UN General Assembly in record vote to end blockade
Campaign News | Tuesday, 12 November 2002
173 countries against 3 vote to end the blockade
Fifty-seventh General Assembly
48th Meeting (AM)
ASSEMBLY, ACTING ON TEXT TO END UNITED STATES EMBARGO AGAINST CUBA,
URGES STATES TO REPEAL LAWS WITH ‘EXTRATERRITORIAL’ EFFECTS
Delegates Note Durability of Issue, Majority Supporting
Adoption of Comparable Resolution for Eleventh Year in a Row
The General Assembly, for the eleventh successive year, today adopted a resolution on the need to end the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba. The resolution urged all States applying laws and measures with extraterritorial effects to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate such laws as soon as possible.
The resolution was adopted by a recorded vote of 173 in favour to three against (Israel, Marshall Islands, United States) with four abstentions (Ethiopia, Malawi, Nicaragua, Uzbekistan). (See Annex for details.)
[In a comparable resolution last year the voting was 167 in favour to three against (Israel, Marshall Islands and United States) with three abstentions (Latvia, Micronesia, Nicaragua.)]
During today’s debate, the representative of the United States described the embargo as strictly a matter of bilateral policy. He said its imposition was intended to encourage a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, where people could be imprisoned for distributing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The issue, he said, was the continuing human rights crisis in that country.
He questioned the accuracy of claims that the embargo prevented other nations from trading with Cuba, contending that Cuba imported some $1 billion every year from other countries, including Member States of the European Union. In 2001, the United States had approved licences that permitted humanitarian assistance to Cuba, while that country obtained agricultural commodities worth $90 million this year from United States farmers.
Other delegates said the unilateral and extraterritorial acts of the United States toward Cuba violated international law and the United Nations Charter, and also interfered with Cuba’s development.
The Representative of Cuba said a wide representation of civil society and influential business entities advocated the lifting of the blockade, and the normalization of economic ties with Cuba. But for the stubborn opposition of a powerful, anti-Cuban minority there would have been meaningful legislative changes affecting the situation.
Statements were also made by Mexico, China, Viet Nam, South Africa, Venezuela, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Sudan, Togo, Myanmar, Zambia, Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Belarus, Namibia, United Republic of Tanzania, Iraq, Libya, Zimbabwe and Syria.
Speaking in explanation of their votes were Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), the Russian Federation, Brazil (on behalf of the Southern Common Market and associated States) and Australia.
The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, 13 November, to continue its consideration of follow-up to the outcome of the twenty-sixth special session: implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
The General Assembly met this morning to consider its agenda item on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.
The Assembly had before it a report from the Secretary-General (document A/57/264) and a draft resolution (document A/57/L.5) sponsored by Cuba.
By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would reiterate its call upon all States, in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law, to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures such as the “Helms-Burton Act” of 12 March 1996, the extraterritorial effects of which affected the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation.
The Assembly would also urge all 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.
The Secretary-General’s report was requested in the Assembly’s resolution on the subject last year (resolution 56/9 of 27 November 2001). The Secretary-General was asked to prepare a report on the implementation of the resolution. By a note dated 12 April 2002, the Secretary-General invited Governments and organs and agencies of the United Nations system to submit any information they might wish to contribute to the report.
The report states that as of 16 July, there were 75 replies from governments and 12 replies from organs and agencies of the United Nations system. Among those making submissions, the Government of Cuba described the embargo as “genocidal”, claiming that for 42 years the United States had sought to spread hunger and sickness among the Cuban people, in an effort to subjugate their spirit of resistance to aggression and annexation.
Among the United Nations agencies responding, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) pointed out that although in recent times the United States had become more selective in the application of unilateral sanctions, and had even decreased their use, most of the economic, commercial, financial and social coercive measures imposed on Cuba during the past four decades remained intact. However there were changes, such as the lifting in late July 2001 of some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba and the arrival of the first shipment of goods in December 2001, following the enactment of new legislation in 2000, allowing shipments of foodstuffs and medicines.
ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said his country respected the right of every State to determine its political and economic systems. Unilateral action was contrary to the rules of international law and the aspirations of people. It undermined the very basis of the United Nations. Mexico had repeatedly rejected the imposition of such measures, when they were not expressly approved by the Assembly or the Security Council. In particular, Mexico had rejected the blockade unilaterally imposed on Cuba. Since 1992, Mexico had consistently supported the resolutions approved by the Assembly concerning the need to put an end to that embargo.
