Donate to Links


Click on Links masthead to clear previous query from search box

GLW Radio on 3CR



Recent comments



Syndicate

Syndicate content

Cuba: UN for the 18th consecutive year demands end to US blockade

28 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/10877

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

UN General Assembly, for 18th consecutive year, overwhelmingly calls for end to the US economic, trade embargo against Cuba

Vote: 187 in favour to 3 against, with 2 abstentions;

Even though many delegates expressed a newfound optimism that United States-Cuba relations could improve with the change of Administration in Washington, the United Nations General Assembly today once again adopted a stern resolution calling on the United States to end a trade embargo, which had created human suffering and wrecked havoc with the economy of the island nation.

With a recorded vote of 187 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United States and Palau), and 2 abstentions (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands), the 192-Member Assembly in its resolution urged the lifting of stiff commercial, financial and economic sanctions that were slapped on Cuba in the aftermath of the cold war.  This marked the eighteenth year the world body had adopted a similar resolution on the issue.  (See Annex.)

As happened last year, a burst of applause greeted the Assembly’s passage of text that reaffirmed the sovereign equality of States, the non-intervention and non-interference in their affairs, and the freedom of international trade and navigation.  The two-page document again called upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures such as that promulgated in the 1996 “Helms-Burton Act” which carried extraterritorial effects that impacted the sovereignty of other States.

Introducing the resolution on the Cuban trade embargo, Bruno Rodriguez Parrila, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, called the blockade an “uncultured act of arrogance” that had hampered the development of Cuba’s economy and was also applied to other countries that wanted to carry out business with the Caribbean nation.  He said it was an “absurd policy” that caused suffering and led to shortages of basic necessities.  The embargo was a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights.  In the Geneva Convention of 1948, it was classified as an act of genocide, he added.

With executive powers, President Obama had an historical opportunity to lead a policy change and lift the blockade.  He was vested with the executive powers to substantially modify the implementation of the measures by granting “special license” or waivers, making humanitarian exceptions, or acting for the sake of the United States national interests.

Speaking ahead of the vote, the United States’ representative said “here we go again”.  The Cuban Government’s hostile language seemed straight out of the cold war and the United States would not respond in kind to such familiar rhetoric.  She would, however, acknowledge “a new chapter to this old story”.  In recent months, the United States had taken several steps to reach out to Cubans to help ensure they could freely determine their country’s future.  Like all countries, the United States had the sovereign right to conduct economic relations with another country as it saw fit, and the embargo was part of a broader set of relations.

She drew attention to distortions in the Cuban position and said she regretted that Cuba continued to incorrectly label trade restrictions as an act of “genocide.”  It was equally erroneous to charge that sanctions were the cause of Cuba’s deprivation.  The United States maintained no restrictions on humanitarian aid -- it was the largest provider of food to Cuba and exported other items like wood and medicine.  Given that scenario, she called on Cuba to take steps to respond to the desire of its citizens to enjoy social, political and economic freedoms.

The representative of St. Kitts and Nevis, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), opposed the embargo and said the unilateral imposition of extra-territorial laws on third States was contrary to both the letter and spirit of the United Nations.  The Caribbean Community was especially concerned by the punitive embargo as it impeded the region’s overall development. CARICOM maintained close relations with Cuba through a wide range of programmes in areas from trade to health care to infrastructure.  Yet the delegation believed that a new beginning was possible in United States- Cuban relations even with the long history of dashed hopes.

The representative of Indonesia also expressed hope that the once icy relations between the two countries would end and a new era of cooperation would blossom in coming years.  “This year, we have reason to be optimistic”, he said, citing recent steps taken.  He said relations between States would constantly be tested as countries faced the challenge of balancing cooperation and competition.

Providing a view from another hemisphere, the representative of South Africa said the embargo’s relentless consequences had created untold suffering and the time to end it was long overdue.  He lauded Cuba’s support to other nations around the world, notably in the areas of health, education and biotechnology, and said the island nation’s role in South Africa’s liberation history was celebrated last year.  He welcomed the rapprochement initiated by the current United States administration and called on Washington to end the embargo and engage in meaningful dialogue.

Before considering the situation in Central America in the afternoon, General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki conveyed his deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the five United Nations staff members who were killed in the recent “shocking and shameless” terrorist raid in Afghanistan.  He joined the Secretary-General in condemning all threats and acts of violence against humanitarian personnel and United Nations personnel, and reaffirmed the need to hold accountable those responsible for such acts.

The Assembly then adopted by consensus a resolution requesting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to undertake with the Government of Guatemala the steps necessary to enhance the role that the United Nations played in providing effective and efficient assistance to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.

That work would fall within the framework of the Commission’s founding agreement of 12 December 2006.  The resolution, introduced by the representative of Guatemala, also called on the Guatemalan Government to keep providing all necessary support to overcome the challenges outlined in a recent report of the Secretary-General and to strengthen the institutions that buttressed the rule of law and defence of human rights.

Finally today, delegates also debated the volatile situation in Honduras, which had plunged into a serious political crisis after Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya had been ousted in a coup in June.  The representative of Brazil, in whose Embassy in Tegucigalpa President Zelaya had taken refuge, said the coup d’état was no longer acceptable in a region that had outgrown years of instability and bloody violence.  She stressed that President Zelaya’s reinstatement was the only way to ensure peace and a return to constitutional legitimacy.

