General Assembly votes overwhelmingly against US Cuba embargo
The UN General Assembly on Thursday voted by a large margin against the United States’ economic and trade embargo against Cuba, first imposed in 1960. A total of 187 States voted for the resolution put forward each year against the embargo with only the US and Israel voting against and Ukraine abstaining.
The resolution’s full title is the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”.
The Assembly voiced concern that despite its resolutions dating back to 1992 (Resolution 47/19), “the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba is still in place”, and that "the adverse effects of such measures on the Cuban people and on Cuban nationals living in other countries”.
It recalled measures adopted by then US President Barack Obama in 2015 and 2016 “to modify several aspects of the application of the embargo, which contrast with the measures applied since 2017 to reinforce its implementation”.
The General Assembly reiterated its call for all States to refrain from promulgating and applying such restrictive laws and measures, in line with their obligations under the UN Charter and international law.
Click here for the full text of the resolution.
That’s it for our live coverage of this annual meeting that once again, left just the US and Israel backing the more than 60 year old Washington policy to maintain economic and trade restrictions on Cuba, born out of the land and property seizures in the wake of the Castro-led Cuban revolution of 1959.
The General Assembly has adjourned.
In explaining its vote, the Representative of the United States, Paul Folmsbee, said that his country “stands resolutely” with the Cuban people.
“We strongly support their pursuit of a future with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he said, noting that sanctions are “one set of tools” in the US’ broader effort towards encouraging Cuba to advance democracy and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
He said the US recognizes the challenges the Cuban people face, explaining that sanctions include exemptions and authorizations relating to exports of food, medicines, and other humanitarian goods to Cuba.
“The US opposes this resolution,” he said, encouraging the General Assembly to urge the Cuban Government to adhere to its human rights obligations “and listen to the Cuban people and their aspirations to determine their own future.”
Several countries are taking the opportunity to explain why they voted, including Timor Leste and Sri Lanka, speaking now.
Cuba’s finished speaking. And now for the vote...
Those in favour: 187
Those against: 2 (the US and Israel)
Abstentions: 1 (Ukraine)
The Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, is introducing the draft resolution now... He says the more than 60-year blockade violates the rights of all Cuban men and women.
Families lack goods, there are long queues, excessively high prices, and the Government makes great efforts to feed its people. He said the blockade deprives the agricultural industry of funds to buy animal fodder, industrial equipment and other necessities for food production.
Despite wavers on food products, the US is violating rules of international trade, he said.
“Cuba is prevented from buying from US companies and its subsidiaries in third countries, equipment, technologies, medical devices and end use pharmaceuticals, and is therefore forced to acquire them at exorbitant prices by way of intermediaries or to replace them with less-effective generic drugs,” he said, citing testimony from Cuban families wrestling with serious illnesses.
“How different could [their] lives have been, if Cuba was not prevented from acquiring directly from the US market the [medications] to prevent the spasms,” he wondered.
The Minister recalled the situation during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the challenges to acquire medical oxygen and the need for the US Government to grant a special licence for that transaction, “even during the pandemic”, which reflected the inhumane nature of the policy.
He said 80 per cent of the population has never known life without the crippling US blockade. It is “an act of economic warfare, in times of peace”, creating a situation of ungovernability and an attempt to destroy the constitutional order, he added.
He said Cuba was not threat at all to the US and that to subject a small nation for decades to economic warfare, was unacceptable. The whole country was being deprived of the right to progress, through an “illegal, cruel and inhumane policy”, he said.
He reiterated Cuba’s support to and solidarity with Palestinian people, who were currently being massacred on their own illegally occupied land. “These barbaric acts must stop”, he added, referring to the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
The Cuban foreign minister said the US had been pressuring banks worldwide not to deal with his nation, becoming victims of US hostility and it’s harmful impact on the global financial system, he added.
He pointed out that the blockade separated Cuban families and deprives US citizens of their right to visit Cuba.
The “tightening economic siege” has been accompanied by a disinformation campaign against Cuba, he said, seeking to destabilize and discredit the country. He said there was a “media crusade” in the US aimed at encouraging discontent and a false impression of domestic political crisis.
He said he appreciated the support of more than 40 countries during the course of the two day debate.
Cuba would “continue to build bridges with the people of the US” and all emigres living abroad, he said, and never cease to defend their “free and sovereign homeland”, supporting its continuing transformation.
The Representative of Gabon, Ambassador Aurélie Flore Koumba Pambo, voiced her country’s concern over the continuing embargo.
“The scale of its impact is more and more harmful to the Cuban people,” she said, noting that the “economic blockade is a “clearly a hostile act to region and continental cohesion”.
Speaking on behalf of her country - currently serving on the Security Council - she said the embargo stood against international law, the UN Charter and normal measures that “govern peaceful relations between States.” She said had a negative impact on culture, public health and the wellbeing of Cuba's people.
“It is the main obstacle to the social and economic development of Cuba”, she added.
Paula Narváez Ojeda, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Chile, reaffirmed her country’s conviction that the implementation of unilateral coercive measures runs counter to international law
“Chile does not agree with the imposition of unilateral sanctions of any kind, the only legitimate sanctions are those adopted by the Security Council in the exercise of its authority for the maintenance of international peace and security,” she said, referring to the responsibilities of the Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
She noted that the economic embargo is an anachronism from a bygone age and must be ended once and for all.
The President, or PGA as the UN acronym goes, has just formally begun proceedings. This is the 26th plenary meeting of the world body since the 78th session began in September.
The first to speak will be Peru, with 16 countries due to speak before the vote is due to take place.
Ambassador Luis Ugarelli said his country “shares the view of practically the entire international community” that the embargo is against the principles of the UN Charter and international human rights law, saying his country would support the resolution, as it has done for more than 30 years.
The session is just about to get underway under the gavel of the President of the General Assembly, Dennis Francis. Delegates are still filing in to the gilded Hall at UN Headquarters.
The US imposed the embargo in response to the revolution led by Fidel Castro and subsequent nationalization of property belonging to US citizens under the new Government.
A thaw in diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Obama administration in 2016 led the US to abstain on the resolution for the first time, but the US reverted to opposing the measure in 2017.
For a look back at the state of relations in the General Assembly when the US embargo was first imposed, here's a video from our Stories From the UN Archive series featuring the longest address in history by the youthful Cuban leader:
The resolution has been overwhelmingly passed each time, but the pattern of voting has been carefully analyzed as a snapshot of current geopolitical alliances and tensions.
Debate on the resolution began yesterday and continues today at 10 AM New York time, with Cuba and US among the key countries expected to take the floor today.
Yesterday saw an overwhelming number of Member States underscore the many harmful and long-lasting consequences the decades-long embargo has had on the Caribbean island nation.
Many cited the Secretary-General’s report on the impact on Cuba’s overall human development, with the Assembly calling for the embargo to be lifted every year the resolution has been debated.
Click here to catch up on the discussions from Wednesday, from the UN Meetings Coverage Section
Para seguir la cobertura en español pulse en este enlace
Action on the draft
At the end of the debate, action is expected on the draft resolution entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
This item has been a regular fixture on the Assembly’s agenda, and the body has, in previous years, voted overwhelmingly in favour of an end to the measures.
Last year for instance, 185 Member States voted in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (Brazil, Ukraine), expressing concern about the adverse effects of such measures on the Cuban people and on Cuban nationals living in other countries.