UN votes overwhelmingly to condemn US economic embargo on Cuba for 31st year and urge its lifting

Nov 2, 2023, 9:43 AM | Updated: 11:36 am

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to condemn the American economic embargo of Cuba for a 31st year after its foreign minister urged, “Let Cuba live without the blockade!”

The vote on the resolution in the 193-member General Assembly tied the record for support for the Caribbean island nation: The vote was 187 in favor, with the United States and Israel opposed, and Ukraine abstaining. Somalia, Venezuela and Moldova didn’t vote.

The “yes” vote was up from 185 last year and 184 in 2021, and it tied the 2019 vote of 187.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez urged the assembly before the vote to support “reason and justice,” the U.N. Charter and international law and back the resolution.

He said the U.S. embargo has imposed “the most cruel and long-lasting unilateral coercive measures that have ever been applied against any country” and that it constitutes “a crime of genocide” and an “act of economic warfare during times of peace.”

The American aim, Rodriguez said, is to weaken Cuba’s economic life, leave its people hungry and desperate, and overthrow the government.

General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding and are unenforceable, but they reflect world opinion, and the vote has given Cuba an annual stage to demonstrate the isolation of the U.S. in its decades-old efforts to isolate the Caribbean nation.

The embargo was imposed in 1960 following the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the nationalization of properties belonging to U.S. citizens and corporations. Two years later it was strengthened.

Then-Cuban President Raul Castro and President Barack Obama officially restored relations in July 2016, and that year the U.S. abstained on the resolution calling for an end to the embargo for the first time. But Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, sharply criticized Cuba’s human rights record, and in 2017 the U.S. again voted against the resolution.

Rodriguez said new sanctions were added in the waning days of the Trump administration and he accused the Biden administration of strengthening measures “to harass Cuba in the economic and financial sectors.”

Cuba is in the throes of what some experts have called its gravest economic crisis since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. While increased imports of a range of goods would be welcome on the island, the Cuban government is widely thought to lack the funds to pay.

But Cuba is also going through a transformation process, with the opening of small and medium-sized private companies. Since small ventures became legal in September 2021, more than 8,000 companies have been launched in Cuba.

Rodriguez said no other people have faced “such systematic and long-lasting hostility from a superpower, but Cuba will continue to renew itself, and to build a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation.”

U.S. deputy ambassador Paul Folmsbee told the assembly after the vote that the United States stands by its sanctions, which are “one set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

He said approximately 1,000 political prisoners remain behind bars in Cuba, more than at any point in its recent history. Nearly 700 were detained after historic protests on July 11, 2021 when civil society representatives including human rights defenders and minors exercised their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly.

“We share the Cuban people’s dream of democracy in Cuba and join international partners in calling for the Cuban government to immediately release all those unjustly detained,” Folmsbee said. He urged Cuba to respond to requests from the U.N. Human Rights Council to send experts to the country to investigate its adherence to rights including freedom of expression, religion and peaceful assembly.

There was sporadic booing in the assembly chamber when he concluded by saying the General Assembly should urge the Cuban government “to adhere to its human rights obligations and listen to the Cuban people and their aspirations to determine their own future.”

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UN votes overwhelmingly to condemn US economic embargo on Cuba for 31st year and urge its lifting