9 November 1999


9 November 1999

Press Release



Cuba Equates Blockade's Effects with Genocide; United States Calls It Matter of Bilateral Trade Policy

As the General Assembly for the eighth consecutive year asserted the need to end the United States-imposed embargo against Cuba, the representative of Cuba announced this morning that his country was filing a $100 billion lawsuit against the United States Government to recover the enormous damages caused to the Cuban people by the 40-year blockade.

By a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with 8 abstentions (Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia,Georgia, Latvia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Senegal and Uzbekistan), the Assembly adopted a resolution on the need to end the embargo against Cuba, by which it again urges all States that applied laws and measures of an extraterritorial nature that affected the sovereignty of States and freedom of trade and navigation to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible. Adopted as resolution 54/21, the text further reiterates the Assembly's call for States to refrain from promulgating and applying such laws and measures, in conformity with their obligations under the Charter and international law. (For details of the vote, see Annex.)

Introducing the text, the representative of Cuba said that despite seven previous resolutions in the same vein, the United States continued to engage in pressures and manoeuvres intended to thwart the will of the Assembly. He drew particular attention to the Helms-Barton Act, and its extraterritorial provisions. The United States’ objective since 1959 had been to destroy Cuba. That was pure and simple genocide. For four decades, the blockade had caused illnesses, death, pain and suffering to millions of Cubans. The guilty parties should be punished in compliance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Speaking in explanation of its negative vote, the representative of the United States said the embargo was strictly a matter of bilateral trade policy and not an appropriate matter for the Assembly. It was one element in a policy of promoting democracy in Cuba. While maintaining that embargo, the United States Administration had moved to dramatically expand people-to-people contacts with the Cuban population, increase remittances, and allow

General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9654 50th Meeting (AM) 9 November 1999

the sale of food and agricultural inputs to private entities. The American people had also been extremely generous in providing humanitarian assistance to Cuba. The focus of the international community should be on the continuing human rights crisis in Cuba. The resolution served only to distract Member States, and might encourage the Cuban authorities to persist in their tragically misguided policies.

The representative of Finland (speaking on behalf of the European Union) said the Union wished to be Cuba’s partner in economic integration, but that would depend on the country’s progress in protecting human rights and political freedoms. She reaffirmed the Union's strong opposition to the imposition of secondary boycotts and legislation with extraterritorial effects. The United States had made an agreement with the Union not to adopt such extraterritorial measures in future.

Challenging the United States' advocacy for democracy, the representative of Libya said that if that country wanted true democracy, it would not have supported Fulgencio Batista, the former President of Cuba, the previous Iranian regime or President Mobutu Sese Seko of the former Zaire. It continued to support dictatorial regimes because its only concern was its own interests. The United States should first respect international law before asking other States to do so.

Statements were made in the debate and in explanation of vote by the representatives of: Cuba; Mexico; Myanmar; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Libya; Argentina; Viet Nam; Syria; Mali; Zambia; Malaysia; Indonesia; Namibia; Jamaica; United Republic of Tanzania; Venezuela; Russian Federation; Sudan; Iraq; South Africa; Iran; Finland (on behalf of the European Union); United States; Belarus; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Japan; Canada; Republic of Korea; Uruguay; Brazil; China and Norway.

The Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to consider the Bethlehem 2000 project; appointments to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs; implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development; and questions relating to the elderly.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to begin its consideration of the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.

It had before it a report of the Secretary-General (document A/54/259) containing responses from 59 governments and eight United Nations organs and agencies on the implementation of resolution 53/4, on "the necessity of ending" that embargo. By that text, the Assembly last year reiterated its call on all States to refrain from promulgating or applying laws whose effects undermined the sovereign equality of States and interfered in their internal affairs or freedom of international trade and navigation, urged States that had done so to repeal or invalidate those laws.

The response of the Cuban Government, contained in the report, notes that the embargo -- maintained since 1960 -- has been rejected by the Assembly, and repeatedly condemned by many different institutions and individuals at the international, regional and national levels.

[In October 1960, the United States imposed a partial embargo, which became a total embargo 16 months later, in February 1962, when it was expanded to include everything but non-subsidized sales of foods and medicines. In March of that year, the United States further extended the embargo to include the imports of all goods made from Cuban materials, or containing them, regardless of where they were manufactured.]

