U.N. Calls for Ending U.S. Embargo against Cuba

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The United Nations has adopted a resolution urging an end to the United States' 38-year-old trade embargo with Fidel Castro's Cuba. The vote was 157 in favor and two against (Israel and the U.S.), with 12 abstaining.

The U.N. General Assembly took the action Oct. 14. The resolution urges countries to repeal as soon as possible laws and measures - such as the U.S.'s Helms-Burton Act - that adversely affect the sovereignty, free trade and navigation of other states.

The General Assembly's action targets the economic, commercial and financial embargo that the U.S. first imposed against Cuba on Oct. 19, 1960, and in recent years has strengthened. The resolution also requests that the U.N. secretary general - in consultation with the appropriate groups within the international organization -- prepare a report on ways to implement the resolution and submit it to the General Assembly at its 54th session.

Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Rodaina Gonzalez introduced the draft resolution by saying: "Blind and deaf, the United States of America continues to ignore demands made by this assembly during six successive years to put an end to its long, harsh and merciless economic, commercial and financial war against Cuba."

Describing the U.S. embargo as harassment "by the mightiest power ever," Gonzalez said the United Nations has witnessed abusive pressures, blackmail and threats to foil related trade initiatives with Cuba. The U.S. blockade, a remnant of the Cold War, has caused numerous shortages for Cuba's 11 million people and greatly interfered with human development in Cuba. Gonzalez, however, noted that the U.S. policy has not been successful in toppling the Cuban revolution and inciting the people to rise against its leaders and the political and economic system they freely chose. He asked the General Assembly to be fair and demand the U.S. put an end to its cruel blockade.

A. Peter Burleigh, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, responded that year after year Fidel Castro's Communist Cuban government has manipulated concerns expressed by the U.N. in order to claim support for its repressive and failed policies. Rather than accept the mistaken premise of the resolution, the U.S. urged nations committed to democracy and human rights to join it in a multilateral effort to promote a peaceful democracy in Cuba. In addition to maintaining pressure on the Cuban government to change, the U.S. believes the Cuban people must be reached and that change must come from within.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Hans Peter Manz of Austria said his region's full cooperation with Cuba depends upon improvement in human rights and political freedom. The European Union deplored the detention of a number of people who have expressed their rights to freedom of expression and association in a non-violent manner. He urged Cuban authorities to liberate and fully integrate all prisoners of conscience into society.

The representative of Myanmar reminded the General Assembly of past efforts to end the U.S. embargo. Win Mra said that although the number of member nations calling for an end to the embargo has grown from 59 in 1992 to 157 this year (86 percent), the most recent vote "reminds us that the appeal of the international community is still being unheeded." He said it is highly regrettable that despite the will of the international community, the blockade continues.

Perhaps the strongest condemnation was offered by Khiyhosizi J. Jele of South Africa. He told the Assembly that maintaining the embargo has created the inescapable perception that the United States is bent on imposing its will on Cuba and other sovereign states. Jele said it is, therefore, critical for the international community to act with more vigor to end the blockade, which is blatantly violating the principles of sovereignty, freedom of international trade, navigation and all other basic norms governing international relations enshrined in the U. …