Cuban embargo a sad echo of failed cold war politics

Camillo Gonsalves

NARRATOR: Drawing parallels to recent political uprisings in defence of freedom and self-determination, General Assembly delegates on Wednesday again denounced the decades-old economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, voting overwhelmingly to adopt the world body's twentieth consecutive resolution calling for an end to the measures.

The resolution – adopted by a recorded vote of 186 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with 3 abstentions (Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau) — reaffirmed the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention in their internal affairs and freedom of trade and navigation as paramount to the conduct of international affairs.

The representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves noted that for the past five decades, Cuba has been subject of an economic, commercial and financial embargo whose scale and scope have no parallel in the modern world.

TAPE: By almost any measure, the embargo is an unmitigated failure. It has served only to visit suffering on the Cuban people as a jingoistic backdrop to a smattering of pandering politicians who value their individual electoral fortunes above integrity, international law, and the weight of overwhelming global condemnation. Today, we must ask ourselves: What lace does this embargo have in our modern world? And in an interconnected world of open borders, free movement of people, goods and capital, how can the champions and architects of globalization simultaneously legislate the isolation of one state, or place extraterritorial restrictions on commerce, global trade, and the movement of individuals? How can the electorate of one district, or one constituency, or one country determine the cargo and path of a ship sailing into and out of Cuban waters, or the manner in which banks and corporations of other countries conduct their business with Cuba?

NARRATOR: Ambassador Gonsalves noted that as a developing country heavily dependent on remittances and affected by an international economic meltdown not of its making, St. Vincent and the Grenadines finds it inexplicably cruel that any State would seek to limit the amount of money that one family member could bring home to another, or the value of items in a gift parcel, particularly in the midst of this global recession.

TAPE: Only the Cuban embargo remains as the last surviving relic of a Cold War that otherwise exists only in history books and museums. Even if every vicious lie, every unfounded allegation and every demonstrably false characterization of the Cuban government were accepted as fact, they would not justify the existence of this embargo in a modern world of interconnection and multilateral engagement. No country in this Hall has the right to tell the United States how to conduct its foreign policy, who its friends should be, and how to determine its national interests. Even if such a right existed, St. Vincent and the Grenadines would not presume to exercise it against our cherished friend and neighbor to the north. But every country in this hall is obligated by the United Nations Charter to oppose instances where national foreign policy decisions morph into violations of international law, or into sustained disregard of the Charter principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in the domestic affairs of States.

NARRATOR: According to Ambassador Gonsalves, as far wealthier nations and institutions have looked askance at his country's developmental struggles, and offered only dubious prescriptions, platitudes and trite cliche's, the Cuban people have rolled up their sleeves and given freely of themselves .

TAPE: St. Vincent and the Grenadines is aware that our small population and economy – not to mention the waning military significance of the Caribbean region have allowed our needs and concerns to be overlooked by those who see the world only through the prism of their narrow and immediate interests. However, Cuba has remained a staunch and abiding partner in the development of our country, even in times of global hardship. Cuban universities have graduated over 250 Vincentian students and are currently playing host to 150 more, free of charge. Her surgeons have performed operations on over 3,000 Vincentian patients, without charging them a penny. Her doctors have brought quality medical care and expertise to the most remote areas of our country. Even as we speak, Cuban engineers, architects and workers are labouring alongside Vincentians in the construction of a modern hospital and our first international airport.

NARRATOR: Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Many of the nearly 40 speakers throughout the day-long discussion alluded to the sweeping changes – known as the "Arab Spring" – that had recently led thousands of people in the Middle East and North Africa to realize their right to self-determination and to steer the course of their own development. In light of those "unexpected and profound" political changes, said the representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the application of justice could not be confined to the national level. It should also extend to the international arena and to relationships between Member States.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 5’23″

Filed under Caribbean News.
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