According to the Cuban Government, as a result of the embargo, Cuba must pay above-market prices and tariffs on goods purchased and shipped from distant markets. The blockade also imposes onerous terms on credit and trade, blocks access to many goods and technologies and causes huge bank losses, since the United States dollar cannot be used in Cuban bank transactions and deposits. Considerable pressure exerted by the United States Government on entrepreneurs and third-country governments, in order to hinder their establishment of economic ties with Cuba, continues to be a major drain on the economy, Cuba charges.

By 1998, the cumulative impact of the embargo had cost the Cuban $67 billion, the Cuban section of the report goes on to say. It estimates that the resultant drain on the economy in recent years has exceeded 15 per cent of the country's Gross National Product (GNP). According to Cuba, the intention of the United States is obvious: to stifle the country economically and plunge the Cuban people into a situation of extreme deprivation in order to make them renounce their independence and self-determination and submit to United States foreign policy.

"Despite the so-called easing of the embargo which the United States has been loudly proclaiming since March 1998", continues the Cuban submission, "the reality is that Cuba has been unable to purchase a single medicine, piece of equipment or medical supply in the United States". The United States is described as having systematically eliminated any possibility of sales to Cuba, either through the denial of licences or the imposition of requirements and conditions that make sales non-competitive.

Worse still, Cuban charges, the United States Government has continued to deprive it of the opportunity to purchase medicines, equipment or medical supplies from other countries through the "iron-clad" application of such legislation as the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts.

[The Helms-Burton Act, adopted in 1996, allows suits to be filed in United States courts against any corporation from any part of the world that is doing business in Cuba. The Torricelli Act (1992), formerly the Cuban Democracy Act, ostensibly seeks a peaceful transition to democracy and a resumption of economic growth in Cuba through the careful application of sanctions directed at the Government of Cuban President Fidel Castro.]

The Cuban Government says that despite the United States talk of easing sanctions, the reality is to be found in the adoption of other laws, on unrelated subject matter, to which amendments intensifying the embargo against Cuba are attached. It cites as an example the Omnibus Appropriations Act for fiscal 1999, which was adopted by the United States Congress one week after the General Assembly concluded its regular 1998 session. That Act, according to Cuba, includes 12 Cuban-related amendments that were secretly negotiated by a small group of legislators and officials in order to extend and tighten the embargo. Among the measures imposed by that legislation is an expansion of the embargo on funds from international credit institutions for the provision of assistance or compensation to Cuba.

The Cuban Government states that on 28 April of this year, the United States announced a partial revision of the sanctions policy it has been using as a foreign policy tool. By that revision, it authorized the purchase of medicines and food by all sanctioned countries, with the exception of Cuba.

Cuba draws attention to the fact that the Geneva Conventions prohibit measures that deny a country's population access to those items.

Of those governments whose responses are contained in the report, more than 90 per cent express opposition to the embargo, either calling for its lifting or expressing their non-acceptance of unilateral extraterritorial coercive measures that go against the norms of international law.

In detailing replies received from within the United Nations system, the report recalls that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in 1996 and 1997 carried out a research project that culminated in a book analysing the impact of the United States embargo on the Cuban economy. Due to growing international demand, it is now necessary to print an updated second edition, the report notes. The Swedish Development Agency is supporting the updating project, which will also consider new areas, such as integration of Cuba into the Caribbean basin.

Draft Resolution

By the terms of a draft resolution sponsored by Cuba, again entitled, "necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba" (document A/54/L.11), the Assembly would reiterate its call on States to refrain from such measures against other States, and to repeal and invalidate such measures if they have already taken them. Introduction of Draft

RICARDO ALARCON DE QUESADA (Cuba) introduced the draft resolution. He said seven similar resolutions, adopted annually, had conclusively established the need to put an end to the blockade. They had all been ignored. International agreements on trademarks and patents had become the most recent victims of a policy that was as insolent as it was irresponsible. Washington had not respected its commitments. On the contrary, a few days before this session of the Assembly had opened, the United States had published threats against several foreign companies that did business in Cuba.

