32nd Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 71st Session

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26-Oct-2016 02:53:13
In a near‑unanimous vote, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the necessity of ending the United States economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba, at 32nd meeting of the 71st session.

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While 191 countries voted in favour, the United States and Israel abstained rather than vote against the text for the first time, during a year that also saw the first visit to Cuba by a United States President in almost 90 years and the reopening of embassies in those respective capitals.

Included in the text’s terms, the General Assembly reiterated its call upon States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures, such as the Helms‑Burton Act, in line with the obligations under the United Nations Charter and international law, which, among other things, reaffirmed the freedom of trade and navigation. In addition, the Assembly once again urged States to repeal or invalidate such laws as soon as possible in line with their legal regimes.

Introducing the resolution, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said that while progress had been made in terms of dialogue and cooperation, the blockade on his country persisted, seriously harming the Cuban people and impairing the country’s economic development. The human damages caused by the embargo were simply incalculable, he added, emphasizing that there wasn’t one Cuban family that had not suffered from its effects.

He called the blockade a systematic violation of the human rights of all Cuban men and women and said it qualified as an act of genocide pursuant to the 1948 Geneva Convention. The United States Congress had yet to approve any of the 20 amendments or bills that, with bipartisan support, were intended to eliminate some of the restrictions imposed by the embargo.

“They should understand that we are already free, precisely because in 1959, we rid ourselves of US imperialism and the dictatorship it imposed on us,” he said. “We don’t need dreams that are alien to our culture or our history.” Cuba would continue to struggle to build a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic and sustainable nation. “We will never go back to capitalism,” he added.

The representative of the United States, which had refrained from voting, said that “abstaining on this resolution does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban Government —— we do not”. However, it was time for a new chapter in cooperation.

“After more than 50 years of pursuing the path of isolation, we have chosen to take the path of engagement,” she said, describing a number of changes to the United States policy under President Obama. That included reopening embassies, resuming commercial flights, easing business restrictions and stopping limiting how often Cuban‑Americans could visit their families.

The United States had work to do in fulfilling the rights of all of its own citizens, and had, in the past, used the pretext of promoting democracy and human rights in the region to justify actions that had left a deep legacy of mistrust, she continued. Nevertheless, it continued to have profound concerns about Cuba’s human rights violations, including the arbitrary detention of those who criticized the Government.

Delegates welcomed the new era of diplomatic relations between United States and Cuba and several urged the next United States President to exercise executive power to lift the embargo, as it stood in the way of Cuba’s humanitarian work and socioeconomic advancement.

Thailand’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that from April 2015 to April 2016, the impact of the embargo had amounted to $4 billion in losses for the Cuban people and had wide‑reaching humanitarian consequences for the country. If the blockade continued, Cuba’s development potential would be unfairly undermined and its sustainable development ambitions threatened. Cuba’s emergency assistance to the Ebola‑affected countries in Africa was a testament to its longstanding commitment to humanitarianism. With the lifting of the embargo, Cuba would also be empowered to continue its aid operations worldwide.

Echoing that sentiment, Jamaica’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), encouraged Cuba and the United States to continue to explore ways to increase the type of cooperation that had been evident during the Ebola crisis. While the stated purpose of the blockade was to bring about political change, it had only brought undue hardship to the people of Cuba.

The representative of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that the blockade ran contrary to the principles of the Charter and international law.

It was vital that Cuba engage in global commercial and financial transactions, several delegations pointed out, with South Africa’s representative saying that banking institutions in Cuba must be equipped to make transactions in United States dollars. Member States must support Cuba and its people and they must continue to condemn any obstacles to Cuba’s quest to realize its development aims. “The international community cannot and should not wait for this matter to be resolved if we are truly committed to leaving no one behind,” he said.

Also speaking today were Niger (on behalf of the African States), Singapore (on behalf of Association of South-East Asian Nations, Russian Federation, Kuwait (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Venezuela (on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement), Mexico, China, Viet Nam, Bolivia, India, Tonga, Egypt, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Israel, Slovakia (on behalf of the European Union), Democratic People Republic of Korea, Belarus, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Myanmar and Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
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