His Government had declared that the Helms-Burton Act was contrary to the principles of international law, he said, in keeping with the ruling of the Inter-American Legal Committee. To reduce the impact of extra territorial measures that affected Mexico’s free trade with other countries, the law on protecting trade and investment from foreign laws in contravention with international law had come into force in 1996. By that law, national courts could not recognize or implement foreign rulings or decisions against Mexican companies which emanated from laws enforced in other countries that had extra territorial effects contrary to international law. It also forbade companies in Mexico to carry out acts that might prejudice trade and investment in Mexico.
The embargo on Cuba must end, he said. Its impact on its people was a cause of grave concern for Mexico and the international community. That was demonstrated by the overwhelming majority, which voted in favour of the resolution. As it had done throughout the past decade, Mexico would once again vote in favour of the draft resolution before the Assembly.
HUANG ZHONGPO (China) said that in spite of the adoption, in each of the last ten years, of a resolution calling for the end of extraterritorial laws affecting the sovereignty and interests of other countries, in conformity with the Charter and norms of international law, the country concerned had yet to honour that series of General Assembly resolutions. The United States embargo, which purported to promote democracy and human rights, had actually severely impeded Cuban efforts to alleviate poverty, to raise the standard of living of its people and to realize economic and social development for national construction.
The embargo constituted an encroachment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people, he said. Using embargos and other sanctions to force a country to abandon its chosen path to development, or to subvert its government, was contrary to the Charter and the fundamental norms of international relations. It violated the principle of democracy and contradicted the principle of trade liberalization advocated by the United States itself. As many as 78 countries had been affected by the embargo against Cuba.
China’s position was that the principles enshrined in the Charter should serve as the basis for the promotion of democratization in international relations and the realization of overall development and common prosperity, he added. Sovereign equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries remained the core of norms governing international relations; States should have the right to choose their own political and social systems and development models. Objecting to the continued economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States, China supported Cuban efforts to safeguard its national independence and State sovereignty and hoped that the United States would replace confrontation with dialogue.
NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam) said his country supported the Government and people of Cuba in their national reconstruction and defence. Viet Nam also opposed the unilateral economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba over the last four decades by the United States, and demanded “an immediate end” to this blockade.
Any differences between the United States and Cuba should be resolved through dialogue and peaceful negotiations on the basis of mutual respect for independence and sovereignty, and in accordance with the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.
Regarding the embargo, he said this “punishment” was unilaterally imposed, but its impact was of multilateral magnitude, with Cuba’s people, particularly its children, on the receiving end. Furthermore, international relations would suffer, since many countries could not do business with Cuba, or could do it only while looking over their shoulders. “No one benefits from this ridiculous situation”, he said, “and it is therefore high time that this embargo be lifted”.
SICHAN SIV (United States) said the United States embargo was strictly a matter of bilateral policy and not a subject that the Assembly should spend valuable time considering. The allegation that the United States prevented other nations from trading with Cuba did not reflect reality. Cuba imported some $1 billion every year from other countries, including member States of the European Union. Related assertions that the embargo was the cause of Cuba’s economic problems were equally untrue. The objective of United States policy against Cuba was clear -- to foster a rapid, peaceful transition to a democratic form of government where human rights was protected, civil society thrived and economic prosperity was extended to all Cubans. The bilateral embargo was one element of a multifaceted policy designed to achieve that objective.
The United States, he continued, had moved to dramatically increase its support for the Cuban people. Cuba benefited greatly from the generosity of American citizens. In 2001, the United States Government had approved licences that permitted humanitarian assistance to Cuba. This year, Cuba had purchased some $90 million in agricultural commodities, which benefited both American farmers and the Cuban people. Changes in Cuba would allow his Government to reconsider its policies. As President Bush had stated, if the Cuban Government took concrete steps towards democracy and economic reform, the President would work with Congress to ease restrictions.
Unfortunately, the Cuban Government had showed no signs of changing its polices, he said. It consistently flouted the resolutions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. It imprisoned people for expressing their opposition to the regime and for distributing copies of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
He said he was particularly disappointed by Cuba’s decision to ignore the project by which 11,000 Cuban citizens had petitioned for a referendum that would bring about the release of political prisoners, the holding of free elections and economic reforms. The focus of the international community should be on the continuing human rights crisis in Cuba rather than bilateral United States efforts to encourage a peaceful transition to democracy. He strongly opposed the draft resolution and encouraged all delegations to do the same.
