United Nations condemns US blockade in record vote

News from Cuba | Thursday, 15 November 2012

On 13 November the United Nations voted for the 21st consecutive year to end the 50 year-old US blockade of Cuba.

In a record vote, that saw more countries than ever before vote to condemn the US policy of economic warfare towards Cuba, 188 of the 193 members of the UN assembly voted to abolish the illegal blockade. Only Israel and Palau supported the United States against the motion, with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia abstaining.

Addressing the assembly, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez voiced Cuban disappointment that despite Obama’s pledge to open a new chapter in Cuban-American relations on assuming office four years ago, no steps had been taken the lift the inhumane blockade.

"The reality is that the last four years have been characterized by the persistent tightening of ?the embargo," he said.

Cuba estimates that since the blockade was enforced in 1960 it has cost Cuba’s economy over one trillion US Dollars.

Rodriguez provided endless examples of medicines and equipment that Cuba is prevented from buying from US companies and the terrible suffering it causes patients. He listed the names and ages of babies and young children waiting for heart operations because they are prevented from accessing the food supplement needed for intravenous feeding, the patients forced to be sent to third countries because US companies could not sell Cuba lifesaving medicines for their specialist conditions, and the children who lost their eyesight because the US government prevented their doctors from buying the cancer drugs that could save their eyes (15 in the last year).

These examples make the blockade tantamount to an act of “genocide” he said, “a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of an entire people.”

He criticized the United States for what he called a “costly double standard” for wasting “hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxes that are paid by US citizens in the useless and illegal subversion against Cuba.”

Delegate after delegate took the platform to condemn the US policy and speak in support of the Cuban motion, and Cuba’s international solidarity.

“Cuba has built schools, hospitals and trained our young people” said the delegate from Barbados speaking on behalf of the Caribbean coalition of CARICOM nations.

In a rousing speech the delegate from Bolivia cited words from the speech that Che Guevara gave to the United Nations shortly after the Cuban revolution in 1959: "If the US is genuine about defending equality and freedom, then it should lift the blockade immediately.....I would like to finish by repeating the words of Che Guevara who stood on this very spot 5 decades ago and quoted the words of Jose Marti: 'Every real human being must feel in his own cheek a blow to the cheek of any other individual.'"

Many delegates also called on the United States to release the Miami Five, the five Cuban antiterrorists imprisoned in US for more than 14 years.

In his response, the US envoy at the UN assembly, Ronald D. Godard argued that the blockade is “one of the tools in our overall efforts to encourage respect for the human rights and basic freedoms to which the United Nations itself is committed.”

He stressed that the US was a “loyal friend” to Cuba and it is working to “empower Cubans who wish to determine their own future.”

In contrast to the silence which followed Goodard’s presentation, Minister Rodriguez’s speech was greeted by thunderous applause.

Rodriguez concluded his speech by calling on President Obama to leave a “historical legacy” by ending the blockade in his second term:

“It will surely be a difficult task and maybe he would face obstacles, but the President of the US still has the constitutional powers that would enable him to listen to public opinion and generate the necessary dynamics by means of executive decisions, even without the approval of Congress.”

“There is no doubt this would be a historical legacy.”

“He would make a serious miscalculation and will make things all the more difficult in the future if he decides to wait for a new generation of Cuban leaders or for the impossible collapse of our economy.”

“This option would make him go down in history as the 11th president that makes the same mistake.”

Although Obama has eased travel restrictions for Cuban Americans wishing to visit families on the island and to send remittances, his first term has seen fines of more than USD$2 billion imposed on banks and companies for trading with Cuba - more than twice as much as under two terms of George W Bush.

Obama’s victory on 6 November, saw him achieve more support from Cuban-American voters than any previous democratic candidate. So he and the Democratic Party no longer need to appease the powerful right wing exile vote in Florida. A new generation of Cuban-Americans are agreeing with the vast majority of the US people that relations between the two countries should be normalised.

President Obama ran under the electoral banner “Forward”. If he genuinely wants change we can believe in, he can start with ending his anachronistic ‘cold war’ policy towards Cuba, which not only alienates the US from its neighbours in Latin America, but following the UN decisive vote, the rest of the world.

Following Obama’s re-election and the 21st UN vote on the blockade, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign calls on the US government to:

End the US blockade

Free the Miami Five and allow them to return home to their families in Cuba

Remove Cuba from the list of “state sponsors of terrorism”

Allow emergency humanitarian aid, food and construction materials to be sent to Cuba immediately to help with the relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy

End interference in Cuba’s sovereign affairs

The latest UN vote serves to underline once again the ludicrousness of the US Blockade.. It highlights the urgent need for countries around the world to develop real policies of bilateral trade, cooperation and exchange which have the potential to decide the fate of the US policy.

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