In other business, the Assembly also decided to consider the report of the Human Rights Council on its twelfth special session (document A/HRC/S-12/1) on 4 November 2009, without setting a precedent.

Also speaking today on the United State’s embargo against Cuba were the representatives of Sudan (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Mexico, China, India, Viet Nam, Algeria, Zambia, Venezuela, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Gambia, Russian Federation, Iran and Brazil.

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote on the resolution A/64/L.4 were the representatives of the United States of America, the Congo and Nicaragua.

The Foreign Minister of Cuba spoke again after the vote.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote were the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Uruguay (on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bolivia, Ghana, Solomon Islands, Syria, Libya, Norway, Uganda, Benin, Belarus and United Republic of Tanzania.

The President of the General Assembly also delivered remarks on that topic.

Also speaking on the situation in Central America were the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Switzerland, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, Spain, Argentina, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras and United States.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 29 October to take up the reports of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Background

The General Assembly met today to discuss the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba”, and was expected, as it has for the past eighteen years, to take up a similarly titled resolution.

For its discussion, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (A/64/97), which contains replies of 122 Governments and 25 United Nations bodies, received as at 30 July 2009, following the request of the Secretary-General for information on that matter.  Replies received after that date will be reproduced in addenda to the present report.

In its submission to the report, the Cuban Government said that nothing fundamental had changed since the new United States Administration took office in January 2009.  Nor had anything been done to implement General Assembly resolution 63/7, adopted 29 October 2008 by 185 votes in favour and only 3 against.

An “extremely conservative” calculation of the direct economic damage to the Cuban people since December 2008 due to the embargo amounted to $96 million, or $236,221 million at the dollar’s current rate of exchange.  The embargo is not only illegal; it is morally unsustainable.  No such sanctions system had been imposed on any other country for such a long period and the United States should therefore lift it without further delay or excuse, the Cuban Government says in the report.

Statements

ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said his delegation had always been firmly against the embargo and, at the Second South Summit in 2005, had firmly rejected the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact and all other coercive measures.  At the thirty-third annual meeting on 25 September 2009, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the “Group of 77” had also reiterated their firm rejection of the imposition of such laws, emphasizing that such actions not only undermined Charter principles and international law, but severely threatened the freedom of trade and investment.  They called on States to neither recognize nor apply such measures.

Continuing, he said that Government communications in the Secretary-General’s report showed that the embargo remained largely unchanged and that its deepening impacts would further aggravate hardships for Cubans.  The “Group of 77”, therefore, called on the United States to heed the increasing calls to end the five-decade old embargo and fully adhere to the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in Cuba’s internal affairs.  The embargo frustrated efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and regional cooperation.  The Group was committed to working towards a better world in which all nations coexisted peacefully and would again fully support the draft resolution against the embargo.  He urged all others to do so as well.

MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, renewed his commitment to defend, preserve and promote the United Nations Charter and international law, as well as to promote, preserve and strengthen multilateralism and its decision-making process.  He rejected the adoption of extraterritorial or unilateral measures or laws, including unilateral economic sanctions or other illegal measures contrary to international law that sought to exert pressure on Non-Aligned countries.

Such measures aimed to prevent those countries from exercising their right to decide by their own free will, their own political, economic and social systems.  In accordance with international law, the Non-Aligned Movement supported the claim of affected States to compensation for damage incurred as a consequence of the implementation of extraterritorial or unilateral coercive measures.  He said the economic embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba had existed for 50 years.  That meant 70 per cent of the island’s population had been born under the embargo.  He expressed concern over the continuation of this long‑standing unilateral policy, especially after the overwhelming majority of States consistently rejected it, as evidenced by last year’s resolution that received support of 185 Member States.

During a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt adopted an exceptional declaration that reflected the importance the Non-Aligned Movement attached to the issue.  The embargo had caused huge financial losses and negatively impacted the well-being of Cubans.  In conclusion, he expressed concern over the widening of the extraterritorial nature of the embargo and urged the United States Government to end it.  Lastly, despite the embargo, he noted that Cuba had conducted its presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement in a highly capable and commendable manner, which preserved the interests of the member States of the Movement.

DELANO F. BART (Saint Kitts and Nevis), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his delegation reiterated its unequivocal opposition to the United States’ imposition of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, which had been opposed by the overwhelming majority of the international community for the past 17 years.  The unilateral imposition of extraterritorial laws on third States was contrary to both the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.  The embargo ran counter to the principles of multilateralism, international law, sovereignty and free trade that the body traditionally championed.

The punitive embargo was of particular concern to CARICOM, which maintained close relations with Cuba through wide-ranging cooperative programmes in areas such as trade, health care, infrastructure, human resource development and other areas.  Its future regional development was reliant in many ways on the area’s collective advancement and progress.  The embargo was not just a punitive act against Cuba, but an impediment to the region’s shared development.  The Secretary-General’s report showed that the embargo even impacted the manner in which organs and agencies of the United Nations system carried out their work in Cuba.  The embargo’s impacts on the Cuban economy and its humanitarian impacts on the people of that island nation in the areas of health care and food were especially saddening, he said.

