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UN Votes 188-2 to Condemn US Embargo of Cuba

Hanging on in Havana (Photo: Scott Loftesness)

Hanging on in Havana (Photo: Scott Loftesness)

For the 22nd straight year, the United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted to condemn the United States’ 53-year economic embargo against the small Caribbean island nation of Cuba.

This year, 188 out of 193 UN member nations voted in favor of a resolution condemning the crippling embargo. Only Israel joined the United States in opposing the resolution. Last year, the vote was 188-3. The tiny, US-dependent Pacific Island nations of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands, which have reliably voted against such resolutions in the past, abstained from this year’s vote.

“The US policy against Cuba is suffering from an absolute international isolation and discredit and lacks every ethical or legal ground,” Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla said following the General Assembly vote.

“Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower,” Parrilla said. “The human damages caused by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States are incalculable.”

AFP reports Parrilla told the General Assembly the US embargo has cost the Cuban economy $1.1 trillion and has prevented the impoverished communist nation from obtaining desperately needed heart and AIDS medications for children.

Parrilla added that the US embargo “provokes hardships and is a mass, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights.”

“The fact that 53 years later the same policy still prevails is something extraordinary and barbaric,” the minister said.

Wang Min, China’s deputy UN ambassador, told the gathered officials that “the call of the international community is getting louder and louder, demanding that the US government change its policy toward Cuba.”

America’s European allies also oppose the embargo, in large part because it punishes foreign corporations that do business with Cuba.

US diplomat Ronald Godard told the General Assembly that his country was being used as “an external scapegoat” for Cuba’s woes, the same thing he said last year, word-for-word.

“Our sanctions policy toward Cuba is just one of the tools in our overall effort to urge respect for… civil and human rights,” said Godard.

Critics shot back that although Cuba is a totalitarian state, the US supports far more brutal dictatorships around the world. Some observers accused the US of hypocrisy, especially in regard to Washington’s listing of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. Havana does not support terrorism anywhere in the world, nor has Cuba ever committed an act of terrorism against the United States. The US, however, has engaged in or supported terrorism against Cuba for more than 50 years, ever since President John F. Kennedy declared his intention to unleash the “terrors of the earth” upon the small nation after a popular revolution led by Fidel Castro overthrew a brutal, US-backed dictatorship.

The ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion was just the beginning; in the decades that followed, the CIA would attempt to assassinate Castro on numerous occasions, and anti-Castro terrorist groups were given safe haven, training and protection in the United States. These groups committed scores of terror attacks on targets in Cuba, Latin America and the United States, including the car bombing assassination of a former Chilean minister and his American aide in Washington, DC in 1976 and the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 that same year, an attack which killed 73 innocent civilians. The perpetrators of what was then the worst act of airline terrorism ever committed in the Western Hemisphere were hailed as heroes among the Cuban exile community; they were also well-connected to prominent Republicans, including the Bush family, ensuring their impunity.

The world had hoped that President Barack Obama would move toward ending the embargo against Cuba. But his administration has done little besides ease some travel and remittance restrictions. Powerful Republicans, especially Floridians with Cuban roots such as Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, an unapologetic terrorist supporter, remain strongly opposed to any attempt to loosen the economic stranglehold on Cuba.

Interestingly, the US Chamber of Commerce also backs ending the embargo, which it claims costs the US $1.2 billion in annual lost business. Before Castro’s revolution, US corporate and criminal interests exerted extensive control over the Cuban economy, one in which a handful of well-connected elites lived luxuriously while the majority of Cubans languished in poverty.

Despite the widespread misery and suffering caused by Washington’s embargo, Godard insisted that “the United States is a deep and abiding friend of the Cuban people.”

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