Cuban Foreign Minister Calls Blockade ‘An Act of Genocide’ as United States Speaker Defends Sovereign Right to Choose Trade Partners
The General Assembly today adopted its annual resolution to end the United States longstanding embargo against Cuba, with Brazil voting against the text for the first time.
The action came on the second day of the Assembly’s debate on the matter, which began on 6 November. (For more information, see Press Release GA/12211.)
By a recorded vote of 187 in favour to 3 against (Brazil, Israel, United States) with 2 abstentions (Colombia and Ukraine), the Assembly adopted the resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” (document A/74/L.6).
Through the terms of the text, the Assembly reiterated its call upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures of the kind referred to in the text’s preamble, in conformity with their obligations under international law and the Charter of the United Nations, which reaffirm the freedom of trade and navigation. The Assembly also urged States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible in accordance with their legal regime.
Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla, said that in the last few months, President Donald Trump’s Administration has begun escalating its aggression against Cuba through non‑conventional measures to prevent the arrival of fuel shipments to the island country through sanctions and threats against vessels as well as shipping and insurance companies.
In April, the United States announced it would allow lawsuits to be filed before United States courts against Cuban and foreign entities under Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (Helms‑Burton Act), he said. The blockade has caused incalculable humanitarian damages and qualifies as an act of genocide under 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
“For almost six decades, Cuba has been victim to the most unjust, severe and longest‑lasting system of sanctions ever applied against any country,” Mr. Rodriquez said, noting that the accumulated damages as a result of the blockade amount to more than $138.8 billion at current value. “There is not a single Cuban family that has not endured its consequences.”
The persecution of Cuba’s banking relations with the rest of the world continues, he said. Remittances sent to Cuban citizens have been further restricted and the granting of visas further reduced. The United States Government is set on sabotaging Cuba’s international cooperation in healthcare as well. Cubans have no access to Government or private credit and are required to pay in cash for merchandise upon its arrival in port. He asked: “Who in the world could trade under such conditions?”
The representative of the United States said that her country has a sovereign right to choose which countries with which to trade. “So it is worrying that the international community, in the name of protecting sovereignty, continues to challenge this right,” she said. The Assembly continues to entertain the claim, made explicitly and implicitly during the last 24 hours, that the Cuban regime has no other choice than to abuse its own people in response to the embargo.
The Cuban Government has arbitrarily arrested more than 50,000 human rights activists, journalists and others since 2010, she said. That Government also deprives people of their right to free choice of employment, as well as freedom of opinion and expression. In Cuba, all political parties besides the Communist Party are outlawed, political activists are silenced, and the country’s media is entirely controlled by the State. All of these are choices that are not forced upon them by the United States embargo. The country is also an active contributor to regional instability, collaborating with the former Maduro regime in Venezuela.
Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jorge Arreaza Montserrat, said that Latin America and the Caribbean will never be trampled by imperial powers. “We are free people,” he stressed. Calling the United States blockade against Cuba “imperial arrogance”, he said governmental elites use economic strangulation to cause the suffering of the Cuban people. “This is collective punishment because of the whims, capriciousness and arrogance of those who believe they are superior,” he said.
Bolivia’s delegate said that despite all the difficulties they have faced, the Cuban people continue to show solidarity with other countries, including in the face of racism and imperialism in Africa and Ebola inflicting the world’s poorest people. “Today we are not just speaking about Cuba, we are speaking about the multilateralism that is under attack,” he stressed, pointing to the United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change, the worrying developments in international courts, and an overall resurgence of unilateral action.
Iran’s delegate said the United States “has been addicted to imposing unilateral sanctions when it comes to States that do not submit to, or follow, its contradictory and expansionist policies.” Iran and Cuba are paying the price for their resistance and insistence on their independence from the United States colonialist policies. Iran has experienced unlawful sanctions for 40 years. Defying international norms, the sanctions have targeted the import of medicine and medical equipment, hurting women and children most.
