UNGA votes to call for end to US embargo on Cuba for 29th time
The vote, which was backed overwhelmingly, was the 29th time the assembly voted to condemn the 60-year-old embargo.
The UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly in favour of an annual resolution calling for the end of the nearly 60-year-old US embargo on Cuba for the 29th time, by a vote of 184 to two.
US sanctions on Cuba were imposed in 1960 following the nationalisation of properties belonging to US citizens and corporations in the wake of the revolution led by Fidel Castro. Nearly two years later, US President John F Kennedy imposed an embargo.
The UN assembly started voting on the Cuba-backed resolution from 1992, voting for the resolution every year, except in 2020 when no vote took place because of the pandemic.
Only Israel voted with the US against the resolution on Wednesday. Three other US allies: Ukraine, Colombia and Brazil abstained. Brazil had voted with the US in 2019.
Cuba called the embargo “a systematic violation of the rights of the Cuban people.”
“This constitutes an act of genocide … Just like the virus, the blockade asphyxiates and kills, and it must stop. Homeland or death! We will win,” Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez Padilla told the General Assembly.
Ever since the resolution, not legally binding and unenforceable, was first introduced in 1992, UN member states have approved it by an overwhelming margin. The most no votes it has ever garnered were four, including those of the United States and Israel, which has always voted in lockstep with the US.
Unprecedented hardship for Cubans
Member states once again said the blockade goes against international law and the UN Charter.
During their remarks, several delegations pleaded for compassion and solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created unprecedented hardship for Cubans.
This constitutes an act of genocide ... Just like the virus, the blockade asphyxiates and kills, and it must stop.
Many expressed the hope that the US and Cuba could work together to repair a rapprochement that began under the Obama administration but was dismantled under former president Donald Trump.
In 2016, the US abstained for the first time in the annual UN vote amid a historic rapprochement with Cuba under former President Barack Obama. Former Cuban President Raul Castro and then-President Obama officially restored relations in July 2016.
But diplomatic relations between the two countries soured with Trump’s arrival in the White House in January 2017 and have yet to change under President Joe Biden.
US defends its policy
In opposing the resolution and maintaining the Trump administration’s position, the US defended the use of sanctions as part of a broader effort to advance democracy on the island, support human rights and help Cubans exercise their civil liberties.
“Cubans, as all people, deserve the right to freedom of expression, assembly, culture,” said Rodney Hunter, political coordinator at the US Mission to the UN.
“We encourage this body to support the Cuban people in their quest to determinate their own future,” he told the Assembly.
The embargo has not succeeded in overthrowing Cuba’s communist regime.
Only a vote in US Congress can end the embargo, which Havana says has caused billions of dollars in damage to the island’s economy.
The embargo is hurting Havana’s ability to access medical supplies and imposing significant difficulty in obtaining equipment to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Padilla said, citing hurdles the island faced when trying to buy respirators last year.
Cuba was already struggling with a severe economic downturn when the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, forcing the island to close its borders to tourism, a key source of revenue.