legislation on the blockade and codifies a new series of presidential decrees, executive orders and administrative decision on the blockade.
Cuba says provisions of the Helms-Burton Act attempt to internationalize the blockade by sanctioning countries trading or investing in Cuba, as well as enterprises, executives and their families. Additionally, the Act is inconsistent with United States obligations under the rules of the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and violates a series of internationally recognized principles.
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While reviewing in detail the costs to the Cuban economy and the well- being of its population, Cuba states that the Helms-Burton Act reinforces the United States traditional policy in order to strangle the country economically and force changes in the country's political, social and institutional order. The impact on the people of Cuba has been to deprive them of the means of basic subsistence, including food and medical supplies. Recounting some consequences estimated during the last year, Cuba states that the loss of the preferential United States sugar market cost the Cuban economy $260 million in 1995; the cost of transporting medical supplies increased by $2.7 million; the cost of basic foodstuffs was $46 million higher than if such items could have been purchased in the United States; and the purchase of essential agricultural chemicals was inflated by $6 million.
The activities of the United States come at a time when Cuba is striving to restructure its economy and achieve reintegration into the world market, the Cuban Government continues. While international trade and increased foreign investment are crucial to Cuba's new economic strategy, the Helms- Burton Act is precisely aimed at frustrating that effort by placing new limitations on access to the international market. None the less, Cuba's economic strategy has been successful, with 1996 economic growth forecast at 5 per cent. At the same time, a financial austerity programme had reduced the fiscal deficit from 7.4 per cent in 1994 to an estimated 3 per cent for 1996. Among social achievements, the infant mortality rate has been reduced to 9.4 per 1,000 live births.
Summarizing the overall effect of the Helms-Burton Act, Cuba says "such provisions could affect virtually the whole of the international community, since the Government of the United States is trying to use them to dictate standards of behaviour, impose its own laws so that they supersede the laws and interests of other countries and tell these countries, under the threat of sanctions, what kind of relations they should have with other States".
Many other responses in the report express the commitment of governments to the terms of the Assembly resolution calling for an end to the embargo, with some States calling upon the United States to repeal its measures against Cuba.
Among the replies of specialized agencies, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says the situation of children in Cuba has been adversely affected by a number of factors, including the embargo. The 35 per cent decline in the Cuban economy in recent years has placed serious pressure on the situation of children and put in question the sustainability of the extensive network of services benefiting children, women and families. Cuba's family health system is deteriorating, and the primary health care network suffers from a shortage of medical supplies. Difficulties facing Cuba's water supply and basic sanitation are among the worst threats to children's health, as acute diarrhoeal diseases continue to increase.
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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that, because of the embargo, the direct costs to Cuba's foreign trade during the past 30 years have been estimated at close to $30 billion. The indirect effect on the overall economic activity of Cuba is estimated at $6.4 billion. In the financial area, the embargo has restricted Cuba's access to multilateral financing, in particular, the Bretton Woods institutions. Private investment has been effectively deterred, a process reinforced by the Helms-Burton Act. The accumulation of economic difficulties are threatening social gains made by Cuba, forcing economic reconversions without external funding and debilitating the workings of basic social services.
CARLOS LAGE DAVILA, Vice-President of the Council of State of Cuba, introducing the draft resolution on the need to end the United States embargo against Cuba, said the vote which would be held today gave the Assembly an opportunity to vote not only against a policy that was unfair, but also to make sure that no State, however powerful, could ignore international law. "The bells that toll for Cuba today may toll for any other independent nation tomorrow", he said. Ignoring the repeated calls by the Assembly to end the blockade of Cuba, the United States Congress and Administration recently decided to promulgate a legislation known as the Helms-Burton Act. Given that law's extraterritorial, unilateral and coercive nature, it clearly violated international law and the United Nations.
