The United Nations General Assembly voted for the 14th consecutive year to call for an end to the 43- year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, drawing a rebuke from John Bolton, the new U.S. envoy to the world body.
“This is a complete exercise in irrelevancy,’’ Ambassador Bolton told reporters in New York. “For a General Assembly that has not yet seriously attempted to reform the UN Human Rights Commission to adopt this exercise in Cuban propaganda really tells you something.’‘
Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau joined the U.S. in voting against the non-binding resolution, which urges the U.S. to “repeal and invalidate’’ the embargo that has been in effect since 1962, three years after Fidel Castro seized control of the Caribbean island and transformed it into a bastion of communism. Micronesia abstained. The resolution was adopted today by a vote of 182 to 4.
The Bush administration said the resolution was an attempt to shift blame for Castro’s shortcomings and that the General Assembly should not deal with the question.
“The United States trade embargo is a bilateral issue and should not come before the General Assembly,’’ U.S. envoy Ronald Godard said. “If the people of Cuba are jobless, hungry or lack medical care, as Castro admits, it is because of his economic mismanagement, not the embargo.’‘
Godard said the U.S. would ease restrictions on trade and travel after Cuba allows “free and fair’’ elections and the formation of independent trade unions.
He said the U.S. since 1992 has licensed $1.1 billion in sales and donations of medicine and medical equipment to Cuba. In the past five years more than $5 billion in U.S. farm commodities have been exported to Cuba, he said.
Envoys from the European Union, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, North Korea, Russia, South Africa and Vietnam spoke against the embargo before vote.
“The European Union believes that critical engagement with the Cuban government, alongside dialogue with wider Cuban civil society, is the most effective way to promote peaceful change in Cuba,’’ U.K. envoy Paul Johnston said in a speech on behalf of the European body.
“Never before, as in the past 18 months, was the blockade enforced with so much viciousness and brutality,’’ Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said. “There has been a hysterical, unprecedented escalation in the enforcement of new and aggressive measures, including the threat to use military means against Cuba.’‘
Roque said the embargo has cost Cuba $82 billion in lost income during the past 42 years.
He said Cuba would ultimately overcome the “the helpless haughtiness of President Bush, which has taken him farther than anyone else in this madness.’‘
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