World votes to condemn US blockade policy
Campaign News | Friday, 31 October 2008
by Adrian Roberts for the Morning Star
CUBAN Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque warned the US presidential candidates on Thursday that his country expects them to respond to overwhelming international demand and lift the nearly 50-year-old blockade.
The UN general assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution on Wednesday urging the US to repeal its trade embargo against Cuba, which Mr Perez Roque vowed would never "bring the Cuban people to their knees."
The US has no diplomatic relations with Cuba, lists the country as a state sponsor of terror and has long sought to isolate it through travel restrictions and a trade embargo.
The blockade, imposed in 1962, has also been tightened during President George W Bush's two terms.
Wednesday's vote was the 17th straight year that the general assembly has called for the US economic and commercial embargo against Cuba to be repealed "as soon as possible."
The vote in the 192-member world body was 185 to three, with two abstentions.
Mr Perez Roque called it "historic" because it was the strongest backing that Cuba has ever received.
The US, Israel and Palau voted No, while Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained.
That was one more Yes vote than last year's vote of 184 to four with one abstention. There was loud applause when the final vote flashed on the screen in the general assembly chamber.
Mr Perez Roque said that this year's extra vote had come from Albania and he praised the Marshall Islands, which voted No last year, for abstaining this year despite intense US pressure.
He now hopes that the next US president will respond to the strong international appeal and lift the embargo.
"It is a proof that the US policy towards Cuba is really totally isolated," said Mr the minister.
"It is very important support for the Cuban people and its struggle for independence, self-determination."
Before the vote, Mr Perez Roque branded the embargo "a genocidal and illegal policy."
While the US might be militarily strong, "the whole world" supports Cuba, which has resolve and "moral authority," he said, adding that it will be up to the next US president "to admit that the blockade is a failed policy."
But US diplomat Ronald Godard bleated that every country has the right to restrict trade.
"US trade policy toward Cuba is carefully designed to permit the Cuban people access to food and humanitarian goods, but to limit the ability of Cuba's repressive government to benefit and consolidate power through its authoritarian control over the Cuban economy," said the US diplomat.
"Our trade policy, above all, seeks to keep away from Cuba's leaders resources that they would use to strengthen their repressive political and economic system."
Cuba Solidarity Campaign director Rob Miller said that the last year has been the worst yet for the ruthless application of US sanctions.
"In tightening the noose, it has been guilty of irrational persecution of government agencies, firms, banks and citizens in third countries," he said.
"We can only applaud when the world at the UN votes again to end the blockade.
"But it is up to all of us to go further and force our governments to enact policies that exacerbate the differences with US blockade policies, rather than echo and enhance them."
What next for Cuba? The US presidential rivals' positions
The Democrat says that he would seek "direct diplomacy" with Cuba "without preconditions."
He would also overturn George W Bush's restrictions on Cuban-Americans travelling to Cuba and sending money to the socialist island.
He has twice voted to cut off funding for US propaganda station TV Marti.
Mr Obama said in 2004 that "it's time for us to end the embargo with Cuba." But he now says that he would maintain the embargo.
The Republican has said that his rival's position sends "the worst possible signal."
He has vowed to keep up the embargo until Cuba holds elections which meet his approval as "free."
He would give "more material assistance" to opponents of the Cuban government.
Mr McCain was a co-sponsor of the restrictions on travelling and sending money to Cuba.