UN votes overwhelmingly to condemn US embargo on Cuba

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Published: November 8, 2019 7:11:15 AM

Cuba's Rodriguez countered that "the United States government does not have the slightest moral authority to criticize Cuba or any other country when it comes to human rights.

Brazil’s conservative government, led by President Jair Bolsonaro, was the first in Latin America to vote against the resolution in at least five years.

The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to condemn the American economic embargo of Cuba for the 28th year, rejecting US criticism of human rights violations there and criticising the Trump administration’s increasingly tough enforcement measures. The vote in the 193-member world body was 187-3 with the US, Israel and Brazil voting “no,” and Colombia and Ukraine abstaining. Last year, the assembly voted 189-2 with the US and Israel voting “no” and no abstentions.

For the second year, Moldova did not vote. Brazil’s conservative government, led by President Jair Bolsonaro, was the first in Latin America to vote against the resolution in at least five years. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding and are unenforceable, but they reflect world opinion and the vote has given Cuba an annual stage to demonstrate the isolation of the US on the embargo. It was imposed in 1960 following the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the nationalisation of properties belonging to US citizens and corporations.

Two years later it was strengthened. Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said the Trump administration has “aggressively intensified” implementation of the embargo against other countries, and has tried to prevent the arrival of shipments to Cuba “by resorting to sanctions and threats against vessels, shipping companies and insurance companies.” “It does not conceal its intention which is economically to suffocate Cuba and to increase damage, scarcities and hardships on our people,” he said.

US Ambassador Kelly Craft told the assembly that the United States, like all nations, can choose who to trade with so “it is worrying” that the international community, in the name of protecting Cuba’s sovereignty, continues to challenge this right. “But what is even more concerning is that every year, this body entertains the claim that the Cuban regime has no other choice than to abuse its own people in response to the embargo,” she said. Craft pointed to the arrest of Cuban human rights defender Jose Ferrer and other advocates last month on what she called “fabricated charges. She also cited government restrictions on Cuban doctors working abroad who are “forced to return all but a few dollars of their income to the Communist Party,” the silencing of political activists, state control of the media, and the lack of free choice in employment.

Cuba’s Rodriguez countered that “the United States government does not have the slightest moral authority to criticize Cuba or any other country when it comes to human rights.” He said what Cuba calls the US “blockade has caused incalculable humanitarian damages” and amounts to a major human rights violation.

Rodriguez accused the US of exercising “its imperialist domination,” of invoking the Monroe doctrine and gunboat diplomacy, increasing its military presence in Latin America, and using “interventionist and unacceptable language” against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government. “Neither threat nor blackmail will ever extract the least political concession from us,” the Cuban minister stressed. “We will not back down from our determination to achieve a civilized relationship with the US government based on mutual respect.” Former Cuban President Raul Castro and then-President Barack Obama officially restored relations in July 2016.

But Trump administration officials have sharply criticized Cuba’s human rights record. In 2017, the U.S. returned to voting against the Cuban-sponsored General Assembly resolution on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba after the Obama administration abstained in 2016, a first for the United States in 25 years.

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