Record U.N. Vote Against U.S. Embargo

Campaign News | Monday, 10 November 2003

By Evelyn Leopold

Record U.N. Vote Against U.S. Embargo on Cuba

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - For the 12th straight year, the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday against Washington's four-decade old economic embargo against Cuba that Havana sees as tantamount to "genocide."

The annual roasting of the United States by friends and adversaries alike was approved by a record vote of 179 to 3 with two abstentions on the resolution urging Washington to end the trade and travel sanctions.

Opposing the resolution were the United States, Israel and the Marshall Islands while Morocco and Micronesia abstained.

Similar resolutions have been adopted by increasing majorities each year since 1992. Last year's vote was 173 to 3 with four abstentions. The resolutions are not mandatory but express the will of the international community.

Cuba has been under a U.S. trade and travel embargo since Fidel Castro (news - web sites) defeated a CIA (news - web sites)-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. But this year, the Bush administration's criticisms of Castro were more strident and answered in kind by Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque.


"Cuba's best day is when the Cuban people have terminated Castro's evil Communist dictatorial regime and said to him, 'Hasta la vista, baby,"' U.S. representative Sichan Siv said. California's Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger (news - web sites) uttered the oft-quoted line in the film "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

Angry at the insult to the Cuban president, Perez shot back: "It is the people of Cuba who say 'Hasta la vista to the blockade, Hasta la vista to genocide."'

"I ask you to vote in favor of Cuba's right -- which is also today everyone's right," Perez said to applause.

The 15 members of the European Union (news - web sites) along with such allies as Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all voted for the resolution. They object to the so-called "extra-territorial" effects of U.S. legislation that they regard as violating their sovereignty by punishing non-U.S. firms for commercial dealings with Cuba.

The resolution referred to the 1996 "Helms-Burton Act" that allows U.S. citizens who were Cuban citizens before President Fidel Castro's 1959 communist revolution to file suit in U.S. courts against foreign companies or individuals who "traffic" in confiscated property.

Siv, a native of Cambodia, who gave half his speech in Spanish, said the embargo would be lifted when Cuba changed its human rights record and opened its system to trade.

He said that Cuba's claim to have lost $72 billion over the years in lost trade and additional costs had more to do with its "failed economic policy" than the embargo. He also said more than 150,000 Americans traveled to Cuba last year.

Perez called the American representative's presentation shot full of "lies." He said U.S. citizens had difficulties traveling to Cuba and many were being penalized for doing so without a government license.

He said President Bush (news - web sites) owed his election in the disputed Florida vote to a "corrupt and greedy" minority of Cuban Americans.

"It (the embargo) violates the U.N. Charter. It hurts international trade and curtails free navigation. It goes so far as to penalize entrepreneurs from other countries form investing in Cuba," Perez told the assembly.

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