39th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 72nd Session

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01-Nov-2017 01:12:31
As General Assembly adopts annual resolution urging end to United States embargo on Cuba, delegates voice concern over possible reversal of previous policy, at 39th plenary of the 72 session.

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The General Assembly today adopted its annual resolution calling for an end to the United States-led economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba, expressing near universal concern over President Donald Trump’s announced intention to tighten the blockade, a reversal from the previous Administration’s efforts to normalize relations.

Of the 193 Member States, 191 voted in favour with the United States and Israel voting against, signifying a shift in policy from last year when both countries abstained from the vote for the first time since it was tabled in 1992.

The resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” (document A/72/L.2), reiterated its call upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures, in line with their obligations under the United Nations Charter and international law, which, among other things, reaffirmed the freedom of trade and navigation. The Assembly also urged States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.

Introducing the text, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla said that the United States’ new policy on Cuba was intended to take relations back to a past of confrontation. Two thirds of the United States population, including Cuban immigrants living in the United States, were in favour of lifting the blockade, he said. Action to the contrary meant that the United States Government was acting in an undemocratic fashion. He recalled that on 16 June, President Trump announced a series of measures intended to tighten the blockade in a hostile speech before an audience made up of staunch followers of the Batista regime, annexationists and terrorists.

He underscored the “total isolation of the United States in this room” and said that without any evidence, it was using as a pretext the ailments affecting some diplomats in Havana and adopting new political measures against Cuba which further tightened the blockade. “President Trump does not have the least moral authority to question Cuba. He is heading a Government of millionaires destined to implement savage measures against lower‑income families, poor people, minorities and immigrants,” he said. The United States had its own set of issues to deal with, including the country’s lack of guarantees in education and health, the assassination of African‑Americans by law enforcement and the brutal measures threatening the children of illegal aliens who grew up in the United States.

Recalling the military interventions carried out by the United States against Cuba, he said that 60 years of domination had been ended by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. When Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz and then United States President Barack Obama made their hopeful announcement in December 2014, Mr. Obama described the blockade against Cuba as an obsolete policy which had failed to meet its goals. However, the embargo was never recognized for what it was: a massive violation of the human rights of Cubans and an act of genocide. Citing Cuban figures, he said between April 2016 and April 2017, losses caused by the blockade to the Cuban economy had been estimated at over $4 billion. “There is not a Cuban family or social service that has not suffered the deprivations resulting from the blockade,” he said.

The representative of the United States said that people would wonder how the United States passively accepted the resolution in 2016 and adamantly rejected it now. “The American people have spoken. They have chosen a new President, and he has chosen a new Ambassador to the United Nations,” she stressed. As long as the Cuban people continued to be deprived of their rights by their dictator regime, the United States would not fear isolation in the Assembly or anywhere else.

“Our principles are not up for a vote,” she underscored, adding that as long as the United States was a member of the United Nations it would stand up for human rights “even if we have to stand alone”. “It is true that we have been left nearly alone in the opposition to this resolution,” she added. But year after year, the Assembly’s time was wasted as the United States was subjected to ridiculous claims. The Cuban regime was responsible for the suffering of the Cuban people. The United States response had been to stand with the Cuban people and their right to determine their own future. She also recalled that only the United States Congress could lift the embargo.

To the Cuban people she said: “I know many of you have been hopeful of the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. That is not changing.” But since “this gesture of good will”, the Cuban Government had expanded its political detentions, with reports of 10,000 politically motivated detentions in 2016 alone. The Government of Cuba was busy choosing the successor to the Castro dictatorship; the results of the election process were determined before the first vote was cast. That was why the United States opposed the resolution in continued solidarity with the Cuban people. “We might stand alone today, but when the day of freedom comes for the Cuban people we will rejoice with them as only free people can,” she said.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that her region viewed the embargo “not just as a punitive act against Cuba, but as an impediment to our shared regional development.” She noted that opposition to the embargo policy was almost universal, adding that citizens across the United States were joining the international community by increasingly voicing their disapproval and calling for the lifting of unilateral sanctions. Today, 73 per cent of United States citizens and 63 per cent of Cubans living in the United States supported the lifting of the blockade.

Many countries said they had welcomed the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in 2015 as a crucial step towards the normalization of relations. The representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern that the current United States President’s new policy aimed at strengthening the embargo. He underscored the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the sovereign equality of States and non‑intervention in internal affairs. Limited foreign investment and difficult access to development credits translated directly into economic hardship for the Cuban people. If those economic sanctions continued, Cuba’s development potential would be unfairly undermined, making it impossible for it to embark on the path towards sustainable development.

The representative of the Russian Federation called the embargo a relic of the past and a glaring interference in the internal affairs of a State. The embargo was not just a discriminatory practice, unfair and pointless, it undermined the basis for regional and global stability by making sanctions a way of life. He said that while his country had welcomed the United States abstaining from the vote last year, any expected normalization of relations had been halted by the new Administration in Washington D.C. “What we are hearing today is hostile cold war rhetoric,” he added.

Many Member States said that differences among States must be resolved through the multilateral system rather than unilateral actions, with the representative of Singapore, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscoring: “Differences between States should be resolved through engagement and inclusion, not confrontation and isolation.”

Bolivia’s delegate said that the illegal blockade of Cuba was a clear example of the unilateral fashion in which the United States conducted itself. The United States had sought to “teach” lessons about democracy and human rights to others as it continued to promote torture and maintain clandestine jails. “They want to believe they are exceptional,” he said, adding that the United States was only exceptional in its prideful acts.

The representative of Venezuela called the embargo a “savage and disproportionate act”, which represented a ridiculous pretext to attempt to prevent Cuba from exercising the right to choose its own system of governance. Like Cuba, his country had also been subjected to the illegal sanctions of the United States and like Cuba, Venezuela would continue to stand against them.

Also speaking today were Gabon (on behalf of the African Group), El Salvador (on behalf the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Cote D’Ivoire (on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation), Viet Nam, Paraguay, India, Egypt, Algeria, Colombia, South Africa, China, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Estonia (on behalf of the European Union), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Argentina, Kenya, Syria, Iran, Angola, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Namibia, Myanmar, Belarus, Chad, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador and Zimbabwe.

Throughout the day Member States expressed their condolences to the victims and family members of those affected by the terrorist attack which took place in New York’s Lower Manhattan yesterday.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 2 November, to take up report of the Human Rights Council.
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