Continuing, he said that with the increasing frequency and strengthening of hurricanes wrought by climate change, the embargo’s unacceptable humanitarian impact was even more acute.  It was remarkable that Cuba continued to help other nations in the developing world even as it struggled with a recent string of natural disasters and the impact of the global economic crisis.  Despite the long history of dashed hopes, CARICOM believed that a new beginning was possible in the relationship between the Governments of Cuba and the United States.  But the lifting of the embargo was a prerequisite of any meaningful rapprochement between the two countries, not a negotiated end result.  Even with recent positive indicators of flexibility, CARICOM noted that the United States’ Trading with the Enemy Act, which listed only Cuba as its target, was renewed just last month.

CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) vehemently expressed his country’s opposition to economic, commercial and financial sanctions that had been imposed on Cuba, likening them to coercive actions that were not supported by the United Nations Charter.  Such measures had grave humanitarian consequences and went against international law, as well as the principles of dialogue and diplomacy.  He stressed that political, economic and military sanctions could only stem from decisions made by the Security Council or the General Assembly.  Global conflict resolution and peace could ultimately be solved through multilateralism and international law.  A number of United Nations agencies had noted the negative impact of the embargo on Cuba’s economic and social development, demonstrating that such decisions could not be taken unilaterally.

The United State’s embargo against Cuba had “affected the population in a silent, systematic and cumulative manner for almost half a century”, he said.  Despite the island nation’s economic and political isolation, Mexico had supported its regional and global integration, to foster economic growth, trade and development.  Facts had shown that exclusion could only serve to amplify disputes.   Mexico welcomed the United State’s decision to allow the flow of remittances and Cuban Americans across both territories.  Nonetheless, much more remained to be done to mitigate the negative effects of the embargo against Cuba, he said, and reminded the Assembly that “societies evolve and change according to their own circumstances and not as a result of measures imposed from outside”.

ZHANG YESUI ( China) regretted that even though for 17 consecutive years, the General Assembly had adopted consecutive resolutions urging all countries to repeal or invalidate all laws and measures that compromised the sovereignty of other States, those resolutions had not been effectively implemented.  The result had been that the long-term economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba was still in place.  Not only did the United States embargo against the Caribbean island nation constitute a serious violation of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, it also immensely undermined the Cuban people’s rights to survival and development.

Noting the new Obama Administration’s announcement in April this year to lift travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban Americans, he welcomed the move and hoped that the United States would continue to improve its relations with Cuba and promote normal exchanges between peoples of the two countries.  In today’s world, multilateralism and democracy of international relations struck at the root in people’s hearts, and opening up, cooperation, mutual respect and win-win progress had become the consensus of the international community, he added, noting that when disputes arose, dialogue on an equal footing and friendly consultation was the best course to take.

GIRIJA VYAS ( India) said that for the past 17 consecutive years, the General Assembly had deliberated on this agenda item and had categorically rejected the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact.  The repeated resolutions remained unimplemented and the nearly 50-year embargo had continued.  In the report of the Secretary-General, various United Nations entities detailed the impact of the embargo.  In addition, the Resident Coordinator in Havana had noted that humanitarian and development coordination implemented by the United Nations system was significantly affected by the embargo.  It also affected the functioning of United Nations offices and travel of staff.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated that the effects of the embargo could be observed in all spheres of Cuba’s social and economic activities, and that it affected the most vulnerable groups and human development in general.  The negative consequences of the embargo increased project costs by 15 per cent.  The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had also reported negative impacts.  The health sector was most impacted due to enhanced cost and restrictions on equipment and technologies.  Natural disasters in Cuba last year coupled with the current financial crisis had made the impact of the embargo more acute.

Given the geography, Cuba and the United States could be expected to be natural partners in trade, the potential for economic ties existed.  For example, he said that under its Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, the United States became the largest exporter of agricultural products to Cuba.  Efforts to relax the embargo indicated substantial interest, especially by the business sector, for unhindered access to the Cuban market.  India was encouraged by the steps announced by United States President Barack Obama to ease restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, and on United States telecommunications.  He looked forward to the full lifting of the embargo and related sanctions against Cuba.

LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said that for 17 consecutive years, the Assembly had demanded an end to the unilateral economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba.  The United States’ unilateral imposition of the embargo seriously violated international laws, including those related to the freedom of trade and navigation, sovereign equality and non-interference in States’ internal affairs.  It ran counter to universally recognized norms governing relations between sovereign countries and both the principles and spirit of the United Nations Charter.  For the past year, the embargo had made it difficult for Cubans to fully recover from successive natural disasters, and had hit those wishing to develop legitimate trade relations with Cuba, including American businesses.

He agreed with comments by the United States President at the Assembly’s general debate this year that democracy could not be imposed on any nation from the outside and that “each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect”.  State disputes should and could only be resolved through peaceful dialogue on the basis of equality, mutual respect for sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States.  As such, Viet Nam joined others in demanding that the United States end its embargo to reduce tension and create an atmosphere conducive to normalizing relations between the two countries.  Reaffirming support for the Government and people of Cuba, he said Viet Nam would vote in favour of the draft resolution.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said relations between States would be constantly tested by “waves of change”.  They would always face the challenge of balancing cooperation and competition, and while differences would always remain, they should not prevent movement towards creating a space for cooperation.  Highlighting the spirit of global partnership, laid out in the Millennium Declaration and 2002 Monterrey Consensus, he said that such commitments urged countries to set aside differences and work for the common good of billions of people.  One area for cooperation that would be mutually beneficial was in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and the United States could bring much needed assistance by lifting its embargo.