He said United States pressures and manoeuvres intended to thwart the will of the Assembly had multiplied this year. There had been a letter campaign to influence Member States to vote against the draft he was introducing. Those communications were arrogant and displayed a lack of respect for the dignity of Member States and the intelligence of their representatives. The largest debtor of the Organization -– the country that was largely to blame for its financial crisis -– not only ignored the repeated decisions of the Assembly, but insulted it with presumptuousness and lies. One of the communications shamelessly claimed that the United States Government was facilitating the export of United States medicines and medical supplies to Cuba, and permitting food sales.

The American Association for World Health, he continued, had refuted that falsehood and, after thoroughly considering the matter, had concluded that the embargo’s restrictions signified “the deliberate blockading of the Cuban population’s access to food and medicine”. Otherwise, he asked, why did United States farmers protest and demand to be allowed to sell their products to Cuba? Why had 70 senators tried to put an end to that prohibition? Did Washington’s bureaucrats likewise have no regard for the United States Senate? The letter being circulated by the United States claimed that the purpose of the blockade was “to restore freedom and democracy in Cuba” and contained slanderous allegations of Cuban human rights violations. But it failed to mention that Washington shamelessly interfered in Cuba’s internal affairs, or that it organized, promoted and financed subversive actions intended to undermine Cuban society and overthrow the Cuban Government.

A United States Agency for International Development (US/AID) press release detailing funds spent on those subversive activities during the first eight months of 1999 had put the figure at over $6 million, he continued. That amount, budgeted under the Helms-Burton Act, was just a small part of the resources overtly used against his country. Another $22 million had been allocated this year for illegal radio and television broadcasts. It was also necessary to take into account the extrabudgetary funds distributed to private agencies. “We can only imagine the funds secretly channelled through the Central Intelligence Agency”, he said, “or those earmarked for secretly gathering information on the Cuban economy and the activities of the foreign companies there, which serve as a basis for the punitive measures that Washington takes against the executives of these companies and their relatives.”

He said the true purpose of the blockade was to divest Cubans of their country and submit them once again to United States domination. That was what the Helms-Burton Act expressed in detail. The United States objective since 1959 had been to destroy Cuba. That was pure and simple genocide. For four decades the blockade had caused illnesses, deaths, pain and suffering to millions of Cubans. The guilty parties should be punished in compliance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

He said that in August, Cuba had become the only country in the world to which the United States unilaterally prohibited the sale of food and medicine. On 20 October, Senators John Ashcroft, Sam Brownback and representative George Nethercutt had stated that “the unilateral food and medicine embargo against Cuba must be maintained at any cost”. His Government was prepared to undertake every legal action to fight it and defend the rights of its people. A lawsuit would be filed against the United States Government for compensation of over $100 billion on account of the enormous damages caused to the people of Cuba by the blockade.

Statements in Debate

MANUEL TELLO (Mexico) said that his country cherished peace, justice and equality and that the principles of the Charter guided its relations with other States. For those reasons, it had not promulgated laws with extraterritorial effects. The Helms-Burton Act was unacceptable under international law and contrary to the principles of the Charter. The majority of the General Assembly had urged Member States to refrain from promulgating such laws.

The challenges of globalization showed that only cooperation between States would help promote peace, he said. The blockade against Cuba must therefore end. Coercive measures in international affairs were unacceptable. It was necessary to overcome this relic of another time that did not fit into the new millennium.

It was only through dialogue that States could create a world that was truly human. Mexico would therefore continue its intensive cooperation and trade with Cuba.

WIN MRA (Myanmar) noted that, despite the adoption of resolution 53/4 by an overwhelming majority of last year's General Assembly, the United States had further tightened embargo measures and introduced new ones, against the will of the international community. The economic blockade had severely affected Cuba's socio-economic situation, as well as its health and nutrition situation.

It was deplorable that the Untied States had deprived Cuba even of the opportunity to purchase medicines, equipment or medical supplies from other countries. He called for an end to the embargo.

Myanmar took the view that Member States' promulgation and application of laws and regulations that affected the sovereignty of other States, and impaired freedom of trade and navigation, violated the principles of international law.

ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said the imposition of the blockade had no raison d’être and served neither the purposes of the United States nor those of Cuba. The international community must do everything to help Cuba reintegrate into the current liberalized and globalized world economy.

The Cuban people sought only to live in peace and dignity, he said. States must encourage the parties to continue negotiations to reach agreement to resolve their differences as soon as possible.

He said the blockade was anachronistic and absurd. It was unfair to punish an entire people who had committed no crime. The blockade must be ended, as it ran counter to the current trend of globalization. To that end, the Lao Republic would vote in favour of the resolution.

ABUZED OMAR DORDA (Libya) congratulated the Cuban people who for 40 years had kept on track in their opposition to the United States. This had proved that the Cuban people could live off their soil despite the presence of a pernicious State that did not respect international law or the Cuban people. They had chosen to live in dignity even if it meant deprivation. Cuba had refused to accept a few dollars in return for its dignity. He appealed to all those countries that were destabilized to increase their faith in God because he alone could help them. Neither the United States nor any other State could take the place of God.

On the other hand, he said, those countries that had agreed to the violation of their sovereignty should follow the model of the Cuban people, who had opposed their powerful neighbour and refused to bend to its will. The Cuban people would go down in history for that.

As for the United States purported advocacy for democracy, he said that if it wanted true democracy they would not have supported Batista, the old regime in Iran, or Mobutu either. It continued to support dictatorial regimes because its only concern was its own interests. The United States should first respect international law before asking other States to do so. How could it dare to deprive the Cuban people of medicine and essential goods? What right could it claim to do that? he asked. The adoption of such laws was something that Libya would always protest against, he said. The United States wanted to impose its diktats on the world, but Libyans believed in God and had faith and would therefore never give in.

ANA MARIA RAMIREZ (Argentina) said that representative democracy was the best political system to guarantee individual respect, freedom and dignity, and that the respect of human rights and individual freedoms was the moral backbone of the legitimacy of governments. In the area of development, economic freedoms and private initiatives were the engine of the true growth of peoples. The application of unilateral economic and trade measures against one State, and their extraterritorial projection, affected the freedom of the Member States of the Organization in a way that did not seem compatible with the Charter.

Lifting the embargo imposed on Cuba would be the best way to promote freedom of trade, communications, flexibility and dialogue, and to promote changes towards a representative democracy in that country, she said.

Argentina had promulgated legislation to the effect that foreign legislation aimed at restricting or preventing the free flow of trade and the movement of capital, goods or persons to the detriment of another country should neither be applicable nor have legal effects of any kind within Argentinian territory, she stated. Furthermore, foreign legislation that sought to have extraterritorial effects through the imposition of an economic embargo or limits on investment in a particular country was also utterly inapplicable and devoid of legal effect.

PHAM BINH MINH (Viet Nam) said that policies that resorted to the application of extraterritorial laws and coercive measures against a sovereign nation violated the most fundamental principles and purposes of the Charter -- namely, the principles of national sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of States and freedom of international trade and navigation.

He called upon the United States to put an end to the embargo and blockade it had imposed on Cuba for so many years. Those policies had caused huge material losses and economic damage to the Cuban people. There was no justification for the continuation of those hostile policies, even one day further. In fact, those policies should have never been applied at all.

He also stressed that the differences between the United States and Cuba should be settled by means of dialogue and negotiation, on the basis of mutual respect for the independence and sovereignty of States.

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said the Charter enshrined the principle of sovereignty. All Members, particularly a great Power, should respect that provision. The blockade had caused Cuba grave economic and social damage; it was time to resolve the situation.

Syria supported Cuba’s appeal to the United States to establish a constructive dialogue to resolve the differences between the two countries, based on principles of good neighbourliness. He said it appeared that the number of countries supporting the draft resolution was increasing; that was indicative of the sympathy the international community had for Cuba, and its support for lifting the embargo.

He reaffirmed that any measure taken by a State that could affect the territorial integrity of another clearly ran counter to the Charter. The international community had repeatedly expressed its rejection of the Helms- Burton Act, which violated the integrity of Cuba and other States that wished to deal with it.

MOCTAR OUNE (Mali) said the twelfth Non-Aligned Movement Summit had reiterated the position that the international community must oppose any interference, intervention, economic coercive measures or extraterritorial laws that affected the sovereignty of other States. In keeping with that stance and the relevant principles of the Charter, Mali would once more associate itself with Member States who called for the lifting of the embargo against Cuba.