JEANETTE NDHLOVU (South Africa) said that adherence to the purposes and principles of the Charter should be binding on all Member States and that the selective application of Charter provisions should be rejected. The international community had repeatedly and consistently called for the lifting of the Cuban embargo, which for four decades had continued to cause untold suffering to the people of Cuba, affecting their daily lives with policies beyond their control. Thus, it was no wonder that the overwhelming majority of States had rallied in support of this resolution.
She said the Non-Aligned Movement had called for the end of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. Besides being unilateral and contrary to the Charter and international law, as well as to good neighborliness, it had caused huge material losses and economic damage to the Cuban people. There was also concern over the widening of the embargo and new legislation to intensify it. The Non-Aligned Movement had also condemned the continued application of extraterritorial measures and legislation against certain developing countries, with the view to preventing them from exercising their right to determine their own political, economic and social systems. The Non-Aligned Movement called on all States not to recognize these unilateral, extraterritorial laws.
There was a need for a rules-based international system where nations small and large were treated as equal sovereign States, she added. In this context, the Charter embodied the vision, mission, principles and obligations by which all signatories had to abide. In line with past resolutions, South Africa believed that a constructive dialogue could foster mutual trust and understanding, and lead to the peaceful coexistence of the two nations.
PULIDO SANTANA (Venezuela) said the rejection of the embargo measures against Cuba had been reaffirmed by international public opinion and the international community, but their voices and the voice of the United Nations had not been heard.
She said Venezuela rejected unilateral measures with exterritorial effects, such as the Helms-Burton Law. Unilateral measures like the embargo had a negative impact on the legal character that defined economic trade exchanges among nations. The embargo was contrary to international law. It infringed upon self-determination, and opposed the legitimate aspiration of the Cuban people to achieve full development and well-being.
The embargo was a serious threat to multilateralism, and Venezuela hoped the blockade would cease. Cubans must not suffer consequences beyond the pale of international legality.
ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that for four long decades the embargo had caused both great suffering for innocent Cubans, and created and maintained superfluous tensions among two neighbouring peoples. In today’s world, it was disappointing to see that there continued to be unilateral discriminatory trade practices. Such measures ran contrary to the principles the Charter and infringed on the sovereignty of States and free trade. Each nation had the sovereign right to participate in the international trading system. No country had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country.
As a sovereign independent nation, he said, Cuba had the right to choose its own political system and model of development, in order to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. Cuba should have the opportunity to maintain and promote trade relations with all nations of the world. His Government would continue to work to end the economic, financial and trade embargo against Cuba, a policy which was obsolete and ran counter to international law.
RICARDO ALARCON DE QUESADA (Cuba) said a wide representation of civil society and influential business entities had advocated the lifting of the blockade, and the normalization of economic ties with Cuba. Especially active were American farmers, their organizations and major agricultural production and export companies. Thanks to their efforts, it had been possible to take a few steps that could lead to significant changes in the current policy. For the first time in four decades, a number of United States exporters were able to sell their products to Cuba and carry out the necessary operations despite the severe obstacles and discriminatory practices they had to confront.
A constructive spirit had also been echoed in the legislative bodies of the United States, he said. A bipartisan group had been formed and had undertaken numerous initiatives aimed at changing the current policy and replacing it with one that was more congruent with the genuine interests of the people of that country and with the norms of respect that should govern relations between sovereign States. In their efforts, however, they must still contend with the stubborn opposition of a powerful minority.
Last year, for example, Congress passed a bill that would have introduced important modifications to the blockade. Despite the clear backing received in both Houses, the leadership of the House of Representatives violated basic democratic procedures by adulterating the text of the bill approved, and imposing a formula that openly contradicted the will of the majority. The Bush Administration was not only threatening to veto bills that had solid backing in both Houses and that responded to the demands of a large part of the United States population; it was also undertaking actions that contradicted the expressed will of legislators and the legitimate aspirations of those who had inspired those initiatives in Congress.