As such, he reiterated the call made at the fifteenth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement to bring an immediate end to the embargo in the name of humanity.  Indeed, that would help Cuba, a developing country, continue its efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, and bring hope of prosperity to millions of Cubans.  Dialogue and negotiation were the most viable solution to resolve disagreements and the Charter clearly stipulated its preference for that avenue of peace.  Despite that the issue had been on the Assembly’s agenda for many years, tangible results had yet to be seen.  “This year, we have reason to be optimistic,” he said, as steps were being taken.  He expressed hope that the once icy relations between the two neighbours would come to an end and that a new era of cooperation would blossom in coming years.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba was still in place after half a century.  He called for an end to the unjust situation that was contrary to international legal norms.  Indeed, the blockade ran counter to development in the world and was a violation of the principle of non-interference in the affairs of a third State.

The blockade was a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and international laws, he continued.  It disturbed the circulation of capital, trade and navigation in Cuba and the rest of the region.  It also hampered the development of Cuba.  Many declarations by the international community had rejected the extraterritorial law imposed on developing countries.  Algeria requested the United States to lift the blockade that had been nearly unanimously denounced.

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said his Government continued to support the resolution before the Assembly today, as the embargo’s relentless actions had caused untold suffering.  Last year’s vote on the resolution was testimony that the time had come for it to be lifted.  Indeed, the time to end the embargo was long overdue and South Africa’s position was guided by the norms of international law to help bring about an end to coercive measures.  The continued imposition of the embargo violated the sovereign equality of States, and South Africa joined majority of countries in expressing its opposition to the embargo.

Moreover, Cubans had extended a hand of friendship to other nations around the world, notably in the areas of health, education and biotechnology, he explained.   Cuba’s contribution in support of self-determination, freedom and justice had been noted, and the island nation’s role in South Africa’s liberation history was celebrated last year.  Cuba, through bilateral cooperation projects, was greatly assisting South Africa in addressing its shortage of skilled workers in various areas.

The embargo was an obstacle to Cuba’s economic and social development, and he urged adherence to United Nations Charter principles.  Further, it was unacceptable that Cuba had been prevented from integrating into the world trade system, especially as the harsh global financial climate had only worsened Cubans’ fate.   South Africa welcomed the rapprochement initiated by current United States Administration, and called on Washington to end the embargo and engage in meaningful dialogue.  His Government would join majority of States in supporting the draft resolution.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE ( Zambia) commended the Secretary-General for his report on the necessity of ending the embargo against Cuba.  Indeed, the embargo’s continuation violated international law, as contained in international covenants.  The Assembly had called on the United States to reconsider its position and the actions of States on the relevant resolution had consistently shown the clear conflict of the embargo with the tenets of international relationships.

As such, he reaffirmed his Government’s position that lifting the embargo would be the best way forward.   Zambia continued to regard the extraterritorial effects of the embargo on third countries as worsening the already desperate socio-economic conditions in Cuba.  He urged that today’s discussions did not end up as mere formalities but, rather, result in measures that could be effectively implemented.  The Assembly should, indeed, send Cubans a strong message that it cared for their plight.  In closing, he reiterated the call to end the embargo against Cuba and that Zambia would vote in favour of lifting it.

JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) reiterated the necessity of ending the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.  He condemned the application of any unilateral measures with extraterritorial effects that violated the principles and rules of international law.  The embargo violated the principles of self-determination and sovereignty of peoples and States, and was a repeated violation of the right to development of a Member State by another State signatory to the United Nations Charter.

That policy was a systemic violation of the human rights of the people and the constitutional rights of United States people, including their right to travel to Cuba.  The embargo against Cuba was the longest, most cruel and most unfair in the history of humanity.  It was the main stumbling block to social and economic development in Cuba.  And its impact on the Cuban economy was huge, he said.

It could be classified as genocide, according to the tenets of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  It was an act of economic war for which there was no historical precedence, he said.  It violated international laws on trade and navigation.  The extraterritorial aspect of the law and the hostility against companies in third countries was a threat to international peace.  The blockade also impacted the Venezuelan people.  The United States Government recently refused to grant a multinational company permission to carry out a commercial transaction, conducted with support from Cuba, which involved the sale of defibrillators to address heart disease in Venezuela.

Despite the expectations generated by President Barack Obama’s Administration, the laws and administrative arrangements that underpinned the measures were still in place.  Since President Obama had received this year’s Nobel Peace Price, Washington should pay close attention to the call of the Assembly to lift the blockade against Cuba.  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had called on the President Obama to lift the blockade.

SIN SON HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the United State’s unilateral sanctions on Cuba gravely violated the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference as enshrined in the United Nations Charter and international law.  The United State’s cruel embargo, which he described as “a silent economic war against the people of Cuba” was, illegal and inhumane.  He said coercive, unilateral measures that served one’s own sinister political interests and imposed economic and social systems, could not be justified or tolerated in any shape or form.

