US totally humiliated by UN vote

Campaign News | Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Crushing defeat for Bush administration

United Nations, Nov 8 (Prensa Latina) Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque stressed on Wednesday the double defeat of Washington at the UN General Assembly, where a resolution against the US blockade on Cuba was approved by a record vote for the 15th consecutive year.

It is a historic victory, the minister told Prensa Latina, and while it is not the first time the Cuban resolution against the blockade obtained an enormous number of votes (183-4), it is the first time there is overwhelming rejection by the General Assembly of US attempts to criticize a supposed violation of human rights in Cuba, he said.

Australia attempted to amend the Cuban resolution by adding a paragraph saying that the U.S. measures were motivated by "valid concerns" about the lack of freedom in Cuba and called on Havana to release political prisoners.

This was defeated by 126 to 51 and five abstentions. The European Union supported the Australian human rights amendment but voted for the resolution on lifting the embargo because of US regulations that punish foreign firms, said Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen of Finland.

The Cuban motion was supported by 183 of the 191 countries represented at the UN General Assembly, the greatest support achieved in 15 years.

The Cuban proposal presented by the foreign minister had four votes against (the United States, Israel, Marshall Islands, and Palau), and one abstention (Micronesia).

Perez Roque said: "The United States has been defeated twice today, by an overwhelming vote, when it tried to isolate and block Cuba."

In his statements, Perez Roque said “Wednesday?s vote reflects the Cuban Revolution?s prestige and authority, and is also an expression of the huge international sympathy that the struggle of the Cuban people arouses.

“Referring to Australia?s role, as promoter of a failed amendment to the resolution, Perez Roque said that “Australia was a last-minute figurehead.”

He added that the US was the source of the maneuver intended to distract the UN's attention from the economic blockade against the island.

Speaking before the UN's general assembly, Perez Roque said Washington representatives finally swayed Australia to present an amendment for the Cuban resolution against the blockade, after failing to convince any European delegations to back the American plan, reported Prensa Latina news agency.

Perez Roque pointed out that Washington won the Australian support after making a top-level call to the Foreign Affairs Ministry of that oceanic country.

In response to the Australian action, the Cuban minister said Australia has no moral authority to refer to the human rights situation in Cuba, and called the country "the puppet" used by the US to propose its amendment.

The Australian government is an accomplice of American imperialism, a sort of "pocket imperialism," that is always willing to follow its mentors in Washington, he added.

Perez Roque remarked that the Australian government has no moral ground to criticize Cuba while it submits its own indigenous population to a truly apartheid regime and supports the torture center kept by the US in the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo in Cuba.

The Cuban foreign minister expressed his conviction that the General Assembly can not be misled or manipulated, requesting that the Cuban motion of no action in response to the Australian amendment be voted on, before voting in favor of the resolution.

UN overwhelmingly votes against US embargo on Cuba

From the Washington Post

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. General Assembly told the United States on Wednesday to lift its four-decade old trade embargo against Cuba in a resolution adopted for the 15th consecutive year with near unanimous support.

The vote was a record 183 to 4 with one abstention on a resolution submitted by South Africa. It called on Washington to lift its "economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba," particularly provisions affecting foreign nationals

Voting "no" with the United States were Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau. Micronesia abstained. Nicaragua and Iraq did not vote.

Australia attempted to amend the document by adding a paragraph saying that the U.S. measures were motivated by "valid concerns" about the lack of freedom in Cuba and called on Havana to release political prisoners.

This fared a bit better but still was defeated by 126 to 51 and five abstentions. The European Union supported the Australian human rights amendment but voted for the resolution on lifting the embargo because of U.S. regulations that punish foreign firms, said Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen of Finland.

The measure is nonbinding and has had no impact on the United States. The Bush administration has tightened the embargo, including restrictions on visits to Cuba, travel and remittances to families.

Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told the assembly the U.S. embargo prevented Havana from getting even modest credits from the World Bank and other institutions, prevented Cuba's trade with subsidiaries of U.S. corporations abroad and barred foreign businessmen from the United States if they invested in Cuba.

"The economic war unleashed by the U.S. against Cuba, the longest and most ruthless ever know, qualifies as an act of genocide and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law," Perez Roque said.

And he said President George W. Bush approved a new measure that would deny exports of medical equipment used in health care programs for foreign patients.

But U.S. envoy, Ambassador Ronald Godard, said the embargo was a bilateral issue between the United States and Cuba and not a matter for the General Assembly.