He reaffirmed the importance of the sovereignty of States and freedom of trade and navigation as stressed in the text introduced by Cuba today. Mali continued to oppose the extraterritorial application of national laws.

The two parties -- Cuba and the United States -- must take steps to resolve their disputes through dialogue and negotiation, he said. His country would vote in favour of the text, he added.

PETER L. KASANDA (Zambia) said that the extraterritorial measures of the Helms-Burton Act were an impediment to the international navigation and free trade embodied in the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Final Act. Moreover, the economic blockade had aggravated the plight of the Cuban people, especially the vulnerable groups. He rejected the extraterritorial implementation of national laws such as the Helms-Burton Act, because such laws flew in the face of the principle of sovereign equality of States and non-interference in the internal affairs of States.

Zambia had not promulgated or applied domestic laws aimed at any State that would have extraterritorial jurisdiction, he stated. It strove to fulfil the obligations it assumed in international agreements and conventions.

Moreover, he said, the Government of Zambia was committed to promoting freedom of navigation and trade. As both a landlocked and transit country, it reaffirmed such States’ right of access to and from the sea by all means of transportation. Therefore, he called for the complete lifting of the embargo against Cuba.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that, based on the adoption of past resolutions on the subject by an overwhelming majority, it was clear that the international community did not support the unilateral efforts by the United States to effect extraterritorial application of what was essentially a domestic law in relation to Cuba. Rejection of the United States policy had also been expressed by leaders of the Non-Aligned countries during their 1998 meeting in Durban and reiterated at the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement earlier this year.

Malaysia viewed the embargo as being coercive and discriminatory, a clear breach of international law and counter to the Charter, he said. The fact that those policies were directed against a poor, small developing country that posed no threat was disturbing, particularly as the United States considered itself the champion and promoter of global free trade.

The extraterritorial reach of the Helms-Burton Act had caused much economic damage and suffering to Cubans, he continued. It also inhibited commercial transactions between third States and Cuba. If it were to be consistent with its own values and traditions, the United States could not persist in its current policy against Cuba, which had a grave humanitarian impact on the lives of the Cuban people.

MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said his country had always been committed to justice, equality and peace; their promotion was a fundamental obligation under the Charter and international law. Therefore, Indonesia had consistently renounced the use of coercive measures as a means of exerting pressure in relations among Member States.

It was regrettable that, for the past 37 years, a unilateral economic embargo had been imposed on Cuba, reflecting the continuation of past untenable policies, he said. He was appalled by the application of a national law with extraterritorial ramifications.

He said that experience had shown that sanctions rarely served their purposes, and only inflicted material loss and economic damage to the general population. It was important to underline that the number of States supporting resolutions identical to the one under consideration had increased year after year.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said his country had repeatedly advocated the end of the American economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba because it firmly believed that the Helms-Burton Act and the D’Amato legislation were a breach of international law and a violation of the principles of the Charter.

He said that the embargo continued to impact negatively on the economic development of Cuba, making it extremely difficult for the country to purchase food, machine, fuel, and raw materials that were needed to sustain lives. As a result, enormous suffering had been inflicted on the Cuban people, especially women and children.

He urged the United States to lift the embargo immediately for the benefit of both Cubans and Americans.

PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) stressed the need for an end to the unilateral embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba. Jamaica did not maintain any legislation or measure that would affect the sovereignty of any State or the legitimate interests of another State’s nationals, or hinder the freedom of trade and navigation.

Furthermore, the continuation of the embargo against Cuba was a source of tension and carried the risk of conflict, which was particularly troubling for neighbouring States, he said.

He said Jamaica would welcome progress in the establishment of a regime of peace and cooperation in the Caribbean Sea. To that end, he urged both parties to engage in a constructive process of dialogue to bring an end to policies of confrontation and exclusion, with a view to normalizing relations.