He recalled that over the last 17 years, the General Assembly had adopted numerous resolutions calling for an immediate end to the unilateral embargo, with overwhelming support from most Member States.  He urged the United States to snap out of its cold war mentality and to conform to people’s expectations by demonstrating its will to better relations with Cuba.  His country systematically opposed all forms of interference, threats of force and sanctions against sovereign States and urged the United States to lift the embargo on Cuba and to pay reparations for decades of economic loss that had crippled the island.  In this regard, his country supported the draft resolution before the Assembly, and stood by Cuba in its quest to defend its sovereignty and to attain economic and social growth and prosperity.

SUSAN WAFFA-OGOO ( Gambia) said the trade embargo against Cuba particularly continued to harm women and children in the island nation.  They had committed no crime.  The contribution of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to the Secretary-General’s report had further made clear that even children with special needs had not been spared suffering.  Her Government joined the overwhelming majority of States in calling for the immediate end to the embargo.  For 18 years, the Assembly, reflecting the moral voice of the world’s people, had rejected the embargo.  The harm it had inflicted on Cubans was incalculable and almost all sectors of society had been affected by it.  Damage to the health, education and tourism sectors was well documented.

Gambia had consistently opposed the embargo and believed its application served no other purpose than punishing Cubans for their political stance.  “We are in the twenty-first century” she stressed, underscoring that the best way to solve problems was through dialogue.   Gambia urged dialogue based on mutual interest and respect to build a new coalition that bridged divides, and especially called on the United States to take a look at this year’s resolution and re-evaluate its demands.  It was in the interest of the United States, Cuba and the international community to see an end to the extraterritorial regime and she expressed hope that the regime would usher in a new era of cooperation.

MIKHAIL SAVOSTIANOV ( Russian Federation) appreciated the Secretary-General’s comprehensive report, saying it presented States’ unanimous objections to the unilateral blockade against Cuba.  The Russian Federation wholeheartedly shared the opinion of the majority of States in resolutely condemning the embargo.  Ending it, and normalizing United States-Cuban relations, would help redress the situation around Cuba, and help it reintegrate into continent-wide structures.

Indeed, the blockade was an anachronism, and he welcomed the April decision of the United States President to lift various restrictions on United States citizens’ visits to Cuba, as well as monetary and postal transfers.  He hoped that other actions would lead to the full end of the obsolete embargo.  He urged the Assembly to continue supporting the resolution, guided by the Charter principles on the inadmissibility of discriminatory measures and interference in States’ internal affairs.

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said the embargo seriously undermined the collective force of the Member States to achieve growth.  Despite so many calls from the Assembly, the Human Rights Council and several major United Nations conferences, the unilateral measures continued to be imposed with all their negative impacts.  Iran repeated its long-standing position that the embargo ran counter to the principles of international law governing relations among States and contradicted the letter and spirit of the Charter.

He said that the blockade against Cuba was in blatant violation of the internationally agreed principles governing relations among States, such as the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention in their internal affairs, and freedom of international trade and navigation.  The measures continued to adversely impact the living conditions and human rights of the Cuban people and hampered the Government’s efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger and achieve the Millennium Goals, he said.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said the embargo against Cuba had held the Assembly’s attention for some fifty years, and she expressed hope that the world body could celebrate long-awaited consensus on the item.  Indeed, history had already “left dead and buried” other anachronisms of the cold war era and she urged freedom from an international order which Brazil did not wish to hand down to future generations.  The winds of change had at last begun to blow, as seen in Cuba’s full incorporation into the Rio Group.  Its presence in the mechanism of political consensus-building would be valuable in the pursuit of a common destiny.

Recalling a historic decision by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in June, she said such strides expressed the yearning of peoples for “tolerant regionalism”, predicated on progress and the prosperity of all.  Such principles were universal in their scope and demanded a resolute commitment to multilateralism.   Brazil welcomed United States decisions to loosen travel restrictions on individuals to Cuba, the resumption of bilateral dialogue on migration issues and more open parameters for telecommunications companies.  Notwithstanding that progress, the embargo seemed even more irrational.  Nothing less than a swift and resolute end of the blockade was needed, she said.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, began his statement highlighting the plight of Cuban children born under the brutal United States embargo, which was having especially deleterious health impacts.  Children suffering from lymphoblastic leukaemia could not be treated with a United States-produced medication Elspar because the Washington had forbidden Merck & Company from supplying the treatment to Cuba.  As a result, the life expectancy of such children was reduced and their suffering increased.  Since the election of President Obama, there had not been any change in the implementation of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade, which was an “absurd policy” that caused scarcities and sufferings.  It was a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights.  In the Geneva Convention of 1948, it was classified as an act of genocide.

He called the blockade an “uncultured act of arrogance”.  For example, the United States Government had recently prevented the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from performing in Cuba, and Cuban artists could not receive compensation for their performances before American audiences.  He asked:  “How can artistic creation be considered a crime?”  He also gave several examples of how the blockade had hampered the development of Cuba’s economy and was applied not only against Cuba, but against other countries.  The United States Government forbade the food company, “Sensient Flavors”, a subsidiary registered and based in Canada, to export to Cuba.  The Australian and New Zealand Bank Group based in Australia had been slapped with a fine tallying millions of dollars for conducting operations with Cuba.  The Cuban market was banned for American business people.

