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UN Votes 188-2 to Condemn US Embargo of Cuba

Street scene, Havana

Street scene, Havana (Gabriele Barni)

For the 23rd straight year, the world’s nations voted nearly unanimously to condemn the United States’ 54-year economic embargo against Cuba.

The UN General Assembly voted 188-2 on Tuesday in favor of a resolution presented by Cuba’s socialist government accusing the US government of causing more than $1.126 trillion in economic damage through more than a half century of economic sanctions.

Only the United States and Israel voted against the resolution, which called on Washington to end its devastating embargo.

Speaking on behalf of Caribbean nations, Joseph Goddard, Barbados’ ambassador to the UN, said the people of Cuba “had endured severe economic loss and stagnation, which prevented the expansion of Cuba’s commercial ties with the rest of the world” as a result of the US embargo.

Godard was among the many ambassadors who praised Cuba for sending more doctors than any other nation to West Africa to combat this and previous Ebola outbreaks.

Malawi’s UN ambassador, Charles P. Msosa, said “economic sanctions against Cuba had caused great economic hardship, especially on the poor and vulnerable populations in the country.” Ending the embargo immediately, argued Msosa, “was necessary and could serve to promote better social conditions and living standards for the people of Cuba.”

Costa Rican ambassador Juan Carlos Mendoza-García called the embargo “contrary to the letter, spirit, principles and purposes of the [UN] Charter and international law.”

Argentina’s Mateo Estreme, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said “the humanitarian and social costs and the anachronistic rationale of the embargo were obvious to all.”

The embargo was ordered by President John F. Kennedy, who according to former special assistant Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., wanted to unleash “the terrors of the earth” on Cuba after Fidel Castro’s popular revolution toppled a brutal but US-backed dictatorship in 1959. The goal of the embargo is to create sufficient hardship among Cubans to provoke regime change.

Along with the embargo, the US, especially the CIA, waged a decades-long covert war of terrorism against its tiny island neighbor via a series of unsuccessful attempts to overthrow the Castro regime. The ill-fated 1961Bay of Pigs invasion was the most infamous of these efforts.

Lesser-known are the many assassination attempts against Castro, which included exploding cigars and seashells, an aborted hit by a ‘femme fatale’ lover and cooperation with Mafia leaders, who lost a fortune after Castro “cleaned up” Havana following the revolution.

Anti-Castro terrorist groups have also been given safe haven, weapons and training in the United States, especially in Florida. These groups have committed scores of bombings, assassinations and other attacks in Cuba, the United States and other nations. Among these are the car bomb assassination of former Chilean minister Orlando Letelier and his young American aide Ronni Moffitt in 1976 and the bombing that same year of Cubana Airlines Flight 455, which killed 73 innocent civilians in what was, until 9/11, the Western Hemisphere’s worst-ever act of air terrorism.

The perpetrators of these and other attacks have repeatedly been hailed as heroes among America’s Cuban exile population, including prominent Republican lawmakers and leaders who have championed their cause. Florida conservatives like US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who unapologetically supports anti-Castro terrorism, remain staunchly opposed to any attempts to loosen the economic noose strangling Cuba.

Ros-Lehtinen and other lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle also support keeping Cuba on America’s state sponsors of terrorism list, despite any evidence linking Cuba to terror groups or attacks and despite the half-century history of US support for anti-Castro terrorism.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez urged the US government to “establish mutually respectful relations.”

“We can try to find a solution to our differences through respectful dialogue,” said Rodríguez. “We can live and deal with each other in a civilized way despite our differences.”

Rodríguez added that “Cuba will never relinquish [its] sovereignty.”

US envoy Ronald Godard countered that Havana uses the annual condemnation of the embargo to “shift blame” for economic problems that it created. Godard also blasted what it called Cuba’s “digital wall of censorship.”

Although the Obama administration has balked at lifting the decades-old embargo, there are signs that changes may come sooner rather than later.About half of the Cuban-Americans surveyed in a June Florida International University poll said they supported an end to the embargo.

Former Secretary of State and presumed 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also spoke out in favor of lifting the embargo in her recently-published book “Hard Choices.” According to the book, Clinton urged President Obama to end the embargo because it was no longer useful to US interests and was doing little or nothing to promote change in Cuba.

Powerful voices, including the New York Times Editorial Board, have alsourged Obama to end the embargo.

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