The anti-Cuban minority, protected by its privileged relations with the current administration, acted ever more openly against the true interests of the United States, he said. It had secured highly placed positions for unscrupulous individuals, professional slanderers who routinely regurgitated ridiculous lies that nobody believed and provocative, irresponsible and false statements. They aimed to use such deceit to create a bilateral conflict that would allow them to fulfil their long-treasured dream of taking control of the lands, the homes and everything else that belonged to the Cuban people. Isolated and defeated, they continued to step up their hostility against Cuba and persisted in their plans to use violence and terrorism against his country.
The decision to be taken by the Assembly today, he said, would provide justice for the Cuban people, who had suffered greatly as a consequence of a policy that was unjust, illegal and contrary to both reason and morality. The Assembly would also be defending all those States whose sovereignty and legitimate interests were crushed by those who granted themselves powers that no one had ceded to them, and who attempted, with no right whatsoever, to dictate rules for the entire world and forced them to be applied outside their borders. The resolution would also signify support for all those in the United States who were striving to change a policy that the world condemned, a policy that was irrational and unjustifiable, and whose failure had already gone down in history.
OMER BASHIR MOHAMED MANIS (Sudan) said that the international community’s support for and abidance by the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations were among its most important obligations. The right of a State to choose its own path to achieving social, economic and cultural development should be respected. The international community had expressed its desire to refuse all forms of hegemony and interference in the internal affairs of States as well as the implementation of coercive measures having extraterritorial effects on trade. It had also confirmed the right of peoples to determine their own destiny and called upon States not to promulgate such extraterritorial laws, nor to comply with them.
The attempt to impose economic sanctions on certain countries had been condemned, he affirmed, and Sudan confirmed its total rejection of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. The people of Cuba had suffered enough; damages due to the embargo had amounted to 70 billion United States dollars over the past 40 years. Six out of ten Cubans lived in difficult circumstances because of the embargo.
The Sudanese people suffered from sanctions imposed by the same country that had imposed the embargo on Cuba, he added. The “Sudan Peace Act” had imposed measures in a biased manner, in favour of the Sudanese rebel movement. It contained flimsy and erroneous information taken from those with grudges against the Sudanese Government and reflected the United States’ attempt to take the law into its own hands. Sudan called upon all States in favour of the present draft resolution to express their voices strongly against such measures, which constituted a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.
KODJO MENAN (Togo) said the General Assembly had called for the lifting of the Cuban embargo in the past, as it violated principles such as State sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs, which were the relevant norms governing international relations. Many other international institutions had also rejected the use of such unilateral, coercive extraterritorial measures to exercise political and economic pressure on States. The Non-Aligned Movement had appealed for the end of the embargo against Cuba and urged the strict application of relevant General Assembly resolutions. It had also expressed concern over the expansion of the embargo and the continued adoption of legislative measures aimed at strengthening it.
Like almost all countries, Togo had excellent relations with Cuba and called for total and non-selective compliance with the terms of international law, he said. His Government was convinced that each nation had the right to freely select its political, economic, social and cultural system and would never fail to flag its disapproval of coercive measures designed to bring economic and political pressure against States. The embargo, which continued to cause untold suffering, should be ended without delay. However, despite repeated demands, it was distressing to note that some were not ready to abandon the policy of coercion. Some officials had declared that the embargo would be maintained and even strengthened.
The repercussions of the embargo had affected all sections of economic and social life in Cuba, he observed. Many speakers had highlighted the suffering of the Cubans, so he would add only that according to Cuban estimates, the economic damage of the embargo amounted to more than 70 billion United States dollars. Should not the United States regard the 11-million-strong population of Cuba, located only several dozen kilometres off the continent, as a special source of markets for the manufactured goods of that country?
U KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) said his country fully subscribed to the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and believed that States should practice tolerance and live together in peace. Only through peaceful coexistence and non-interference in internal affairs could the international community nurture and establish peace and security. Promulgating domestic legislation that affected the sovereignty and interests of other States was not conducive to the development of friendly relations among nations. Thus, Myanmar was opposed to domestic legislation that had extraterritorial effects and had consistently voted in favour of this resolution in past years.
It had been more than 40 years since the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba had been imposed, he recalled. The embargo had harmed the Cuban people, especially vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women and children. It had no useful purpose, but only deprived the people of both countries of cultural, social and economic interaction and deterred other countries from engaging fruitfully with the Cuban people. The embargo should be lifted.