No serious person could assert that Cuba was a threat to the national security of the world’s only super Power, and the inclusion of Cuba in the “spurious” lists of alleged States sponsoring terrorism, a reason behind some blockade measure, should cease.  The country’s five anti-terrorist heroes, who had been unjustly imprisoned in this country, should be freed, he declared.

President Obama had a historical opportunity to lead a change of policy towards Cuba and lift the blockade.  He was vested with the Executive Powers to substantially modify the implementation of the measures by granting “special license” or waivers, making humanitarian exceptions, or acting for the sake of the United States national interests.  While Cuba purchased significant amounts of agricultural products from the United States, those were cash payments made in advance without any access to private credits.  Cuban vessels were not allowed to transport any cargo.  He said Washington used false data and lied when it asserted that it was the main donor of humanitarian assistance to Cuba.

The economic blockade had not met and would not meet its purpose of bending the patriotic determination of the Cuban people.  It generated shortages and restricted the country’s development potential and was the fundamental obstacle that hindered the country’s economic development, he said.  It was difficult to estimate the cost, but a conservative record of the economic damage tallied hundreds of billions of dollars.  The Cuban people were determined to move ahead, in sovereignty, to solve its problems and perfect the island nation’s political, economic, and social systems, within socialism.  The Cubans had the right to do that, without blockades or foreign pressures, without the foreign interference in the decision that only Cuba was entitled to take.  That was the purpose of the resolution the Assembly intended to adopt.

Explanation of vote before vote

Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States said “here we go again”.  The hostile language by the Cuban Government seemed straight out of the cold war and the United States would not respond in kind to such familiar rhetoric.  She was here today to acknowledge that there was “a new chapter to this old story”.  In recent months, the United States had taken several steps to reach out to Cubans to help ensure they could freely determine their country’s future.

The United States had promoted family visits and the free flow of information, lifted restrictions on visits and remittances, expanded the amount of humanitarian items to be donated to Cubans, enhanced the ability of telecommunications companies in Cuba, and had made it easier for agricultural producers to pursue contracts with Cuban buyers.  She expressed hope that such measures could be a starting point for future changes.  The United States was prepared to engage Cuba on various issues.  Her Government had resumed discussions on migration and initiated talks to restart mail services.  Also, the United States stood by to provide assistance, should Cuba be again ravaged by hurricanes.

Any resolution should reflect those constructive developments, she explained.  Sadly, however, the resolution failed in that regard and Cuba had not yet reciprocated those important steps.  The United States, like all States, had the sovereign right to conduct economic relations with another country as it saw fit.  The embargo was part of a broader set of relations.  The steps taken had been in line with firm commitment to encourage the Cuban Government to respect the norms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In discussing differences, States must remember the commonality:  the United States was firmly committed to supporting Cubans’ desire to determine their future.  “We should not lose sight of that in a stale debate bogged down in rhetorical arguments of the past,” she asserted.

Drawing attention to two distortions in the Cuban position, she said, first, that she regretted that Cuba continued to incorrectly label trade restrictions as an act of “genocide”.  Second, it was erroneous to charge that sanctions were the cause of Cuba’s deprivation.  The United States maintained no restrictions on humanitarian aid -- it was the largest provider of food to Cuba and exported other items like wood and medicine.  In 2008, the United States was Cuba’s fifth largest trade partner.  Given that scenario, she called on Cuba to take steps to respond to the desire of its citizens to enjoy social, political and economic freedoms.   Cuba could liberate prisoners of conscience, ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reduce charges on remittances flowing into the country and permit visits by the United Nations Rapporteurs on torture, among other mandates.  She urged not losing sight of the fact that Cuba’s restrictions on such freedoms were the main obstacle to the country’s development.

For such reasons, her delegation would vote against the resolution.  The United States would continue to expand opportunities for Cubans to empower themselves through access to information and resources.  “We await a constructive Cuban response to our initiatives,” she said.  It was high time for the Assembly to recognize the situation in Cuba for what it was today and encourage genuine progress to change.

Also speaking before the vote, the representative of the Congo said the embargo had caused suffering and damage, and that the related measures against Cuba were not a means of resolving the dispute.  Indeed, the unilateral measures were a violation of the Charter and resolutions of the Assembly.   Congo wanted to see the lifting of the measure and the delegation would vote in favour of the draft.  He noted the hopeful signs that a settlement could take place and that the parties would engage in the spirit of dialogue to end the embargo, which was damaging to international and regional peace and security.

Nicaragua’s representative said her delegation would vote in favour of the resolution.   Cuba, Nicaragua’s “sister”, and Nicaragua expressed solidarity and generosity.  All in the region were sisters and brothers with Cuba and recognized Cuba, except for one country.  The Government that did not recognize Cuba was acting against the will of its own people and the will of the international community.  The embargo, in place for nearly 50 years, was the highest expression of an inhumane policy that lacked legitimacy and was designed to cause hunger, disease and desperation against the Cuban population.

The embargo was a flagrant violation of human rights, she continued, adding that the United States Government could not continue to ignore the Assembly’s resolutions.  The policies of the United States would continue to isolate it from the international community.  Those policies were a threat to multilateralism.  The cold war had been left behind and dialogue should replace conflict, she said.  The United States should set aside its imperial policies and resolve its differences with dialogue and negations, without pre-conditions.   Cuba shared their sports, friendship, health, education and other necessary components of solidarity with other countries to ensure the development of people and build a better world.   Nicaragua hoped that there would be a change in Washington so that the blockade would be ended.

