The UN has urged the US to lift the 52-year trade embargo with Cuba in an almost-unanimous vote. Cuba likened the blockade to “genocide” and said it was disappointed that Obama had not taken measures to lift the disputed embargo.
Of the 193 members of the UN assembly, 188 voted to abolish what is widely perceived as an illegal blockade. The only two nations that got behind the US were Israel and the Pacific nation of Palau, while two countries abstained from the vote.
This is the 21st year running that the UN has decried the American economic sanctions against the island nation.
Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez addressed the assembly, voicing Cuban disappointment that despite Obama’s pledge to open a new chapter in Cuban-American relations on assuming office four years ago, no steps had been taken the lift the crippling embargo.
“The reality is that the last four years have been characterized by the persistent tightening of …the embargo,” he said.
The Cuban government has calculated that since the blockade was enforced in 1960 the total financial damage to Cuba’s economy is around US$3 trillion.
Rodriguez qualified the maintenance of the embargo as tantamount to “genocide” and a “massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights” of the people of Cuba.
He criticized America for what he called a “costly double standard” for wasting “hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxes that are paid by US citizens in the useless and illegal subversion against Cuba.”
US president Barack Obama has taken measures to facilitate US travel to the island nation, but has thus far refrained from taking any further steps to lift the embargo. The US justifies its stance by saying it is waiting for signs of changes in Cuba’s political regime and improvements in the island state’s human rights record.
The embargo was originally introduced with a view to crippling Cuba’s communist regime, which took power in the country following the 1959 revolution headed by Fidel Castro.
‘A loyal friend’?
In fact, US envoy at the UN assembly, Ronald D. Godard argued the embargo is “one of the tools in our overall efforts to encourage respect for the human rights and basic freedoms to which the United Nations itself is committed.”
Cuba’s resolution seeks to identify an external scapegoat for the island’s economic problems when they are principally caused by the economic policies that Cuban government has pursued for the past half century,” Godard said.
He stressed that the US was a “loyal friend” to Cuba and it is working to “empower Cubans who wish to determine their own future.”
Citing the case of Alan Gross, a US citizen who was arrested in Cuba and currently serving a 15-year sentence for setting up internet networks on the island, Godard said his imprisonment had halted diplomatic proceedings with Cuba.
Minister Rodriguez’s speech was greeted by thunderous applause, while Godard’s was met with comparative silence at the assembly vote.
Cuba has offered to work in tandem with the US in areas such as the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism and human trafficking. However, Washington has affirmed that its policy towards Cuba will remain intact for the time being.