For the tenth year in a row, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution on the need to end the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.
The resolution was adopted today by a vote of 167 in favour to 3 against - Israel, the Marshall Islands and the United States - with Latvia, Micronesia, and Nicaragua abstaining on the ballot. It reiterated the Assembly's call on all States to refrain from applying laws and measures, such as the Helms-Burton Act, which have extraterritorial effects affecting the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction, and the freedom of trade and navigation. States continuing to apply such laws and measures were once again urged to "repeal or invalidate" them as soon as possible.
In addition, the resolution requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan to prepare a report on the text’s implementation for the Assembly’s next session, which will also consider an item on the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
Introducing the text to the Assembly, Cuba's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Felipe Perez Roque, said that following Hurricane Michelle's devastation in Cuba earlier this month, Washington had declared its willingness to assess the country's need for assistance. Nothing like this had happened during more than 40 years of tense Cuba-US relations, he noted. But although Havana had requested that Washington - on this exceptional occasion - allow Cuban State-run companies to purchase food, medicines and raw material from the US, arrangements could not be made.
The Foreign Minister said the illegal blockade against Cuba violated the UN Charter as well as the Geneva Conventions, while depriving the Cuban people of access to food and medicine - an action prohibited by international law even in times of war. In addition, he said, the blockade did not enjoy majority support in the United States and had been rejected by the international community.
Speaking for the US, Ambassador James Cunningham said the country's embargo against the Government of Cuba was a matter of bilateral trade policy, and not an issue the Assembly should consider. "The goal of our policy is to foster a transition to a democratic form of government, to protect human rights, to help develop a civil society and to provide for the economic prosperity that the Cuban government's retrograde economic policies are denying the Cuban people."