UN General Assembly demands the end of the embargo against Cuba, as it does every year

 The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a resolution demanding an end to the economic and commercial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba, with the opposition of only two countries: the United States and Israel.

This annual call, which has been made for 31 years, received 187 votes in favor, two against and only one abstention, that of Ukraine.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, who spoke to the Assembly just before the vote, denounced that the blockade “violates the right to life, health, education and well-being of all Cubans” and constitutes “an act of war in times of peace.”

The irrelevance of the General Assembly

The Assembly holds an annual session to call for an end to the embargo imposed in 1962, which prevents Cuba from making transactions in dollars, from trading in products that pass through the US and contain a minimum of 10% of parts manufactured in that country, and from using the US financial system.

The countries that intervened in the Assembly in support of Cuba – many of them solid US allies – insisted that the embargo is a unilateral measure since it was not decided by the Security Council, that it constitutes interference in other states, and that it ends up punishing above all the Cuban people, rather than the government.

However, the vote highlights the irrelevance – beyond its symbolic value – of the General Assembly, which has approved an almost identical resolution for 31 years without making any dent in US policy towards the Caribbean island.

US says the embargo is meant to promote human rights

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said the US is “lying” when it claims that the embargo does not affect the island’s health system.

Rodríguez devoted much of his speech to describing how the embargo prevents the importation of medicines and medical supplies in general, and how the US has pressured some Latin American countries not to provide Cuba with medical oxygen, for example.

Likewise, he said that the US has created obstacles to prevent the Cuban vaccine against covid-19 from being marketed in the world, going so far as to say that Washington wants to “use covid as an ally in its hostile policy” against Cuba, to “promote the destabilization of the country.”

US Representative Richard Mills, who spoke after Rodriguez, assured that his country knows that the Cuban people face “challenges,” but said that sanctions are part of a “set of tools” in an effort to “advance democracy and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba.”

Mills pointed to political prisoners in Cuba, saying there are ” approximately 1,000,” of which “nearly 700” are linked to the “historic” protests of July 11, 2021.

He also said that Cuba has not responded to requests by the UN Human Rights Council to send independent experts to Cuba for more than 10 years.

Mills argued that the sanctions “include exemptions and authorizations relating to the exports of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods,” and that “the United States remains a significant source of humanitarian goods to the Cuban people and one of Cuba’s principal trading partners.”

Biden could reverse Trump Cuban embargo

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez regretted that Joe Biden’s administration did not change one iota of the embargo policy that his predecessor Donald Trump had hardened by including Cuba in his list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

“It would have been enough for him, if he had wanted it, with a single signature,” lamented the Foreign Minister, who stressed his country’s willingness to strengthen relations with the US and also recalled that nothing in Cuba’s policy harms the US, its political system or its companies.

According to the most recent estimates of the Cuban authorities, the embargo has caused a damage of 4.8 billion dollars between March 1, 2022 and February 28, 2023.

The cumulative damage since 1962, when the embargo came into force, exceeds 159 billion dollars, according to the Cuban government. 

BY Nadeem Faisal Baiga