The collapse of the Russian Federation had been a hard blow to the Cuban economy and had led many to believe that the demise of socialism in Cuba was inevitable, he said. Cuba was faced with a loss of 75 per cent of its imports and almost a total loss of its export markets. Cuba had also suffered very severe material limitations, including shortages in food, medicines and electricity. None the less, Cuba would achieve a 6 per cent growth rate during 1996. Clearly, if not for the blockade, Cuba would enjoy enormous opportunities and spare its people great suffering. Recounting the many economic and financial costs endured by Cuba due to the blockade, he added that United States officials pressured individuals, institutions and governments not to invest in or trade with his country. Under the blockade, the Cuban people were barred from normalizing relations with the Cuban community in the United States. Armed groups which planned and executed terrorist acts against Cuba had trained in the United States. In total, the blockade had caused damage of over $60 billion.
While the blockade had been unjustified for more than three decades, today the pretexts used to defend the criminal act had run out, he said. President John F. Kennedy had justified the blockade by setting it in the context of the confrontation with the Soviet Union. But, if the cold war had been over for five years, how could a continued open war attitude against Cuba be explained? If the Pentagon itself had agreed that Cuba was not a threat to
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the United States national security, how could the constant and stubborn warmongering attitude of the United States be justified. He also disputed the claim that United States companies had not received compensation for the nationalization of property, noting that parties in France, Switzerland, Canada and the United Kingdom were among countries being compensated by Cuba.
Accusing Cuba of human rights violations was an unprecedented affront that Cuba could denounce with head held high, he said. Noting the success of Cuba's social system, he said all Cubans had access to free health-care services; education at all levels was free; illiteracy was nonexistent; and the infant mortality rate was eight per 1,000 births. While 200 million children around the world slept on the street, none did so in Cuba. One hundred million children under 13 had to work to survive, but none in Cuba. More than 1 million were forced into prostitution, none had in Cuba. While 25,000 children would die everyday from measles, malaria, diphtheria, pneumonia and malnutrition, none would in Cuba.
In the 36 years since the revolution, Cuba had never reported a single missing persons case or one of torture, he said. Not a single political assassination had occurred; death squads were unheard of; racial discrimination was not part of peoples memories. Drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism were nonexistent. Cuban officials did not misappropriate the wealth of the nation.
While the United States condemned the single-party political system in Cuba, he said that could not be the cause of the blockade as many other countries had single-party systems. There were governments ruled by monarchy, without any party at all, without constitutions, which the United States maintained as close allies. Attempts were made to accuse Cuba of human rights abuses because it sentenced members of small counter-revolutionary groups, financed and organized by a foreign power. That accusation was true and the Cuban people were ready to defend their independence and achievements at all cost. Cuba was not against change, but it was against a blockade which prevented it from introducing changes which would improve its socialist society.
In 1995 and 1996, the time coinciding with the passage of the Helms- Burton Act, he said more than 400 United States products were registered in Cuba and more than 300 United States businessmen visited Cuba. Today, many United States companies had established indirect links with Cuba. United States companies, as a rule, were more interested in doing business with Cuba than being used as a pretext for continued policies of hostility and confrontation. It was inconceivable that in the United States, an alienated ultra-right wing, allied with a fascist minority of the Cuban exile community, should dictate foreign policy towards Cuba. A president of the United States must not be held hostage by the policies of his enemies. How could a bridge into the twenty-first century be built if it was not possible to lay a bridge just 90 miles long, over which peace in the hemisphere might cross.
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Cuba reiterated its readiness to discuss any issue with the United States, he said. The only precondition was an absolute respect for Cuba's right to freedom and sovereignty. Despite the absence of any accord, Cuba cooperated with the United States' fight against drug trafficking. Will it take 20 more years before the current United States President, or one of his staff, writes in his memoirs that maintaining the blockade was a "terrible mistake". The foreign policy of the world's most powerful country was not governed by reason or justice, at least before elections. Electoral tensions had ended in the United States; President William Clinton had been re-elected. The time had come for a new United States policy approach towards Cuba. If United States policy continued to be determined by electoral politics; if hunger continued to be used against the people of a nation whose only crime was a desire to live in freedom and independence; if the international clamour to end the blockade went unheeded -- then, history would confirm that a people's dignity was stronger than all the power of an empire.