Also speaking today were representatives of Namibia, Egypt, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Solomon Islands, Equatorial Guinea, United Republic of Tanzania, Cambodia, Zambia, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, and Antigua and Barbuda.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 8 November, to fill the vacancies of its subsidiary organs and hold a joint debate on implementation of United Nations resolutions and revitalization of the Assembly’s work.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), said that the Assembly should send a strong and unequivocal message today to the people of Cuba that the United Nations remains steadfast in its resolve to benefit humanity and bring peaceful resolution to conflicts. He said his delegation joins the many representatives who spoke on Wednesday in noting that the United States blockade against Cuba is contrary to international law and the Charter of the United Nations. In 2016, Member States sat in the Assembly welcoming the changing policy of the United States toward Cuba. Three years later, States are here frustrated by the United States actions, which have only become more aggressive and are imposed on a larger scale. “No citizen or sector of the economy has escaped the negative effects of this unilateral policy which hinders the development of Cuba,” he said. Cubans contribute to the welfare of millions of people around the world through their selfless contributions, from offering assistance in natural disasters to training medical professionals in developing countries, he said.
Mr. AHMED (Egypt), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group, Non‑Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that any embargo makes it very difficult for people to access food, education and state of the art technology. Egypt stresses the need to uphold the principles of multilateralism and calls on Member States to respect relevant General Assembly resolutions. The continuation of the embargo on Cuba will never dissuade the international community from continuing to call for it to be lifted.
JORGE ARREAZA MONTSERRAT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, associating himself with Group of 77 and the Non‑Aligned Movement, reiterated his country’s support for Cuba and called for an end to all unilateral coercive measures imposed in violation of international law. No United States bureaucratic actions will ever prevent Cuba and Venezuela from being victorious. The Cuban people are resolved to exercise their inalienable right to self‑determination. All the arguments have now been exhausted. What is happening now is imperial arrogance. Venezuela calls for a halt to this economic and financial terrorism. Political intolerance is not the way to handle international relations. It is governmental elites — who are not civilized and virtually primitive — using economic strangulation to cause the suffering of the Cuban people.
“This is collective punishment because of the whims, capriciousness and arrogance of those who believe they are superior and masters of the world,” he said. The blockade of Cuba has demonstrated the heroism and the creativity of the Cuban people. “They have stood up against the most powerful country in the world, which has been unable to achieve its political goal,” he added. Financial entities continue to be hindered in their activities with the Cuban people. The extraterritorial impact of this arbitrary policy now affects the whole region. It is a far‑reaching policy that affects the entire international community. Despite the blockade, Cuba has demonstrated solidarity through South‑South Cooperation and assistance, particularly in the areas of education and healthcare.
Turning to the attempted but failed coup in Venezuela, he said that Washington, D.C. is “trying to breathe life into the Monroe Doctrine.” Latin America and the Caribbean will never be trampled by imperial powers. “We are free people,” he stressed. Multilateralism, mutual respect and tolerance are the only way forward. The United Nations must resist United States domination. The resolution being considered enjoys virtually universal support. He condemned any attempt to carry out unilateral measures and called for specific action to put an end to these cruel policies which are an aggression and an affront to the United Nations. “It is time to put an end to double standards in international relations,” he said.
GHISLAINE WILLIAMS (Saint Kitts and Nevis), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, Group of 77, and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that while the United States is one of her country’s closest and strongest partners, Saint Kitts and Nevis nonetheless supports resolution A/74/L.6. Noting that her country had, in its contribution to the Secretary‑General’s report on the issue, expressed disappointment about measures intended to intensify the economic aggression against Cuba, she reiterated its opposition to the continuance of the unjust embargo, which is a key obstacle to Cuba’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Cuba is a very close ally of Saint Kitts and Nevis, and has aided in its development, especially in agriculture, education and health. The negative impact of the embargo on the small island developing State is “quite profound and unfair”, she said, before calling upon the United States to put an end to the unjust blockade once and for all. Pointing out that most Member States traditionally voted in favour of the draft resolution, she implored States to respect the sanctity of the Assembly and of the decisions it makes.
KELLY CRAFT (United States) said that, like all countries, the United States has a sovereign right to choose which countries with which to trade. “So it is worrying that the international community, in the name of protecting sovereignty, continues to challenge this right,” she said. Even more concerning is that the General Assembly entertains the claim, made explicitly and implicitly during the last 24 hours, that the Cuban regime has no other choice than to abuse its own people in response to the embargo. The United States policy does not force the Cuba regime to violate the human rights of its own people.
