Overwhelming UN support to end US embargo on Cuba
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The UN General Assembly on Tuesday [October 30] voted overwhelmingly for the 16th year in a row to demand an end to the crippling US trade embargo against Cuba, despite Washington's pledge to keep it in place.
By a vote of 184 in favor, it reiterated its "call upon all states to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures (such as those in the US embargo) in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law."
The 192-member assembly again urged "states that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible in accordance with their legal regime."
Like last year, four countries -- the United States, Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau -- voted against the resolution and one, Micronesia, abstained.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque immediately hailed the vote as a "splendid victory" coming less than a week after US President George W. Bush vowed to keep in place the US sanctions, which were imposed 45 years ago against the communist-ruled island following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion by US-backed Cuban exiles.
"As long as the regime maintains its monopoly over the political and economic life of the Cuban people, the United States will keep the embargo in place," Bush said.
"I think the president's remarks stand," US national security council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Tuesday in reaction to the UN vote.
The margin of support for ending the embargo has grown steadily since 1992 when 59 countries voted in favor of the resolution. The figure was 179 in 2004 and 182 in 2005.
Addressing the Assembly ahead of the vote, Perez Roque said the economic and trade sanctions were having a crippling effect, and estimated Cuba had suffered losses of "no less than 222 billion dollars," based on the US dollar's current value.
The blockade "has never been applied with as much ferocity as in the past year," he said, noting that Washington even barred US companies from providing Internet services to Cuba and was denying Cuban children access to needed medication.
And he later told AFP that the vote was "the expression of the virtual universal rejection of the policy of blockade and aggression which Bush, like no other US president, has applied toward Cuba."
He said ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro "followed the (UN) debate live and was the main architect of this victory because he embodies like no-one else the will of Cubans to be a free people despite the embargo and the aggressions we have suffered."
The 81-year-old Castro has been sidelined from power since he underwent gastrointestinal surgery in July 2006. His brother Raul Castro, 76, is serving as interim president.
Ronald Godard, the US State Department's senior advisor for Latin American affairs, blamed the communist regime for the country's woes.
"Cuba's problems derive not from any decision of the United States, but from the embargo on freedom that the Cuban regime has imposed on its own people," he said.
"We call on the international community to join together in demanding that the Cuban government unconditionally release all political prisoners as the essential step in beginning a process that restores to the Cuban people their basic human rights," he told the assembly.
Several speakers denounced the embargo slapped on Cuba on February 7, 1962 by the US administration under the late president John Kennedy.
Egypt's UN envoy, Maged Abdelaziz, said the Non-Aligned movement "reiterates its deep concern over the widening of the extra-territorial nature of the embargo against Cuba and rejects the reinforcement of the measures adopted by the US government aimed at tightening the embargo."
Pakistan's deputy UN ambassador Farukh Amil, speaking on behalf of another grouping of 130 nations, called for greater dialogue and cooperation to "contribute greatly not only toward the removal of tensions, but also promote meaningful exchange and partnership between countries whose destinies are linked by history and geography."
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Portuguese delegate Jorge de Lemos Godinho said: "we express our rejection of all unilateral measures against Cuba which are contrary to commonly accepted rules of international trade, and repeat our view that the lifting of the US trade embargo would open Cuba's economy to the benefit of the Cuban people."