WANG XUEXIAN (China) said the Assembly had already adopted resolutions reaffirming such established international norms as respect for State sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of others, and had urged the countries concerned to fulfil the obligations set forth in the Charter. In spite of all this, the United States was continuing and intensifying the 30-year-old blockade on Cuba, bringing difficulties to the country's economic and social development, hurting the people, especially women and children. It also affected the normal trade and economic exchanges of many countries with Cuba and damaged their legitimate interests.
It was the right of the people of every country to choose their own social system and mode of development in the light of their specific national conditions, he said, and that should be respected by others. It was power politics to wilfully resort to embargo, blockade and sanctions, exert pressure on other sovereign States and interfere in the internal affairs of others, disregarding their legitimate rights and interests. He called on the United States to halt that practice and put an immediate end to the embargo against Cuba. In its place, he stressed, to settle disputes there should be dialogue and negotiations on the basis of equality and mutual respect for sovereignty.
MANUEL TELLO (Mexico) said that for the past four years, the Assembly had called on all Member States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and regulations which affected the sovereignty of other States and the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction, as well as the freedom of trade and navigation. Unfortunately, contrary action was being taken under the pretext of freedom and democracy. The Inter-American Juridical Committee of the Organization of American States, which contained a valuable study of the so-called Helms-Burton Act, had concluded that the bases and application of that legislation were not in conformity with international law. (See document A/51/394.)
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He said Mexico had neither promulgated nor applied legislative provisions which were extraterritorial in scope. It had consistently rejected the use of coercive measures as means of pressure in international relations. In the unrestricted exercise of its sovereign rights, Mexico would establish commercial and political ties with any country it deemed fit. Mexico's "Act for the Protection of Commerce and Investment against Foreign Rules Contravening International Law", aimed at counteracting the extraterritorial effects of laws from third States, had entered into force on 22 October.
The implementation of unilateral measures which ignored the growing negative opinion of the international community could not constitute a solid foundation for a peaceful and secure coexistence, ruled by law. "We cannot remain indifferent to the growing plight of the Cuban people", he said. The embargo against Cuba must be lifted. Democracy and human rights could not be promoted through blockades and exclusions or sanctions on third countries. Dialogue, inclusion in multilateral forums, trade, investment and information- exchange were the best ways of disseminating commonly shared values. The time to build bridges had come, he said.
ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said that it was sad to realize that, yet again, the Assembly had to review the question of the need to lift the embargo against Cuba. The blockade on Cuba imposed by the United States continued and had even been reinforced, through extra- territorial measures that had no precedent in the history of international trade. Given the difficult relations between the two countries, it was a thorny and extremely complex question. The world should not continue to be a silent witness to such a situation, where a whole nation was suffering.
He said there was no reason for the embargo, which was already 30 years old. It was an embargo imposed by a developed country on a developing one. A solution should be found; there was no reason for a whole nation to be punished indefinitely. His Government invited both countries to begin negotiating a rapid solution, which in itself would be a contribution to peace.
SOCORRO RAMIREZ (Colombia) said the international community's position had moved from solidarity with Cuba to a generalized alarm stemming from the measures that were threatening that nation's right to free commerce. Those measures went against the whole international community, especially now when globalization was the norm.
Colombia, she said, had always been firmly against any measures contravening the United Nations Charter. Today, when free access to the international markets was of such vital importance, measures such as the so- called "Helms-Burton Law" were regrettable. Measures meant to apply pressure on other States, particularly developing States, or which implied an extraterritorial application of their own internal laws, were incompatible
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with the principles of international law. That sort of action, guided by purely political motives, went against the general aim of improving international relations. Member States should respect the Charter, as well as international law. The Non-Aligned Movement had always supported previous General Assembly resolutions favouring the lifting of the embargo and now "energetically" rejected the Helms-Burton law. Colombia believed the two countries should begin a dialogue and negotiations to overcome the problem.