The Cuban Government has arbitrarily arrested more than 50,000 human rights activists, journalists and others since 2010, she continued. It also keeps people in servitude, sending its doctors abroad to work, stripping them of their passports and monitoring their work, which the doctors are forced to do without rest and without keeping their income. The Government also deprives people of their right to free choice of employment, as well as freedom of opinion and expression. In Cuba, all political parties besides the Communist Party are outlawed, political activists are silenced and the country’s media is entirely controlled by the State. All of these are choices that are not forced upon them by the United States embargo.
The Cuban regime seeks to avoid responsibility for its choices, but “there comes a time for responsibility”, she said. The country is an active contributor to regional instability, collaborating with the former Maduro regime in Venezuela. The General Assembly can act responsibly by speaking truthfully about the Cuban regime and what it is responsible for. It is sorrowful to watch the futures of 11 million Cubans dimmed by the choices of their leaders. But the United States is not responsible for the regime’s endless abuses of its people and will not accept responsibility for those abuses. She said her country will vote ‘no’ on the resolution, because “it is our first responsibility as leaders to defend those without a voice, today most especially the people of Cuba.”
JANICE MOSE (Solomon Islands), aligning herself with the Group of 77, cited the country’s strong bilateral relations with Cuba, which has also provided assistance in training its students in the medical field. Newly tightened measures this year under the embargo have pushed Cuba into severe economic difficulties, she noted, depriving the country of financial resources and fuel necessary not only for its development but the daily needs of its people. Her country’s Government reiterated its call for the embargo to be lifted and good relations restored between Cuba and the United States within the spirit and purposes of the Charter.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea), associating himself with the African Group, Non‑Aligned Movement, and the Group of 77 said that non‑interference in the internal affairs of other States and sovereignty are sacred principles in international affairs. “We are convinced of the right of sovereign States to elect” their own social systems, he said. Cuba, a friendly country, is punished by the sanctions imposed upon by the United States, another country with which Equatorial Guinea has good relations. His country is extremely concerned that these unilateral measures hamper the implementation of Cuba’s national development plans and its ability to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The almost unanimous response to the resolution shows that the embargo is a clear violation of international law.
MODEST JONATHAN MERO (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Group of 77, African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the 2015 decision by the United States and Cuba to restore their diplomatic relations was the beginning of a harmonious co‑existence with high hopes. But with the passage of time, efforts to meet such hopes has faded. It is important to note that the sanctions are unjust and have pushed Cuba’s economy to the point where most policy interventions are rendered ineffective. “We hope that, through the power of reason and the very diplomatic means, there will be the total removal of those embargoes against Cuba, and that a new dawn of cooperation will follow,” he said.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the embargo — which is illegal, unjust and immoral, and violates the human rights of the Cuban people — is one of the most important items on the United Nations agenda. The Assembly’s meeting is a show of solidarity with the Cuban people. The embargo affects all aspects of Cuban life, from international cooperation to health care, construction and the sugar industry. The purpose of the meeting is also to take stock of the marvellous solidarity the Cuban people have demonstrated to the world repeatedly, including in the face of racism and imperialism in Africa, Ebola inflicting the world’s poorest people and hurricanes in the Caribbean. The Cuban people have never asked for any concessions for their support. “Today we are not just speaking about Cuba, we are speaking about the multilateralism that is under attack in the world,” he said, also adding: “Are we not witness to what is happening with the world?” He pointed to the pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the worrying developments in international courts and the Human Rights Council, and an overall resurgence of unilateral action. “What should we do? Fight!” he said, calling for solidarity to defend international law and “the purposes and principles that define us.” Today’s vote is not just a vote against the embargo. “We are voting for hope and the possibility to make this world more just,” he said, reiterating Bolivia’s demand to that the United States lift the blockade.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia) expressed support for the draft resolution, urging the United States to end its unilateral economic measures, which have affected the living conditions and rights of the Cuban people. Promotion of global trade, provision of preferential treatment and removal of trade barriers should be fully embraced by all States, he said, adding that the manner in which any nation conducts its domestic affairs must be left to its people, without external interference.