MUSINGA T. BANDORA (United Republic of Tanzania) also expressed regret that, despite numerous appeals and resolutions by the Assembly, the United States had not yet found it possible to end the unilateral measure that continued to strangle Cuba’s economy. He appreciated the limited measures taken by the United States Government to expand the scope of personal contacts between its country and Cuba. However, he remained concerned that there was no indication of efforts to build on those measures to facilitate dialogue. It was a matter of concern that the Helms-Burton Act, with its broad and unacceptable implications, remained an instrument of reference by the United States.

He saw possibilities for cooperation between the two States despite their political differences, he said. But he did not perceive any justification for the embargo or legislative measures taken by the United States against Cuba. He noted that the plea made on behalf of the Cuban people during last year’s Assembly had underscored and reinforced past resolutions.

He urged the United States to shift from the limiting and destructive legacies of history and re-engage Cuba in expanded dialogue to resolve relations between the two countries.

CARLOS BIVERO (Venezuela) said Venezuela shared the General Assembly’s longstanding view that the embargo should be lifted. It was against international law as well as humanitarian principles.

It seemed paradoxical, he said, that at a time when States were advocating cooperation and becoming involved in multilateral agreements, that the United States should continue its embargo against Cuba. States should uphold international law and not enact measures which sought to undermine it.

It was for those reasons, he said, that Venezuela would support the draft resolution now before the General Assembly.

N.V. TCHOULKOV (Russian Federation) said that the continuing blockade of Cuba by the United States was a relic of the cold war and should be halted. The attempts of the United States to exert pressure on third countries and international organizations to make them curtail their cooperation with Cuba was a matter of great concern.

However, he said, the partial liberalization with respect to medicine and foodstuffs announced on 5 January by the United States Administration were steps in the right direction, notwithstanding that they were limited and selective. The lifting of the embargo would contribute to the improvement of the situation in the region and to Cuba's integration into world economic relations.

He also reaffirmed the intention of the Russian Federation to continue developing normal trade and economic relations with Cuba, based on common interest and mutual benefit and pursued in strict accordance with Charter principles and norms of international law.

MOHAMED A. ELTOM (Sudan) said the imposition of sanctions was a violation of the sovereignty of States, and of the principles that should govern relations between large and small nations. The report indicated the adverse impacts of the embargo on the economy and society of Cuba, particularly in the area of agriculture. In spite of assurances that the embargo against food and medicines would end, the United States continued to impose sanctions on Cuba, and punished companies that invested in Cuba.

He said the unilateral embargo had been imposed as an attempt by the United States to serve its own foreign policy interests. In a similar vein, it had waged attacks against the Sudan’s economic structures.

He stressed that the United States sought to impose sanctions by obstructive and coercive measures that compromised the rights of nations to choose and adopt their own national strategies. They obstructed the flow of free trade and transfer of technology that hampered States' implementation of their development strategies. His delegation rejected the promulgation and application of the embargo against Cuba and called for the lifting of sanctions against Libya, the Sudan and all other States that were similarly affected.

SAEED HASAN (Iraq) said that, for nearly 40 years, the United States had imposed inhuman measures that had cost the lives of countless Cubans and caused 11 million of them to suffer. The more voices called for the lifting of the embargo, the more the United States tightened its grip. This had not only had a devastating effect on Cuba, but also affected other States. It was a direct violation of international law and prevented those States from enjoying free trade with Cuba.

He said the United States’ actions showed complete scorn for the will of the international community. This was not an isolated case. The United States, with its protégé, Israel, had also adopted such a position against the Iraqi people. Sanctions against his country had caused damage and cost lives. He appealed to the United States to put an end to the embargo and pursue a policy of cooperation.

He called on all States to vote in favour of the draft resolution. That would send a clear message to the United States.

LESLIE MBANGAMBI GUMBI (South Africa) recalled the decision of the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held last year in Durban, which had expressed deep concern over the expansion of the extraterritorial nature of the embargo against Cuba and over the new legislative measure aimed at intensifying it. Further, during this session of the Assembly, the Non-Aligned Movement Foreign Ministers and heads of delegation had called for an end to the embargo. It was contrary to the Charter, international law and good neighbourliness. It had caused huge material losses and economic damage to the people of Cuba.

He said that South Africa, as well as the majority of Member States, continued to oppose the Helms-Burton Act, due to its threat to the sovereignty of other States, its unilateral and extraterritorial nature, and its inhibition of the free flow of international trade.

