The Oct. 26 vote was 191 in favor of the resolution and two abstentions: the U.S. and Israeli delegates.
Power defended Washington’s 55-year economic war against Cuba, claiming that “all actions of the United States with regard to Cuba have been and are fully in conformity with the U.N. Charter and international law.” The only reason that the Barack Obama administration has “adopted a new approach,” she said, was because “the U.S. policy of isolation toward Cuba was not working — or worse,” it was actually “undermining the very goals it set out to achieve.” And instead of isolating Cuba “our policy isolated the United States.”
The U.S. ambassador made it sound as if Washington had eased the embargo. She pointed to the December 2014 announcement that led to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, the opening of embassies in both countries, the resumption of commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba, and the end to limits on how often Cuban Americans can visit relatives on the island.
Power highlighted measures the Treasury Department announced Oct. 14. These include allowing Cuban pharmaceuticals to be sold in the U.S. if they get approval from the Food and Drug Administration, removing limits on how much rum and cigars authorized U.S. travelers can bring back into the U.S., granting more scholarships to Cubans and other measures aimed at “private sector growth.”
While there have been some positive steps, “the majority of the executive regulations and laws that establish the blockade are still in effect and are rigorously applied by U.S. government agencies,” Cuban Ambassador Bruno Rodríguez said. This includes the pressure Washington applies to other nations to adhere to U.S. dictates on trade with Cuba.
The Oct. 14 measures Power referred to have “a very limited scope,” he said and “rather than benefiting Cuba and the Cuban people, they favor the United States.”
Rodríguez gave numerous examples of actions by the U.S. government over the last year, including blocking the sale of medical devices to Cuba and preventing Cubans from opening bank accounts that handle U.S. dollars. In September, banks in Pakistan refused to handle a credit for buying 100,000 doses of a vaccine against Hepatitis B that is manufactured in Cuba.
Obama has the power to lift many parts of the embargo, Rodríguez said, “That’s why it’s necessary to judge by the facts.”
The Cuban ambassador noted that from the start of the revolution Washington’s goal has been the overthrow of the revolutionary government. Obama’s Oct. 14 directive, issued simultaneously with the new regulations, claims that Washington does not seek to impose “regime change on Cuba,” Rodríguez noted. But its “deceitful language” does not hide “the intention to continue to implement interventionist programs that serve U.S. interests,” including funding opponents of the revolution, broadcasting programs aimed at “advocating for reforms” and refusing to return Guantánamo Naval Base to Cuba.
Delegates from more than a dozen countries took the floor to speak in favor of ending the embargo. Some lauded unselfish aid from Cuba in the face of the aftermath of hurricanes and earthquakes. Others denounced the impact of the embargo on their own countries. The representative from Tonga noted that the “hardships and challenges upon the Cuban people” also affect students from his country living there.
Unlike in previous years, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon briefly took the floor. “Israel welcomes the progress in relations between the United States and Cuba and hopes this progress will lead to a new era in the region,” he said.
Despite U.S. claims to be working to advance “democracy” in Cuba, “we are already free, precisely because in 1959 we rid ourselves of U.S. imperialism and the dictatorship it imposed on us,” Rodriguez reminded Power. “We will never go back to capitalism.”
‘End Washington’s economic war against Cuba!’
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