ESHAGH AL‑HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, Non‑Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the expansionist and arrogant approach of a certain Government presents the greatest threat and challenge to world peace and security. Employing unilateral embargos and coercive sanctions to achieve national policy objectives has a seriously adverse impact on peace. “The inhumane sanctions and blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba for almost six decades is the most unjust and prolonged system of unilateral sanctions applied against any country,” he said. In fact, the United States “has been addicted to imposing unilateral sanctions when it comes to States that do not submit to, or follow, its contradictory and expansionist policies.” Iran and Cuba are paying the price for their resistance and insistence on their independence from the United States’ colonialist policies. Iran has experienced unlawful sanctions for 40 years. Defying international norms, the sanctions have targeted importation of medicine and medical equipment, hurting women and children, refugees and other vulnerable people. The United States re‑imposition of sanctions against Iran after their withdrawal shows that the country is “utterly untrustworthy and that it is a colossal mistake to count on its commitments.” These sanctions violate at least two orders from the International Court of Justice. Iran believes in cooperating with friendly countries, including Cuba, and will not allow the United States administration to achieve its illegitimate objectives, he concluded.
ISABELLE MUTINTA MATYOLA LEMBA (Zambia), associating herself with the African Group, Non‑Aligned Movement and the Group of 77, supported the call for the lifting by the United States of its sanctions against Cuba, saying that their improved relations the world witnessed in the recent past is an indication that the two countries can work together. Pointing out that the total cost of the blockade over nearly six decades is estimated at $138.4 billion, she said the measure has had dire effects on the social and economic development of Cuba and on the ordinary people there. Appealing for unrestricted people‑to‑people contact and normal operations of non‑commercial aircraft and passenger ships, she went on to express her country’s solidarity with the General Assembly in calling for the revocation of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (Helms-Burton Act).
MUHAMMAD IMRAN KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, Group of 77 and China, and OIC, said the United Nations Resident Coordinator has concluded that ending the embargo would be a significant step towards improving the quality of life of people in Cuba. The imposition of unilateral economic measures is counter‑productive and inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter and international law. “These measures decrease the prospects for a peaceful resolution of differences and disputes between Member States,” he added.
ORDELL CEDRIC BARMAN (Trinidad and Tobago), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the Non‑Aligned Movement and CARICOM, said that the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba continues to impede that nation’s full achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Discriminatory trade practices and the extraterritorial application of domestic law violate the United Nations Charter and international law. Citing almost‑universal opposition to this “anachronistic policy” and the fact that the Assembly has passed a resolution condemning the embargo every year since 1992, he called for an end to the embargo and the full reintegration of Cuba into the international system.
GLENTIS THOMAS (Antigua and Barbuda), aligning with CARICOM, said the United States embargo against Cuba has catastrophic consequences on Cubans, particularly the most vulnerable. It also affects the ability of Antigua and Barbuda to expand trade with a legitimate member of the regional community and to build upon the generosity it exhibits in providing technical assistance. He called on the United States to cease the embargo. No force should pressure the people of any country simply because of dissatisfaction with the structure and function of its Government. Stating that both the United States and Cuba are friends and partners of Antigua and Barbuda in a wide range of areas, he called for dialogue and peaceful diplomacy between them to bring about a relationship based on mutual respect and shared responsibilities.
BRUNO EDUARDO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said that in the last few months, President Donald Trump’s Administration has begun escalating its aggression against Cuba through non‑conventional measures to prevent the arrival of fuel shipments through sanctions and threats against vessels, shipping and insurance companies. In April, the United States Government announced it would allow lawsuits to be filed before United States courts against Cuban and foreign entities under Title III of the Helms‑Burton Act. The persecution of Cuba’s banking relations with the rest of the world continues. Remittances sent to Cuban citizens have been further restricted and the granting of visas further reduced. Individual travel by United States citizens, the chartering of planes and acquisition of technologies and equipment with more than 10 per cent United States-made parts have been banned. The United States Government has aggressively intensified extraterritorial implementation of the embargo, thus affecting third States, their companies and citizens. The United States is also set on sabotaging Cuba’s international cooperation in healthcare. The blockade has caused incalculable humanitarian damages and it qualifies as an act of genocide under 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. “There is not a single Cuban family that has not endured its consequences,” he said. A Cuban child suffering from severe heart failure is denied the most advanced paediatric devices because they are manufactured by the United States. The embargo also blocks access to new cancer therapeutic drugs only manufactured by United States pharmaceutical firms.
