UN overwhelmingly calls for end to US embargo on Cuba


UN VOTE CONDEMNS  CUBA EMBAGOThe UN General Assembly on Tuesday called for an end to the decades-long US embargo on Cuba in a resolution adopted by a near-unanimous vote, three months after US-Cuba diplomatic ties were restored.

The United States and Israel voted against the non-binding resolution, but a resounding 191 countries supported the measure in the 193-member assembly.

The outcome was a diplomatic victory for Cuba, which has branded the embargo the main obstacle to its economic development and called for immediate steps to end it.

Last year, the United States and Israel had voted against the resolution and three countries — Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau — had abstained.

This year’s resolution welcomed the re-establishment of diplomatic ties and recognized “the expressed will” of President Barack Obama to do away with the embargo.

The final decision, however, rests with the US Congress where the Republican majority opposes the move.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez voiced hope that the US Congress “moves to change this inefficient, cruel and unjust policy, anchored in the past.”

But he stressed that Obama has “broad executive prerogatives to substantially modify” the embargo, imposed in 1960 at the height of the Cold War.

Cuba estimates that damage from what it terms a blockade amounts to more than $830 billion and has long argued that the measure has brought hardship to the communist-ruled island.

“The lifting of the blockade will be the essential element that will give some meaning to the progress achieved over the past few months in relations between the two countries and set the pace towards normalization,” said Rodriguez.

Normalization will take years

In his remarks, US diplomat Ron Godard said the United States could not support the text because it did not reflect “the significant steps taken and the spirit of engagement President Obama has championed.”

Godard warned that Cuba was “mistaken” if it believes that its resolution would put pressure on the United States.

“If Cuba thinks this exercise will move things forward in the direction that both governments have indicated they wish, it is mistaken,” he said.

The assembly has voted each year since 1992 to approve the resolution that highlights Washington’s isolation over its Cuba policy.

Godard stressed that the US administration wants to end the embargo to create opportunities for the Cuban people, but cautioned that normalization “will require years of persistence and dedication on both sides.”

At the UN podium, envoys representing all major regional groups applauded the US shift toward Cuba but stressed that lifting the embargo was key to correcting what many view as a historical mistake.

South African Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo, speaking on behalf of the G77 group of emerging economies, condemned the embargo as “the most unjust, severe and longest-lasting system of unilateral sanctions ever applied to any country.”

The G77 and China, and the 120-nation non-aligned movement criticized the Obama administration for slapping 42 fines on US and foreign entities that do business in Cuba.

Venezuela’s Ambassador Rafael Ramirez said the outcome of the vote showed the failure of US sanctions policy and sent a message to Washington to “stop its practice of claiming to be the world’s police.”