Firmly believing that differences among Member States should be settled by peaceful means such as dialogue and negotiations, he said that Myanmar had been encouraged to see some positive developments in recent years. He hoped that such engagement would lead finally to the normalization of relations, which would be in the best interests of both peoples and of benefit in establishing peace and security in Central America and the Caribbean region.
MWELWA MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) commended the Cuban delegation for introducing the draft resolution on the subject, which he deemed important. As it had done over the past ten years, Zambia would vote in favour of the resolution, once again calling for an end to the embargo, because it believed in the sovereign equality of States and non-interference in their internal affairs. States, he said, should coexist peacefully.
On the basis of that foreign policy position, Zambia viewed the embargo imposed on Cuba as a breach of international law and a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter. The extra-territoriality of the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts infringed upon the sovereignty of other States and was an impediment to international navigation and free trade, as embodied in the provision of the World Trade Organization.
The embargo limited Cuba’s development, he claimed, and it also undermined the commitments of the Millennium Declaration which were made in New York in September 2002. In view of the various humanitarian considerations, his delegation called on the international community to redouble its efforts to have the embargo on Cuba lifted because it only served to hurt the most vulnerable groups in that country. He hoped that the draft resolution to end the embargo would be the last one to come before the Assembly.
STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), speaking for the 14 member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his delegation joined with Member States who had expressed the need to bring to an end the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.
The CARICOM States wished to reaffirm the importance they attached to the strict observance of the principles of international law and to freedom of trade and navigation. They remained opposed to the “extraterritorial application” of national legislation which would seek to impose artificial barriers to trade and cooperation, and which was contrary to the principle of the sovereign equality of States.
He said that CARICOM members called for a constructive process of dialogue and normalization of relations, which would be in the interest of all parties. It would remove a source of tension and conflict and improve the prospects for peaceful development in their region.
ALEG IVANOU (Belarus) said that last year his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution as did the majority of Member States, thus reaffirming its support for the principles of the sovereignty of States, non-interference and free trade relations. Belarus had consistently opposed the imposition of unilateral measures, the extraterritorial impact of which affected other States. Pursuant to international law, his country did not apply and had no intention of ever applying such measures. International disputes must be resolved only through negotiation.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said his country had on numerous occasions expressed its displeasure with the embargo, which the United States had imposed on Cuba for more than 40 years. And although Member States had pronounced the application of extraterritorial measures invalid, there was a steady strengthening of the embargo instead of steps being taken to end it.
For its part, Namibia had repeatedly and consistently advocated an end to the embargo because it believed that the Helms-Burton Act and the D’Amato legislation were against international law and violated the principles of the United Nations Charter. In addition, they were contrary to the spirit of globalization, peaceful coexistence and open trade. The unjustifiable embargo also inflicted suffering on the Cuban people and hindered that country’s development.
He said Namibia upheld the principles of sovereignty of States and non-interference in their affairs, and considered it a right of the international community to reject the embargo. His country called for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the embargo and would therefore vote in favour of the draft resolution calling for its end.
DAUDI NGELAUTWA MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said the United States embargo imposed on Cuba was a serious negation of the United Nations Charter both in letter and in spirit. The embargo against Cuba had seriously violated not only the Charter and international law but also the principles of free trade and navigation. Cuba had managed to institute world class health and educational systems, even while under the embargo. Those achievements would have been even greater but for the blockade.
In the era of globalization, he said, the emphasis was on open borders. Unilateral measures ran counter to the very essence of globalization. The United States had no intention of making any movement on easing restrictions, but asserted that the embargo would continue to be vigorously enforced. It was urgent to lift the embargo once and for all. Coercive measures were counterproductive. The sooner they were ended, the better for international concord. Given the overwhelming appeal for unilateral measures to be stopped, he hoped that the United States would revisit its position.
MOHAMMAD SALMAN (Iraq) said that while the international community had expected a positive response from the United States to General Assembly resolutions, successive American administrations had moved in the opposite direction tightening their embargo on Cuba. That embargo had created immense difficulties for the Cuban people to achieve economic and social development, and for Cuba to eradicate poverty and improve living standards. The insistence of the United States to continue its policy ran counter to the objectives of the United Nations and the norms of international law. The United States authorities had attempted to justify their embargo as an element of their policy to promote democracy in Cuba and affirmed that lifting the embargo was contingent on a regime change there. They said the same about Iraq. That undermined international relations and "took them back to the laws of