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UN General Assembly Condemns US Economic Embargo of Cuba - 2003-11-04

The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution condemning the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba. All but Washington's staunchest allies joined the chorus of critics.

It has become an annual ritual. For the 12th year in a row, the General Assembly has passed a resolution urging Washington to end trade and economic sanctions against Fidel Castro's government. This time the vote was 179 to three, with two abstentions.

The only countries to join the United States in opposition were Israel and the Marshall Islands. Two other countries, Morocco and Micronesia, abstained.

Standing to defend Washington's position against the tide of criticism, U.S. representative Sichan Siv, evoked murmurs of surprise from his audience when he used a line made famous by California's Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Terminator movie. "Cuba's best day is when the Cuban people have terminated Castro's evil communist dictatorial regime and said to him, 'hasta la vista, baby'," he said.

By contrast, Cuba's representative Felipe Perez Roque received raucous applause after a speech in which he put aside his prepared remarks to issue an angry denunciation of the U.S. diplomat's comments. "I regret that the representative of the United States is not entitled to rest of his life to get back the opportunity say hasta la vista baby to people of Cuba, it is the people of Cuba, with the backing of the international community that will say hasta la vista to the blockade, hasta la vista to genocide," he said.

Mr. Roque described the embargo as genocide intended to create conditions to provoke hunger and disease in Cuba.

Washington slapped its embargo on Cuba after Fidel Castro took power and defeated a CIA-backed assault on the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Ambassador Siv, presenting the U.S. position, said the embargo would be lifted when Cuba changes its human rights record and opens its system to trade.

The General Assembly has approved a measure condemning the embargo every year since 1992. This year's margin was the largest so far.