The United States should explain to the Assembly the conditions it imposes on Cuban purchases, he said, noting that Cubans have no access to Government or private credit. Cuba is required to pay in cash for merchandise upon its arrival in port. He asked: “Who in the world could trade under such conditions?” Cuba’s effective social model continues to guarantee equal opportunities, equity and social justice for all Cubans. The United States Government does not have moral authority in the least to criticize Cuba. The United States employs torture, its police are responsible for assassinations of African‑Americans, and its border patrol for the murder of migrants and the death of unaccompanied minors under migratory detention. The United States Government keeps inmates in legal limbo, without the right to a defence attorney, a trial or due process at the Guantanamo Naval Base prison, which is illegally usurping Cuban territory.
Corruption is rampant in the United States political system, he said, adding also: “There is an ever‑growing distance between Government decisions and the will of the people.” The United States is party to only 30 per cent of the human rights instruments. He underscored how the blockade affects various people, noting that a German citizen working at the Cuban embassy in Berlin was notified by Amazon of the cancellation policy of her account due to the blockade regulations. The illegal Helms‑Burton Act guides the United States’ aggressive behaviour against Cuba. The accumulated damages as a result of the blockade after almost six decades of implementation amount to more than $138.8 billion at current value.
The embargo has been the essential impediment to the aspirations of well‑being and prosperity of several generations of Cubans, he said, thwarting Cuba’s ability to update its economic and social development model, implement its national plan by the year 2030 and the 2030 Agenda. Annual damages due to the embargo are equal to the volume of direct foreign investment needed for Cuba’s economic development. “For almost six decades, Cuba has been victim to the most unjust, severe and longest‑lasting system of sanctions ever applied against any country,” he said. He questioned whether some industrialized and technologically advanced countries could endure such a prolonged and overwhelming onslaught.
The Assembly has reaffirmed, on several elections, its rejection of unilateral coercive measures, he said. The United States implements systems of coercive measures against more than 20 countries and specific unilateral measures against dozens of nations, a trend that has only been strengthened by the current Administration. The United States offends the Assembly with its interventionist language when referring to Venezuela, “to whom we express our unchanging solidarity”, he said. The United States uses false, slanderous arguments as pretexts to intensify its aggression. Cuba recognizes the ethical and political abyss that exists between the United States Government and its people and will do its best to develop relations with the people of that country, he asserted.
Action on Draft Resolution
JUKKA SALOVAARA, speaking for the European Union in explanation of vote, said the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States has damaged Cuba’s economy and living standards. External trade and foreign investment will play a crucial role in setting Cuba on a path towards modernization, reforms and sustainable growth. Lifting the embargo could facilitate the opening of Cuba’s economy to the benefit of the Cuban people, he said, stressing that positive change is best brought about by closer engagement at all levels and expressing deep regret over the decision by the current United States administration to reintroduce restrictions on relations between the two countries. Measures restricting individual self‑directed travel, as well as banning “people‑to‑people” travel and cruise tourism, not only curtail the possibility for engagement with Cubans, but are also damaging for Cuba’s burgeoning private sector, which has benefitted the most from such visits. The European Union will vote unanimously in favour of the draft resolution.
The representative of Costa Rica said that it will vote in the same manner as previous years, in support of the resolution and in opposition to the embargo.
The Assembly then adopted resolution “A/74/L.6” by a recorded vote of 187 in favour to 3 against (Brazil, Israel, United States) with 2 abstentions (Colombia, Ukraine).
The representative of Argentina, speaking in its national capacity, reiterated its traditional position that there must be an immediate end to the United States embargo. He said his country opposes unilateral measures and the adoption of discriminatory trade practices.
The delegation of Uruguay said that the embargo imposed on Cuba violates international law and runs counter to the United Nations Charter. He expressed regret that Cuban‑United States relations have soured after a brief period of improvement.
The speaker from Malaysia said her country urged the United States to end the embargo against Cuba, which has impeded the latter country’s development. She called on Cuba and the United States to resolve their country’s differences peacefully.