The UN Votes for the 29th Time to End the Cuba Embargo
Adriana Brasileiro / The Miami Herald
(June 23, 2021) — As it has every year since 1992, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution that calls for the US to lift its embargo against Cuba — and this time the pleading focused on the devastating impact of the economic blockade during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vote on Wednesday was 184 in favor, three abstentions by Colombia, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates and two No votes by the US and Israel.
Member states once again said the blockade goes against international law and the UN Charter. Cuba called the embargo “a systematic violation of the rights of the Cuban people.”
“The US government adopted the virus as an ally in its ruthless non-traditional war against Cuba,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the General Assembly. “This constitutes an act of genocide… Just like the virus, the blockade asphyxiates and kills, and it must stop.”
In opposing the resolution and maintaining the Trump administration’s position, the US defended the use of sanctions as part of a broader effort to advance democracy on the island, support human rights and help Cubans exercise their civil liberties.
“We recognize the challenges the Cuban people face. That is why the United States is a significant supplier of humanitarian goods to the Cuban people and one of Cuba’s principal trading partners,” US diplomat and UN mission political coordinator Rodney Hunter told the General Assembly.
Ever since the Cuba-backed resolution was first introduced, UN member states have approved it by an overwhelming margin. The most No votes it has ever garnered were four, including those of the United States and Israel, which has always voted in lockstep with the US
The only time the US didn’t cast a no vote was in 2016 during the Obama administration’s opening toward Cuba, when both the US and Israel abstained.
The General Assembly’s last vote during its 74th session in November 2019 was 187-3 with the US, Israel and Brazil voting No and Colombia and Ukraine abstaining. The assembly’s 75th session began in September 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the vote on the Cuba resolution was postponed.
During their remarks, several delegations pleaded for compassion and solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created unprecedented hardship for Cubans. Many expressed the hope that the US and Cuba could work together to repair a rapprochement that began under the Obama administration but that was dismantled under Trump.
“We can call on the new administration of the United States to urgently re-look at its policies to us Cuba, and to remove the unjust noose it has placed around its neck as a shameful relic of decades past,” said Ambassador Mathu Joyini, representing South Africa. “It is time for constructive dialogue, not further isolation.”
Rodriguez and several UN members said the embargo has cost the Cuban economy around $147.8 billion in losses over nearly six decades, and about $9 billion calculated from April 2019.
The embargo is hurting Cuba’s ability to access medical supplies and imposing significant difficulty in obtaining equipment to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Rodriguez said, citing hurdles the island faced when trying to buy respirators last year.
Cuba was already struggling with a severe economic downturn when the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, forcing the island to close its borders to tourism, a key source of revenue.
The socialist regime was able to keep transmission numbers low for much of 2020 due to strict lockdown measures and close monitoring of its population through its universal public health network. Cuba reported just over 12,000 COVID-19 cases in all of 2020.
But when the island opened its borders late last year, COVID-19 numbers exploded, reaching a record 2,055 on Tuesday. Since the start of the pandemic, Cuba registered about 171,000 cases and 1,193 deaths.
Adriana Brasileiro covers environmental news at the Miami Herald. Previously she covered climate change, business, political and general news as a correspondent for the world’s top news organizations: Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, based in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Santiago.
US and Israel Vote ‘No’ as 184 Nations Condemn American Blockade of Cuba
“The UN vote… on Cuba was a chance for President Biden to show global leadership. He failed miserably.”
— CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin
(June 23, 2021) — Peace and human rights advocates joined the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday in their annual condemnation of the United States’ disastrous economic embargo against Cuba.
For the 29th straight year, the members of the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution demanding an end to the 60-year US economic blockade on Cuba. This year, 184 nations voted in favor of the resolution, while the US and Israel voted against it. Three nations — Brazil, Colombia, and Ukraine — abstained.
Critics this year noted the detrimental effects of the embargo on Cuba’s ability to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Padilla slammed the blockade as a “massive, flagrant, and unacceptable violation of the human rights of the Cuban people” and “an economic war of extraterritorial scope against a small country already affected in the recent period by the economic crisis derived from the pandemic.”
“Like the virus, the blockade suffocates and kills and must end,” Rodríguez told the General Assembly.
Spain’s UN delegation said that the US embargo against Cuba “has a detrimental impact on the country’s economic situation and negatively affects the standard of living of the Cuban people.”
Indonesia’s UN mission asserted that the blockade “violates norms and principles of international law and sovereign equality of states” and hinders Cuba’s “recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Sofiane Mimouni, Algeria’s ambassador to the UN, reaffirmed his country’s “unwavering solidarity with the government and brotherly people of Cuba as well as its support for the lifting of the longstanding and unnecessary embargo imposed on Cuba.”
Mexico’s UN mission said it “reiterates its condemnation of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade against Cuba, and calls for its end.”
Rodney Hunter, political coordinator for the US mission to the UN, countered that sanctions are “one set of tools in Washington’s broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy, promote respect for human rights, and help the Cuban people exercise fundamental freedoms.”
Although the Obama administration took steps to normalize relations with Cuba, the past 60 years have been characterized by varying degrees of US hostility toward the socialist government and, by extension, the Cuban people.
Having lost effective economic control of the island in 1959 following the successful socialist revolution led by Fidel Castro, successive US administrations waged a decades-long campaign of state-sanctioned exile terror, attempted subversion, failed assassination attempts, economic warfare, and covert operations large and small in a fruitless policy of regime change. There have been 13 US administrations since the triumph of the Cuban revolution.
According to the Cuban government, US-backed terrorism has claimednearly 3,500 lives and cost the island’s economy at least hundreds of billions of dollars.
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