Action on draft

The Assembly then adopted the resolution by a vote of 187 in favour to 3 against ( Israel, United States, Palau), with two abstentions ( Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia).  (see Annex)

Explanation of vote after the vote

The representative of Sweden, speaking in explanation of vote on behalf of the European Union and the associated States, said the United States trade policy towards Cuba was fundamentally a bilateral issue.  Yet United States legislation such as the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, and the 1995 Helms-Burton Act had extended the effects of the embargo to third-party countries.  The European Union had firmly opposed such extraterritorial measures.  The European Union welcomed the United States’ recent decision to lift restrictions on remittances and family travel to Cuba, but could not accept that unilaterally imposed measures impeded economic and commercial relations with Cuba.

The European Union’s policy towards Cuba was clearly set out in a Common Position in 1996.  He said the objective of the Union’s relations with Cuba was to encourage a peaceful process of transition, led by the Cuban people, to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The European Union intended to continue it s dialogue with the democratic opposition and civil society in Cuba.  The Cuban Government continued to deny its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms.

He said the European Union remained seriously concerned about the continuation of human rights violations in Cuba despite a drop in the number of political prisoners.  He urged the Cuban Government to release unconditionally all political prisoners and was particularly concerned with the deteriorating health of several prisoners and members of the Group of 75 that were detained in March 2003.

Continuing, he said domestic Cuban economic policy seriously hampered Cuba’s own economic development, and the United States embargo continued to such problems and negatively impacted people’s living standards.  The European Union clearly believed that the lifting of the embargo would open the Cuban economy to the benefit of the Cuban people, and it rejected all unilateral measures directed against Cuba that were contrary to commonly accepted rules of international trade.

Also speaking in explanation of vote, after the vote, the representative of Uruguay, on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) said that as in previous years, the Member States of his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution because the embargo went against the principles of the United Nations Charter and breached the rules of international law.  Such rules included the defence of multilateralism, non-intervention and pacific settlement of disputes, core principles of diplomacy in South America.

He said that the embargo had been condemned before, and that MERCOSUR continued to reject the application of coercive unilateral measures that were detrimental to free trade, caused irreversible damage to the welfare of peoples and obstructed regional integration processes.  By voting in favour of the resolution, MERCOSUR and the associated States reiterated their commitment to multilateralism as a legitimate instrument of pacific settlement of disputes between States and in the promotion of international cooperation, human rights, security and understanding among peoples.

Also speaking after the vote, the representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic opposed the United States’ unilateral blockade on Cuba.  Its continuance violated States’ sovereign equality and the principle of non-intervention in their internal affairs.  The extraterritoriality of a State that sought sanctions on another ran counter to the Charter and international law.  Since 1992, the embargo had been systematically condemned by the global community in 17 nearly identical resolutions adopted by an overwhelming majority.  The blockade’s continuation would only bring about new tensions between the countries and create more suffering.  She reiterated her Government’s unstinting solidarity with Cuba and urged the United States to end its blockade.  For such reasons, she voted in favour of the resolution.

Bolivia’s representative said the resolution unequivocally reflected the international community’s rejection of the blockade.  Once again, there was a clear indication of the need to end the embargo, as there was no place for it in the twenty-first century.  The Secretary-General’s report aptly covered the facts of that reality.  The embargo also broke with the basic principles that governed State relations.  “We need a change in attitude,” he said, stressing the need to give way to reason and rationality, notably by supporting economic systems that worked for people.  Why not revoke the blockade so that the huge humanitarian crisis could be overcome?  For such reasons, Bolivia had voted in favour of the resolution.

Next, Ghana’s delegate said the embargo had created negative impacts on Cubans.  Despite the fact that the Assembly had demanded an end to it, such unilateral measures were still being implemented.  For its part, Ghana had refrained from applying laws with extraterritorial effects.  He welcomed that the United States had reduced travel restrictions to Cuba as such measures would promote good cooperation between the two countries.  He also commended Cubans for their resilience in difficult economic and social conditions.

The representative of Solomon Islands said that the current agenda item was debated annually because everyone lived in an interrelated and interdependent global system.  “We need each other, both big and small, rich and poor, to tackle our global problems.  Against this backdrop, my delegation is saddened to see remnants of the cold war continued to this day.  The decades-old blockade is one of the longest running campaigns spilling over into a new country and new generation.” he said.

Today, from the subregion, there were more than a hundred Pacific Islanders studying medicine in Cuba, he continued, adding that despite the economic embargo, the Cuban people sheltered, fed and clothed children from the pacific region.  He remained thankful to Cuba and commended the resilience of the Cuban people.  Lastly, he noted that the Charter of the United Nations was centred on its people.  “We the members of the United Nations must continue to give humanity a chance, we must continue to work together to build bridges over the embargo,” he said.  Solomon Islands called for the unconditional lifting of the blockade of the Cuban people and replacing it with genuine dialogue and cooperation.

The representative of Syria noted that the United Nations Charter enshrined the right to sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs, and that the United States contributed to the drafting of the Charter.  In light of that, the embargo and the tightening of it ran counter to the Charter and the rules and principles on inter-State relations.  The embargo also ran in opposition to the integrity of States and sovereignty.  The 49-year-old embargo was “unprecedented and unheard of in multilateral relations”, she said, and exposed Cuba to economic problems and placed the United States into direct conflict with the international community.