DAUDI N. MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said that it was no coincidence that all of the 59 responses from governments, organs and agencies of the United Nations on the subject as reproduced by the Secretary-General were in full compliance with the contents of General Assembly resolution 50/10 of November 1995. That resolution, he recalled, took action for the fourth consecutive year on the subject now being discussed. Similar resolutions in 1992, 1993 and 1994 emphasized the need to end the United States embargo on Cuba, but there had been no progress. He was gravely concerned over the recent promulgation and application of the Helms-Burton Act by the United States, an act that affected the sovereignty of other States. That Act was aimed at strengthening and internationalizing the blockade against Cuba, which had been in force for more than 30 years. It was relatively excessive, and was contrary to the principles of international law and understanding.
He pointed out that the Helms-Burton Act did not only affect Cuba, but established sanctions of various types against countries which traded with and/or invested in Cuba. That attempt by a State to compel citizens of third States to obey the legislation of another State was in complete violation of the principles of international law. It had been rejected worldwide and could not help in easing the tensions between the two countries. His country enjoyed friendly relations with both the United States and Cuba and remained hopeful that the differences between them would be resolved amicably through bilateral negotiations.
NGONI F. SENGWE (Zimbabwe) associated himself with the statement by the Permanent Representative of Colombia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement countries. The General Assembly was meeting for the fifth consecutive year on the subject, and it was also the fifth year Cuba was appealing to the international community to assist in ending that abominable embargo. He was dismayed that there were no solutions today to offer to the Cuban people, rather than take action on the same resolution yet again. His delegation had on many occasions called for an end to the embargo, which had crippled the Cuban economy and endangered the lives of many innocent people. It was ironic that, in the post-cold war era in which the basic norms of international law were being espoused, the international community was grappling with such a basic breach of those norms.
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The extraterritorial character and impact of the blockade in recent times was even more disturbing, he said. The actions of one powerful country bordered on interference in the freedom of international trade and navigation by sovereign States. One Member State had assigned itself the role of international policeman by taking an action that should be the responsibility of the United Nations. Since the United Nations had not deemed it necessary to take such action, all countries should continue to enjoy their economic, commercial and financial transactions with Cuba. It was the democratic right of any people to determine the form of governance that was best for them. He was guided, he said, like other Non-Aligned Movement members by the Movement's call on the international community to "resist all new modalities of intervention, economic coercion and other measures of extraterritorial character". His country hoped that constructive dialogue between the two countries would take the place of the existing adversity.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that his country noted with concern the adoption by the United States of the Helms-Burton Act, which not only strengthened the blockade against Cuba but gave it an international character. "We are disheartened", he said, that not a single measure had been taken to work towards lifting the wall of deprivation and isolation which has surrounded Cuba for so long. The Helms-Burton Act was a blatant violation of the sovereignty of States, a serious breach of the United Nations Charter, international law, freedom of trade and navigation, and was a violation of the rules of the international trade system. It could have no place in a globalizing, liberalizing economic system.
The adverse effects of the embargo on the population of Cuba could not be over-emphasized, he continued. The high levels of education and health of children, women and local communities was being jeopardized by the shortage of medical and other related materials. Despite the blockade, however, Cuba had not failed to extend a hand of friendship; Namibia today had hundreds of doctors, engineers and other professionals educated and trained in Cuba who were successfully contributing to Namibia's reconstruction process. Namibia, a nation which enjoyed excellent relations with both the United States and Cuba, would continue to advocate a rapprochement between those two countries which would lead to a lifting of the embargo. The children of Cuba deserved a happy childhood. "Do it for their sake!" he said in closing.
LESLIE GUMBI (South Africa) said that the embargo against Cuba was a product of the cold war, and a painful reminder of the continuous suffering of innocent men, women and children. South Africa adhered to the principles enshrined in the Charter and ascribed, among other principles, to the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs, as well as freedom of international trade and navigation.
Measures such as the Helms-Burton Act flew in the face of the principles of the Charter, international law and the freedom of trade and navigation, and
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were also a violation of the rules of the multi-lateral trade system. South Africa hoped that a constructive dialogue between the relevant parties would remove this "relic of cold war days" in due course.
PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said the countries of the Caribbean were committed to maintaining a climate free of tension and confrontation in their region. Jamaica sought the normalization of relations, which would reduce the atmosphere of uncertainty and danger of confrontation in the region. It rejected the extraterritorial application of national legislation which was inconsistent with international law. Expressing the hope that the parties most directly concerned would find a way to resolve the problems in question, he said Jamaica would vote in favour of the draft resolution.