He said his Government encouraged the settlement of the dispute between Cuba and the United States through peaceful negotiation. In that respect, constructive interaction would foster mutual confidence and trust as well as engender harmony and coexistence between the two nations. South Africa would once again support the draft resolution.

HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said that, despite the existence of a new international environment that was conducive to strengthening constructive dialogue and genuine partnership to promote further economic cooperation for development, the recourse to unilateral coercive economic measures was on the rise. Such measures impeded access by all countries to financial resources and hampered economic development and the expansion of international financial relations.

All countries should refrain from recourse to measures that were contrary to the Charter, as well as to principles of international law, he said. Sanctions adversely affected social and economic development, and the humanitarian situation of the target country. They also violated human rights.

It was an undeniable right of every State to choose its own political, economic, social and cultural system, he stressed. As the ultimate objective of the sanctions was to undermine international peace and security, and create political and economic instability in another country, he advocated the removal of the embargo. Differences between States should be settled peacefully. Recognizing the economic, social and financial consequences of the embargo, Iran would vote in favour of the draft.

Explanations of Vote before the Vote

ANNA-MAIJA KORPI (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated that the main objective of the Union in its relations with Cuba was to encourage a process of gradual and peaceful transition to pluralistic democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as a sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people. The Union recognized that there had been positive developments in 1998, but continued to be concerned about the political and economic situation in Cuba and hoped for durable and substantive improvements.

More recently, she continued, the Cuban social, political and economic situation had seen very little change and the human rights situation had seen no change at all. The positive developments in human rights seen after the Pope’s visit had not continued. Four leading dissidents had been condemned to prison in closed juridical procedure, and a law adopted by the National Assembly in February 1999 penalized those who exercised their right to express opinions or disseminate information. She acknowledged, however, that Cuba had taken steps towards a better economic integration and had been active in international and regional forums. The Union wished to be Cuba’s partner in economic integration, but that would depend on the country’s human rights and political freedom.

She reaffirmed the Union’s strong opposition, in law and principle, to the imposition of secondary boycotts and legislation with extraterritorial effects. The Council of Ministers had adopted measures to protect the interests of natural and legal persons residing in Europe against the Helms-Burton legislation. A European Union/United States summit in London had also agreed on a package of measures that prohibited the United States from adopting such extraterritorial measures in future. This was an important step; she hoped that the United States commitment to the package would match that of the Union.

For all those reasons, the Union would unanimously support the draft resolution.

A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States), speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, said his country opposed the “ill-advised” text and encouraged all other Assembly Members to do likewise. The decision by his country to maintain an embargo against Cuba was strictly a matter of bilateral trade policy and not an appropriate matter for consideration by the Assembly. The contention, implicit in the resolution, that the United States forbade other countries from trading with Cuba was “simply wrong”. Sovereign States decided with which other countries they would trade. Because of the repressive policies and actions of the Fidel Castro Government, the United States chose not to trade with Cuba.

He said the United States imposed a bilateral embargo as one element in a policy of promoting democracy in Cuba. While maintaining that embargo, the Administration of President William Clinton had moved to expand dramatically people-to-people contacts with the Cuban population, to increase remittances, and to allow the sale of food and agricultural inputs to private entities. The American people had been extremely generous in providing humanitarian assistance to Cuba. The goal of that policy was to foster a transition to a democratic form of government, to protect human rights, to permit a civil society to thrive, and to provide for the economic prosperity that the Cuban Government's disastrous economic policies were denying to its people.

The authorities of the Castro Government believed that the human rights of the Cuban people -- or the lack thereof -- were a concern for them alone. The United States disagreed. "Our fundamental premise, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is that human rights violations in any State are of concern to the entire international community." The focus of that community should be on the continuing human rights crisis in Cuba, rather on the bilateral aspects of the United States' efforts to facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy in that country. The resolution under consideration served only to distract the attention of Member States and, worse, might encourage the Cuban authorities to persist in their tragically misguided policies.

ALYAKSANDR SYCHOV (Belarus) said his country would support the draft resolution. His Government did not agree with the adoption of any unilateral coercive measures of an extraterritorial nature. Only the Security Council was allowed to impose such measures.

