Tuesday, October 29, 2013

U.N. Condemns Cuba Embargo…Again

For the 22nd consecutive year, the United Nations (U.N.) passed a resolution against a decades long U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

A whopping 188 of the 193 member nations of the U.N. General Assembly condemned the embargo while the U.S. and Israel where the only states to reject the resolution.

"Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at the General Assembly. "The human damages caused by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba are incalculable,” he mentioned though he also claimed that the “blockade” has caused $1.1 billion in “economic damages” to Cuba.

Speaking in the name of the South American Mercosur bloc, Venezuelan ambassador to the U.N. Samuel Moncada blasted the embargo as “the main obstacle to the economic development of Cubans” and a “violation against the principles of justice and human rights.”

Meanwhile, the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean alleged that the embargo and the U.S. labeling Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” have negated any “progress in the process of reforming” the island’s economy.

In response to the criticism of the embargo, senior U.S. adviser for Western Hemisphere affairs Ronald Godard claimed “Our sanctions policy toward Cuba is just one of the tools in our overall effort to urge respect for the civil and human rights.  He tied to downplay Rodriguez’ comments by noting that $2 billion in remittances were sent to Cuba from the U.S. in 2012 and that the island’s government “silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly (and), impedes independent journalism.”

The embargo was enacted in 1962 after the Cuban government nationalized U.S.-owned asset on the island and it was significantly strengthened with the approval of the Helms–Burton Act in 1996.  The historically frigid relations between the U.S. and Cuba have somewhat thawed in recent years though the embargo remains as one of the biggest sources of disagreement between both countries.

A 2009 Gallup poll found that 51% of people in the U.S. would favor dropping the embargo on Cuba while three out of five respondents backed normalizing relations with the island.

As we mentioned last month, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba urged reconciliation between Cubans of differing opinions and with “respect for differences.”

The U.N. General Assembly’s actions occurred roughly one year after Hurricane Sandy swept wreaked havoc across the Caribbean before causing damage to the eastern seaboard of the U.S.  The destructive effects of the storm on countries like Cuba was emphasized by one senior official at the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP):
“Because of socio-economic vulnerabilities, people in developing countries are often less prepared for a large event and unfortunately are not as quick to bounce back or recover,” said Jo Scheuer, UNDP Coordinator of Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery. 
“While the mainland US suffered greater losses in terms of total fatalities and the extent of damage, for the Caribbean nations, Cuba and Haiti in particular, the storm was comparatively more expensive – having a much more profound impact on local livelihoods and the GDP,” Mr. Scheuer said, adding that in Haiti, the storm intensified the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010 earthquake.
Video Source– YouTube via NTDTV (In November 2012, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly backed a resolution condemning the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba).

Online Sources – UN.org; The Raw Story; Milenio; GlobalPost; Miami Herald; Huffington Post; The Latin Americanist; AFP

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