PHAM QUANG VINH (Viet Nam) said that at the heart of the matter under consideration was a question of principle. Among the most important principles guiding the United Nations were the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention and non-interference in their internal affairs, and peaceful settlement of disputes. Last year, the Assembly had again reaffirmed those principles, rejecting the continued and strengthened embargo against Cuba.
The message was clear, he said. No embargo of that kind should ever be allowed to be imposed on any State as that violated the United Nations Charter and international law. Despite global calls for an end to the embargo, it not only continued but had been strengthened since promulgation of the Helms-Burton Act earlier this year. Viet Nam joined in the call for the immediate end to the embargo. It also called for the continued assistance by the international community and the agencies of the United Nations to the Cuban people.
VICTOR MARRERO (United States) said the peoples of the Western Hemisphere might be proud that the region consisted almost entirely of free societies, with 34 out of 35 nations governed in accordance with democratic principles. They could be proud that the power of governments flowed from the people and not from coercion or the barrel of a gun. Only one nation -- Cuba -- was ruled by a regime that held to the discredited, dictatorial habits of the past. Cuba, by introducing today's resolution, had manipulated the concerns of countries around the world, in order to claim support for its reprehensible policies of intolerance and oppression.
The United States had the right, as did every nation, to choose with whom it would trade, he continued. It had the right to protect the property rights of its own citizens and to pursue its national interests. The Cuban regime continued to withhold fundamental freedoms and human rights from its citizens, actions which had been condemned by the Assembly and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. To address those concerns, the United States Government strongly believed that the embargo provided important leverage to promote peaceful change in Cuba.
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The United States policy towards Cuba included the important element of direct support for the Cuban people, he said. That effort was aimed at supporting Cuban human rights organizations and other non-governmental organizations working to better the lives of the average Cuban. The United States permitted travel to Cuba for research; news gathering; cultural, educational, religious or human rights purposes. The United States had licensed nearly $140 million in humanitarian assistance to Cuba over the past four years and it could be assumed that the effort would continue.
The United States was committed to pursuing a multilateral approach to promote a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, he said. That effort should be the focus of the discussions, instead of the hollow and sterile annual consideration of the confrontational and groundless agenda item. Instead, he called upon the Assembly to insist upon the need for peaceful democratic change in Cuba, now. That was an effort worthy of the Assembly chamber.
MOHAMED A. AZWAI (Libya) said the anti-Cuban unilateral economic legislation had negatively affected the efforts of the Cuban people to achieve economic and social development. The embargo had resulted in higher prices of essential material, created shortages and limited access to the world market. The embargo was a violation of human rights and confirmed the policy based on the extraterritorial attempt to impose sanctions on persons and companies. That embargo, increasingly criticized by world public opinion, had been tightened. The Helms-Burton Act imposed sanctions on countries which decided, as was their sovereign right, to cooperate with or invest in Cuba. The claim that Cuba was a threat to international peace and security was untrue.
Embargoes could not be used to solve the differences among States, he said. Such an approach had been rejected by the international community. The use of the embargo would only hurt the children, women, the elderly and other vulnerable groups in the countries against which they were imposed, including his country. The international community had devised a methodology for settlement of disputes among States -- dialogue and negotiations. All countries such as Cuba and Libya asked was for a settlement of problems with the United States by peaceful means, in line with international law. Libya hoped the United States would work to settle its differences with Libya and Cuba through dialogue.
JACOB B. WILMOT (Ghana) was disturbed that after four successive General Assembly resolutions calling for an end to the blockade, the "Torricelli Act" adopted by the United States in 1992 had been reinforced by the "Helms-Burton law". He believed that it was the sovereign right of the people of Cuba to determine their own system of government and type of socio-economic development. Internal factors were not the cause of Cuba's problems, as claimed by the country's adversaries, but the economic blockade. Cuba's survival was a testimony to the strength and resilience of its political and
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economic system. The promulgation of domestic laws of extraterritorial affect was not only inconsistent with the rules and regulations of the World Trade Organization, but was totally at variance with international law.