In its turn, Cuba wanted to resolve the issue between the two parties in a spirit of good neighbourliness, mutual sovereignty and respect for the United Nations Charter.  Relations between the United States and Cuba should be normalized and needed to take into account the needs of the people.  In addition, countries should be free to choose their own governance systems.  The vote in support of the resolution today had been overwhelming, and the time had come to lift the embargo on Cuba.  He said it was very revealing to see what he called the “abnormal vote” of Israel on the resolution, which was adopted by the overwhelming majority.  “This is acknowledgement that Israel flouts international law and the voice of the international community, which makes it more difficult for the United States to resort to dialogue while respecting differing opinions,” he said. 

The representative of Libya said the blockade reduced Cuba’s capacity to import its medical and agricultural needs and hindered its development.  The imposition of those unilateral measures violated international law and did not contribute to solving disputes between States.   Libya opposed violence in all forms, including blockades.  The United States Government’s decision to ease unilateral measures was a reason for optimism.  His delegation had voted in favour of the text.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Norway said his country considered the United States embargo against Cuba to be a bilateral issue and supported sanctions adopted by the international community through the United Nations.  But Norway could not support the extraterritorial extension of unilateral measures against a third country.

Norway welcomed the United States Government’s recent decision to lift restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba, and encouraged both countries to make additional efforts.  He said Norway repeated its call to Cuba to release unconditionally political prisoners and repeated its call for freedom of expression and free access to information.   Norway did not consider isolation to be an appropriate response to the developments in Cuba, and believed that more could be achieved through a constructive dialogue with the Cuban Government.   Norway voted, as in previous years, for the draft resolution.

Speaking in explanation of vote, after the vote, the representative of Uganda aligned with the Group of 77 developing countries and China.  “The embargo is unjustified.  It has had an adverse impact on the people of Cuba for too long,” he said, adding that unilateral measures with extraterritorial application were inconsistent with the United Nations Charter, as well as with international and humanitarian law.

Next, Benin’s delegate said his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution, as it believed in friendly relations between States.  By their extraterritorial nature, measures imposed in the context of the cold war had hampered Cuba’s exercise of its rights and sovereignty.  He reminded delegations that the United Nations Charter was all-important and that Cubans deserved peace and justice.

The situation provided an historic opportunity to end the blockade.  Profound changes that had taken place in both nations should lead to improved relations, in line with the Charter.  He appealed to both Governments to launch a frank dialogue with a view to normalizing relations.  He welcomed the United States President’s measures to reduce travel restrictions, saying it was a step in the right direction.  He expressed hope of seeing both countries emerge from the illogical impasse.

The representative of Belarus said the eighteenth resolution had been adopted on ending the blockade against Cuba.  Indeed, some 99 per cent of States, including the closest political partners of the United States, had appealed for that country to end its blockade.  He hoped that this time, the United States would heed the global community’s call.  During the general debate, Belarus had noted that the world was again thinking of a single system of coordination, and that politicians were starting to speak in the same language -- that of common sense.  He called on the United States to act in keeping with that and end its embargo and restrictions.  In light of the global financial crisis, such coercive measures were especially inappropriate.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, aligning himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his delegation supported the resolution to end the embargo because economic and political realities between the two countries warranted that.  Contact between the two countries was crucial, notably in the area of trade and people-to-people communication.  Welcoming the lifting of travel restrictions, he said that confidence-building measures should be developed on both sides after the embargo’s removal.

Finally, Mr. PARRILLA, Cuba’s Foreign Minister, responded to the remarks made by the United States, the representative of Sweden, on behalf of the European Union, and Norway.  Cuba did not recognize any moral advice given by the European Union as it had no credibility.  To United States Ambassador Susan Rice, who was not in the room right now, he said he respected her opinions, but she had the sad task of defending a blockade policy that began in 1960 with the declared aim of causing hunger and despair to the Cuban people. 

Continuing, he said that the United States had said Cuba abused the term of “genocide”.  He referred to the Geneva Convention and invited the United States Department of State to study that treaty closely.  The United States should lift the embargo now.  Cuba did not occupy any part of its territory or discriminate against the United States.  It was in the best interest of the people.  Lifting the blockade on technology and communications, for example, would allow progress in that field.

The blockade was not a bilateral issue.  It was an example of an extraterritorial issue.  In a recent speech given outside the United Nations, Ms. Rice had said the United States was leading by example and would correct its direction when necessary and forge strategies of cooperation.  But, she had said the opposite this morning, he added.

Wrapping up the debate, General Assembly President ALI ABDUSSALAM TREKI said that with the adoption of the resolution, the international community had insisted on respect for the United Nations Charter, and he cherished the hope that appeals made today for the resolution’s implementation would be heard.  “We need to see the importance of multilateralism,” end embargos and open the way towards peace, development and progress, he said.  With that, he urged that all States find solutions through cooperation and dialogue.

ANNEX

Vote on Necessity of Ending the Embargo against Cuba

The draft resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (document A/64/L.4) was adopted by a recorded vote of 187 in favour to 3 against, with 2 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Israel, Palau, United States.

Abstain:  Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of).

Absent:  None.

Powered by Drupal - Design by Artinet