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US Votes Against UN Measure to Lift Economic Embargo on Cuba

  • Margaret Besheer

United Nations Ambassador from U.S. Nikki Haley address U.N. Security Council meeting on Myanmar's Rohingya crisis, Sept. 28, 2017, at U.N. headquarters.

The United States voted Wednesday against ending its nearly 60-year-old economic embargo on Cuba at the U.N. General Assembly.

The shift back to a “no” vote, came a year after Washington abstained for the first time under former President Barack Obama’s administration, which was working to normalize ties with Havana at the time. Obama’s efforts included making an historic trip to the island nation and reopening an embassy there.

“No doubt there will be some here who do not understand how we can take such opposite positions, separated by just 12 months,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the General Assembly.

She then went on to say that as long as the Cuban people are deprived of rights and freedoms, the United States would not allow trade revenue to “prop up the dictatorial regime.”

A vintage American car is parked in front of the Inglaterra hotel in Havana, Cuba, June 17, 2017.
A vintage American car is parked in front of the Inglaterra hotel in Havana, Cuba, June 17, 2017.

Symbolic Vote

For the past 26 years, the U.N. General Assembly has held an annual vote condemning the economic, commercial and financial blockade, which was imposed during the Cold War. The United States is traditionally isolated, with only Israel joining it in opposition.

That was the case again this year, with 191 countries supporting ending the embargo and only the United States and Israel opposing it.

“The United States does not fear isolation in this chamber or anywhere else,” Haley said. “As long as we are members of the United Nations, we will stand for respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms that the member states of this body have pledged to protect, even if we have to stand alone,” she said.

She criticized the annual vote as “political theater,” noting that the General Assembly does not have the power to end the embargo, only the U.S. Congress does.

Haley then went on to address the Cuban people directly, saying many of them were hopeful about the opening up of bilateral relations and that U.S. friendship towards them would not change.

“What you probably don’t know is that your government responded to this gesture of good will, not by joining in the spirit in which it was offered, but by expanding its politically motivated detentions, harassment, and violence against those who advocate for political and economic freedom in Cuba,” Haley said.

FILE - Rays from the setting sun shine on the facade of the United States Embassy, in Havana, Cuba, Oct. 14, 2017.
FILE - Rays from the setting sun shine on the facade of the United States Embassy, in Havana, Cuba, Oct. 14, 2017.

Strange sonic attacks

President Donald Trump has blamed Cuba for mysterious sonic attacks that sickened and injured 24 U.S. diplomats and others earlier this year in Havana. U.S. investigators still do not know exactly who and what caused the injuries, but 15 Cuban diplomats were expelled from Washington in retaliation.

Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, dismissed Trump’s charges, saying of the administration, “they lie when they talk of attacks or incidents.” He noted that the Americans lack “the slightest proof” and that the investigations have not finished.

“Without any conclusions from on-going investigations available, the U.S. government has adopted new political measures against Cuba which further tighten the blockade and affect bilateral relations as a whole,” he said referring to steps taken by President Trump in June that include new travel restrictions.

Of the embargo, Rodriguez warned that Trump would be “one more (U.S.) president implementing a policy that means a return to the past.”

U.N. member states overwhelming support lifting the embargo, saying it is the main obstacle to Cuba's economic and social development.

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