"We maintain this embargo so that the benefits of U.S. food and medical sales go to the Cuban people," Godard said..

He denied that Washington limited the European Union's relations with "third countries" and said the Cuban government should institute "free market reforms" and human rights instead of blaming the United States for its economic hardships.

All Latin American countries supported the resolution. Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Enrique Berruga said U.N. agencies, such as UNICEF, reported that the embargo was harmful to Cuban children because of difficulties in acquiring equipment for victims of cancer and to purify water.

British Tory Lord expresses opposition to US blockade

US policy 'going nowhere' says Lord Moynihan

Havana, Nov 8 (Prensa Latina) Pro-Cuba British in Havana have expressed their rejection to the over 40 US government blockade on the Caribbean country, the local media reported on Wednesday.

In a statement to the Cuban daily Juventud Rebelde, the co-president of Cuba Initiative program, Conservative Lord Colin Moyniham, said that Washington's economic blockade on the Cuban people "has no sense and leads nowhere."

Accompanied by the director of Cuba Initiative, David Jessop, Moyniham maintained that if he could vote at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, he would do so against the US blockade.

The co-president highlighted the fruitful cooperation derived from his non-governmental project, founded in 1995 and aimed at informing the British people on the Cuba reality and strengthening links between both countries.

Cuba confident UN vote will condemn US trade embargo

HAVANA: Cuba is confident that most of the world will condemn the U.S. trade embargo against the island in a U.N. vote on Wednesday, but it doesn't expect any change as long as U.S. President George W. Bush remains in power.

Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said the United States has repeatedly ignored the resolution in previous years and, in the current political climate, is likely to do so again.

"We don't have even a millimeter of hope that the blockade will be reduced or weakened in Bush's remaining two years," he told The Associated Press before flying to U.N. headquarters in New York via Canada on Monday. "To the contrary, we are prepared for persecution against Cuba to increase."

The U.N. General Assembly has condemned the U.S. trade and travel sanctions against communist Cuba for 14 straight years, urging the United States to end the policy. Last year's U.N. resolution was approved by a 182-4 vote, with Micronesia abstaining and only the United States, Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau opposed.

"We are very hopeful that the international community will give forceful support to the battle of the Cuban people" once again, Perez Roque said.

The minister acknowledged that the vote is mainly symbolic since it hasn't lead to a change in U.S. policy, but said it nonetheless has "great political value."

It also serves to show that the United States is isolated in its policies, he said.

"The U.S. blockade is a symbol without equal of tyranny, arrogance, and lack of scruples," he said.

The embargo severely affects Cuba's economy, foreign trade, and health, education and cultural sectors. The island's government says it has lost US$86 billion (€67 billion) in trade since the first U.S. sanctions were imposed in 1960, a year after the Cuban revolution thrust Fidel Castro into power.

The worst moment in the embargo's long history, however, is right now, Perez Roque said.

"This vote coincides with the moment in which the blockade is being applied in the most ferocious and strict way, with more fury and hatred than ever," he said.

The Bush administration has steadily tightened the embargo. This cost the island more than US$4 billion (€3 billion) over the last year, said Perez Roque, who cited tighter scrutiny of nickel exports and Cuban use of dollars in international transactions as well as decreased travel to Cuba by Americans, particularly Cuban-Americans, afraid of sanctions.

U.S. officials defend the embargo - which allows the sale of some U.S. food and medicine to Cuba - saying unfettered trade and travel to the island would prop up Castro's communist government. They say Cuba's imprisonment of dissidents and restrictions on economic and political freedoms justify the policy, aimed at pushing Castro and his associates out.

Critics say the embargo, launched during the Cold War, is outdated and has not worked, given that Castro's government remains in power and the nation is still communist. They also point out that the United States trades with other communist countries such as China and Vietnam.

Perez Roque said that a spotlight will shine on the U.S. government's "cruel" policies on Wednesday at the U.N. vote.

"On one side, there's the empire, militarily and economically powerful but void of any noble ideas," he said of the United States. "On that side will be the government that violates international laws ... and believes in pre-emptive war.

"On the other side will be Cuba and the countries that support Cuba, those of us who believe in a multilateral world ... and all people's right to peace."

Democrats and free-trade Republicans in the U.S. Congress also have pushed for easing the sanctions, but they have yet to make headway against an administration determined to keep up the pressure.

Perez Roque said a victory by Democrats in Tuesday's U.S. elections could help, but doesn't envision major change regarding Cuba until Americans choose a new leader in 2008.

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