He called upon Member States to take further steps to eliminate discriminatory trade practices and halt the blockade.

Action on Draft

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with 8 abstentions (Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Federated States of Micronesia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Senegal and Uzbekistan). (For details of the vote see Annex.)

DENNIE WILSON (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) wished it placed on record that his delegation had voted in favour of the text, but the vote had not been recorded due to a malfunctioning of the equipment.

MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) expressed concern over the extraterritorial application of jurisdiction arising from such legislation as the Helms-Burton Act. Japan had supported the resolution, but questioned whether the Assembly was in fact the most suitable forum in which to address the issue of the embargo against Cuba. Both countries should pursue a solution through bilateral dialogue; he called on them to strengthen efforts towards that end. While welcoming progress made by the Cuban Government in improving the status of women, Japan hoped for improvements in the overall human rights situation in Cuba.

MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) welcomed the signs of greater openness and flexibility on the part of the United States towards Cuba. Canada reaffirmed its position that the United States was not the only one responsible for the difficulties in Cuba. There was still no relief for the citizens of Cuba in exercising their freedoms and rights. His country shared the objective of promoting democracy in Cuba but felt that the process must be achieved through dialogue. Canada still opposed the embargo which had no positive effects. The new policy of person-to-person contacts implemented by the United States should be continued. He expressed regret at the embargo’s humanitarian consequences for the Cuban population.

SUH DAE WON (Republic of Korea) said that such legislation as had been adopted by the United States had far-reaching implications on future relations between States in the coming years. His country's vote in favour of the resolution did not mean that it did not have due regard for human rights.

JORGE PEREZ-OTERMIN (Uruguay) said that his country had voted in favour of the resolution because of its support of the basic principles of freedom of trade between States and its opposition to any extraterritorial laws that violated States’ sovereignty and the basic principles of international law. Sanctions such as those adopted by the United States were not an appropriate way of achieving democracy.

LUIZ TUPY CALDAS DE MOORA (Brazil) said that extreme measures such as those adopted by the United States against Cuba should only be taken when all other means had been exhausted. That sort of sanction created tension for the international community, and had been rejected by a number of international forums. For those reasons, Brazil had voted in favour of the resolution.

ZHANG XIAOAN (China), explaining that country's favourable vote, expressed concern over the United States lack of response to the international community’s calls, and its refusal to implement relevant Assembly resolutions. The embargo had caused great difficulties to the Cuban people in their endeavour to achieve economic and social development and reform, seriously constraining the Government’s efforts to eradicate poverty and enhance its people’s living standards. Moreover, the embargo violated human rights in other States since it affected Cuba’s normal trade and economic contacts with many other States, thereby gravely encroaching on their legitimate rights and interests.

History taught that only on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s choices could differences between States be effectively resolved through dialogue and negotiation on an equal footing, she said. Therefore, she called on the United States to take constructive action in keeping with the times.

HANS BRATTSKAR (Norway) said his Government drew a clear distinction between unilateral measures and sanctions adopted by the international community through the United Nations. Only sanctions adopted by the international community through relevant and representative organizations had legitimacy. No country should impose its legislation on third States. By voting in favour of the resolution, Norway did not condone violations of human rights in Cuba; it simply did not consider isolation through unilateral measures to be an appropriate response to the situation there. More could be achieved through constructive dialogue, from which no theme should be excluded. His country was presently engaged in a dialogue with the Cuban authorities that focused on human rights. DAVID BLUMENTHAL (Australia) said he did not consider the applications of sanctions in Cuba an effective method of promoting reform. In Australia’s view, those laws and measures were in contravention of international law. It had voted in favour of the resolution.

MBAYU FELIX (Cameroon) said that his delegation had been absent during the vote, but it wished to place on record that it was in favour of the resolution.

(annex follows) ANNEX

Vote on Text on Ending Embargo against Cuba.

The Assembly adopted the resolution contained in (document A/54/L.11) by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 2 against, with 8 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against: Israel, United States.

Abstain: Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Georgia, Latvia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Senegal, Uzbekistan.

Absent: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, El Salvador, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Oman, Palau, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Tonga.

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For information media. Not an official record.