By Evelyn Leopold | Reuters
Friends and adversaries of the United States voted overwhelmingly in the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday against the four-decade-old American economic, financial and commercial embargo against Cuba.
The vote, conducted for the 13th consecutive year, was a lopsided 179 to 4 with one abstention on the resolution opposing the embargo. The United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands voted “no” and Micronesia abstained.
Cuba has been under a U.S. trade and travel embargo since Fidel Castro defeated a CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. In subsequent years, some foreign firms have been threatened with penalties for dealing with Cuba.
“The U.S. government has unleashed a world wide genocidal economic war against Cuba,” said Havana’s foreign minister, Felipe Perez Roque, the only speaker warmly applauded.
But the U.S. delegate said Cuba has shown no interest implementing economic reforms that would lead to democratic change or a free market.
“The Cuban government is not a victim as it contends. Rather it is a tyrant, aggressively punishing anyone who dares to have a differing opinion,” said Oliver Garza, a State Department adviser.
Members of the European Union, along with such U.S. allies as Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, voted for the resolution, which is nonbinding. They again objected to the “extra-territorial” effects of U.S. legislation that punishes non-U.S. firms for commercial dealings with Cuba.
“The European Union strongly condemns the current human rights situation in Cuba, which since 2003 has not shown any significant improvement,” said the Netherlands deputy ambassador, Arjan Hamburger, speaking for the EU.
Typical of the more than dozen speakers was Mexico’s delegate, who criticized the United States for not heeding the resolutions year after year, saying this weakened the U.N.‘s multilateral role.
“Mexico is concerned that this type of resolutions that are presented year after year do not have any effect on the reality they seek to change,” said Mexican U.N. Ambassador Enrique Berruga.
Garza denied the United States was denying Cuba food and medicine, saying its had licensed over $1.1 billion in sales and donations since 1992 and agricultural goods worth more than $5 billion since 2001. In addition remittances amounted to about $1 billion a year, he said.
But Cuba’s Perez said that if Washington was so sure Cuba was using the blockade as a pretext “why does it not lift the blockade and leave us without a pretext?”