With the end of the cold war, he stated, all confrontational postures in inter-State relations must give way to cooperation. The Latin American region, like the other regions of the world, was currently engaged in cooperative endeavours to strengthen their political and economic institutions. Engaging Cuba in regional cooperation and integration was a more constructive approach, and he hoped for a new era of dialogue and mutual respect.
SAEED H. HASSAN (Iraq) said that the General Assembly had been passing resolutions on the subject every year. The international community had expected a positive response to these resolutions, the latest having been adopted last year, but the United States had chosen to tighten its position with the passing of the Helms-Burton Act. Provisions of that Act were at variance with norms of international relations. The blockade also violated norms of humanitarian law, resulting not only in the deterioration of economic conditions, but also in the quality of life. It made clear that economic weapons might not be any less dangerous than the use of weapons of mass destruction, he said. Only the method was different. The United States President had admitted last October that nobody in the world agreed with the country's policy on Cuba. He hoped that the country would respond to the best wishes and hopes of the United Nations resolutions. Sanctions and blockades were an inhuman tool with an unnecessary impact on civilian populations.
WIN MRA (Myanmar) said that despite the end of the cold war, the issue of the embargo against Cuba remained as intractable as ever, and it had even been stepped up with legislative measures having extraterritorial effects, in disregard of international public opinion.
The embargo had now lasted for more than three decades and its declared objective of encouraging political and economic reforms in Cuba was far from being realized. It only damaged the economy of Cuba and had prevented it from being reintegrated into the world economy. As a consequence, the innocent people of Cuba had unjustly suffered from innumerable hardships. The adoption in the United States of the new law [Helms-Burton Act] further trivialized the collective wish of the international community to end the embargo, as had been clear through Assembly resolutions for the past four years. A policy of coercion through the extraterritorial extension of a country's domestic law was unacceptable to Myanmar. Negotiations between the parties, on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect was the only effective policy towards the settlement of the issue.
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HUSSIN BIN NAYAN (Malaysia) said that the issue before the Assembly was whether a State could take unilateral punitive trade measures, or use undemocratic means to induce political and social reforms in another State. The Assembly was again invited to ponder whether the principle of non- intervention had lost its meaning. If the answer was yes, then the United Nations had been truly deformed beyond recognition, and possibly beyond reform.
Malaysia firmly believed there was no justification for the United States to take unilateral trade measures against Cuba that also impinged on the right of other States to engage freely in international trade. The Helms- Burton Act clearly contravened the principles and objectives of the World Trade Organization. The continuous measures against Cuba were most definitely incompatible with the position and stature of a permanent member of the Security Council. The United States had adopted a negative attitude by ignoring the will and expressed wishes of members of the General Assembly.
PRAKASH SHAH (India) said that his country's position on the issue at hand had been unwavering since the item was introduced. India opposed any unilateral measures by one country which impinged on the sovereignty of another country. This included the application of a country's laws extraterritorially to other sovereign nations. The use of such unilateral trade measures to achieve domestic measures posed a danger for the multilateral trading system. India called upon the United States to settle all its differences with Cuba through negotiations on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
GEORGES A. WHANNOU (Benin) said the embargo on Cuba violated the Charter and the rule of international law. Benin regretted that no action to lift the embargo against Cuba had been taken since the matter was considered last year by the Assembly. The embargo handicapped the development of South-South cooperation, particularly between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Improvement of the relationship between Cuba and the United States would enhance peace in the region and would promote the integration of Cuba into the globalization movement.
He said that Benin welcomed measures taken by the bodies of the United Nations system to support the people of Cuba. The United Nations should assist with Cuba's efforts to restructure its economy, strengthen its social services system and support relationships between Cuba and other countries. His country would support the resolution calling for the end of the United States embargo against Cuba.
