For the 13th year in a row, the United Nations General Assembly today overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for an end to the 40-year-old commercial, economic and financial embargo by the United States against Cuba and objecting to laws and regulations compelling third countries to adhere to it.
The resolution passed with a vote of 179 in favour, four - the Marshall Islands, the United States, Israel and Palau - against and the Federated States of Micronesia abstaining.
US Ambassador Oliver Garza told the Assembly the resolution was trying to blame the United States for "the failed economic policies of the communist regime in Cuba" and to divert attention from the Caribbean island's human rights record.
"Let us remember that the United States is the single largest source of humanitarian assistance to Cuba. Remittances from US persons to Cuba have been estimated at close to $1 billion annually," he said.
Since last month, Mr. Garza said, the Cuban Government no longer issued new licenses for 40 categories of self-employment, including running a small restaurant in one's home "or even be a clown at a children's party."
Cuba's Foreign Minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, said justifying using the blockade to improve human rights on the island was a distortion and a diversion because the US Government had the least moral credibility globally to speak of human rights, given its unilateral wars that violated international law and the UN Charter.
The United States had also prevented Cuba from using the US dollar as a trading currency. This was why President Fidel Castro had announced 72 hours ago that he would replace the dollar with "the convertible Cuban peso."
In its resolution the Assembly said since its first resolution on the matter in 1992, the United States had taken further measures to strengthen and extend the restrictions, which adversely affected the Cuban people at home and abroad.
It also expressed concern about the implementation of laws and regulations, such as the United States' Helms-Burton Act of March 1996, "the extraterritorial effects of which affect the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interest of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation."
It noted that the declarations and resolutions of different Governments, intergovernmental forums and bodies had rejected those laws and regulations and it called on all states to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.
While criticizing the current state of human rights in Cuba, Arjan Paul Hamburger of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, repeated that the US trade policy towards Cuba should be purely bilateral and not have extraterritorial implications for third nations.
Other speakers on the resolution included the representatives of Qatar on behalf of the Group of 77, Brazil on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Jamaica on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Mexico and China.