NIKOLAI TCHOULKOV (Russian Federation) said his country could not in principle agree with the attempts to extend the internal jurisdiction of States beyond their own territory. Such actions violated the established and generally accepted rules of international law and jeopardized the interests of
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third countries. It was clear from voting patterns on the item in previous years that the international community rejected such unilateral measures taken by force. Most States described the Helms-Burton bill as discriminatory and incompatible with the norms of international law and the principles of free trade.
Russia believed that lifting the embargo and normalizing United States- Cuban relations would promote a healthier international situation, facilitate Cuba's inclusion in world economic relations and thus the advance of its society towards democracy and greater openness. Mutually acceptable solutions should be sought in constructive dialogue and a broader negotiating process.
He said Russia, guided by the principles of the sovereign equality of States, non-interference in their internal affairs, freedom of trade and international navigation, supported, and intended to broaden normal commercial and economic ties with Cuba. Those were based on mutual interest and reciprocal advantage and put into practice in strict conformity with the generally accepted international norms.
RAMON ESCOVAR-SALOM (Venezuela) said the international community had always made progress through dialogue and cooperation. Any discriminatory commercial practice, or imposition of economic measures or extraterritorial economic legislation, was incompatible with international law and the United Nations Charter. He could not conceive of any progress in the imposition of harsh conditions by one State against another. Adopting measures of that kind encouraged unnecessary confrontation without necessarily changing the system upon which they were imposed. Venezuela believed the embargo should be lifted. It was concerned about the promulgation of the Helms-Burton Act and emphasised the opinion expressed by the Organization of American States that application of the Act was in violation of international law. Venezuela would vote for the resolution, but this was not a vote for any particular regime, he stated, noting that his country "ratified in the most categorical terms" its commitment to the democratic process around the world.
Explanation of Vote before Vote
JOHN H.F. CAMPBELL (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union strongly believed that a democratic system of government must be installed in Cuba. However, it also believed that the move to democracy must come about through internal change, encouraged through dialogue with the Cuban Government and by effective support for those struggling for democracy within Cuba. The Cuban Government continued to cling to an outmoded and misguided system and it was time that Cuba joined the evolution towards democracy and pluralism.
During the past year, violations of civil and political rights by the Cuban Government had increased, and democratic efforts had been banned, he
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said. The Union attached paramount importance to the need for the Government of Cuba to accord absolute respect to human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Union was also concerned that the level of economic and social rights of the Cuban people continued to decline. The economic reforms undertaken in Cuba were welcome and the Union called for further economic liberalization.
The Union wished to reiterate its rejection of attempts to apply national legislation on an extraterritorial basis, he continued. The Union had always rejected attempts by the United States to coerce other countries into complying with the commercial measures it had adopted unilaterally against Cuba. For that reason, the Union continued to oppose United States legislation that applied United States law to companies and individuals outside the jurisdiction of the United States, including provisions designed to discourage companies from third countries from trading with, or investing in, Cuba. The Union could not accept attempts by the United States to unilaterally determine or restrict the Union's economic and commercial relations with any other State. Measures of that type violated the general principles of international law and the sovereignty of independent States.
The Union had, therefore, initiated proceedings in the World Trade Organization to have the Helms-Burton legislation declared contrary to the obligations assumed by the United States as a member of that organization, he said. The Union had also agreed upon legislation to counter the extraterritorial effect of the United States measures. The members of the Union would support the draft resolution.
The Assembly adopted the resolution on the need to end the United States embargo against Cuba by a vote of 137 in favour to three against (Israel, United States and Uzbekistan), with 25 abstentions. (For details of the vote, see Annex.)
JEAN-MARC MPAY (Cameroon) said that, although his country had voted in favour of the resolution, Cameroon's affirmative vote had not appeared on the board.
Explanation of Vote after Vote
FERNANDO PETRELLA (Argentina) said his country had voted in favour of the draft for the second time. The one objective that Argentina held in regard to Cuba was to support the peaceful transition towards democracy. That objective was no doubt shared by all countries of the hemisphere and the majority of Member States. However, the embargo would not support the advent of democracy in Cuba, but rather worked against it. In addition, blockades, embargoes and sanctions were contrary to the practices of the Untied Nations and were inconsistent with international law. The Helms-Burton Act would not contribute to the democratic transition in Cuba or to economic integration. For those reasons, Argentina had voted in favour of the resolution.
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DAVID KARSGAARD (Canada) said his country had supported the resolution because it opposed any effort to force change through measures with extra- territorial reach. That issue was Canada's primary concern regarding the embargo and why Canada had opposed the Helms-Burton Act.
The embargo could not be blamed for all of Cuba's problems, he continued. Some problems must be addressed by the Cuban Government through economic and social reforms and his Government remained concerned about human rights violations. However, it was through engagement and dialogue that progress would be made, not through isolation.
CHRISTINE LEE (Singapore) said that in once again voting in support of the resolution before the Assembly, Singapore did not take a position on the issues that had caused the embargo. But international relations had evolved to the point that the principle of free trade should be respected by all, and the Helms-Burton Act of the United States would distort international free trade. She said all nations should be able to trade freely with others, in order to build a true community of nations.
TOSHIHIRO TAKHASHI (Japan), explaining his abstention, said that as it had indicated in past years, Japan believed the embargo should be discussed bilaterally between the United States and Cuba. He questioned if its discussion by the General Assembly could be constructive. Japan expressed its concern at the Helms-Burton Act, and urged a cautious application of that law. He questioned whether the text of the draft resolution addressed the question of the embargo against Cuba in all its complexity. If it did not, the matter would remain unsettled.
PETER L. KASANDA (Zambia) said the American embargo against Cuba had now been in existence for 37 years. Zambia wished to take the opportunity to applaud the Cuban people for their tenacity, and for having such a resilient economy which, despite its drastic decline in 1992, was now on the rise again. In fact, it came as a total surprise that, at a time when Cuba's economy was recovering, the United States saw fit to strengthen its blockade against Cuba. Washington had greatly isolated itself on this issue, he continued, and he recalled that the European Union was taking the case to the World Trade Organization. The embargo was as controversial as it was unworkable and futile; it was an illegitimate form of pressure on the Government and people of Cuba. Zambia also reiterated the call formulated by the Non-Aligned Movement to the United States to put an end to the embargo against Cuba.
MOSES MATHENDELE DLAMINI (Swaziland) said that all nations were equal before God. There was no nation, large or small, with a divine right to interfere in the sovereignty of any Member State of the United Nations. Swaziland would continue in its efforts to discourage powerful nations which wished to interfere in the affairs of small nations. The two parties in this dispute must continue to negotiate. He wished the Security Council would use
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its power of veto on the side of small nations whenever they were being victimized.
CELSO LUIZ NUNES AMORIM (Brazil) said his country believed in peaceful means to resolve this dispute. The resort to sanctions and embargoes must be a last measure, and even then, must be within international law. The so- called Helms-Burton Act was inconsistent with international law and with the rules of the World Trade Organization. Brazil supported the integration of Cuba into the international economy. Lifting the embargo would go a long way to help achieve these objectives and of change in Cuban society.
AFONSO VAN-DUNEM "MBINDA" (Angola) said his Government was profoundly concerned by the difficult social and economic situation prevailing in Cuba as a result of the financial and economic blockade imposed on Cuba. For that reason, Angola supported the draft resolution appealing for the lifting of the blockade. In light of the fact that the enforcement of the blockade had caused the suffering of 11 million people over 30 years, and in promotion of international law, Angola would vote in favour of the draft.
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General Assembly Plenary Press Release GA/9164 57th Meeting (AM) 12 November 1996
Vote on Draft Resolution on Ending United States- Imposed Embargo against Cuba
The draft resolution on ending United States imposed-embargo against Cuba (document A/51/L.15) was adopted by a recorded vote of 137 in favour to 3 against, with 25 abstentions:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austriam, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Combodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea- Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakstan, Kenya, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Against: Israel, United States, Uzbekistan.
Abstaining: Bhutan, El Salvador, Equitorial Guinea, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Gabon, Georgia, Guatemala, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Marshall Islands, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Arab Emirates.
Absent: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Comoros, Croatia, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Malawi, Niger, Palau, Qatar, San Tome and Principe, Senegal, Turkmenistan.
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