Archive for October, 2011

Speakers Denounce Cuban Embargo As ‘Sad Echo’ of Failed Cold War Politics

October 26, 2011

25 October 2011
 General Assembly
GA/11162 

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Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

41st & 42nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Denounce Cuban Embargo As ‘Sad Echo’ of Failed Cold War Politics;
 General Assembly, for Twentieth Year, Demands Lifting of Economic Blockade
Obama Administration Speaking with Voice of Republican Predecessors,
 Cuban Foreign Minister Says of Washington’s ‘Worn Out, Repetitive Position’Drawing parallels to recent political uprisings in defence of freedom and self-determination, General Assembly delegates today again denounced the decades-old economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, voting overwhelmingly to adopt the world body’s twentieth consecutive resolution calling for an end to the measures.

The resolution – adopted by a recorded vote of 187 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with 3 abstentions (Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau) — reaffirmed the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention in their internal affairs and freedom of trade and navigation as paramount to the conduct of international affairs.  (For details of the vote, see Annex.)

By the text, the Assembly expressed concern at the continued application of the 1996 “Helms-Burton Act” — which extended the embargo’s reach to countries trading with Cuba — and whose extraterritorial effects impacted both State sovereignty and the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction.  It reiterated the call on States to refrain from applying such measures, in line with their obligations under the United Nations Charter, urging those that had applied such laws to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.
Introducing the resolution before the vote, Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said that the United States “hostile and aggressive” policy had not changed for the last 50 years.  Rather, Washington had taken measures to strengthen its “siege” on his island nation in a “cruel and opportunistic” manner.  Cuba was still unable to freely export or import products to the United States, while Cuban companies were banned from trading with American companies or their subsidiaries in third party States.
In addition, entrepreneurs interested in investing in Cuba could not do so, hampering the economic development of the nation.  The total direct economic damage imposed by the blockade was estimated to exceed $975 billion, he said, and even humanitarian aid was restricted, leading to suffering among the Cuban people.
In 1991 – when the General Assembly had first decided to include the current item in its agenda – it had seemed impossible that the discussion would continue 20 years later, he said.  Indeed, for the two decades the Assembly had been calling for an end to the embargo, the United States had not heeded to the majority opinion of Member States.  He recalled that United States President Barack Obama had recently responded with a “non-committal refusal” to an offer made by the Cuban Government to hold a dialogue on items on the bilateral agenda, preferring, it seemed, to stick to the same worn out, repetitive position anchored in the past”.  Nevertheless, Cuba’s proposal to move towards normalization of relations and to expand bilateral cooperation with the United States still stood.
Taking the floor immediately after that address, the United States’ delegate countered that his Government was, in fact, open to a new relationship with Cuba, which could begin if the Cuban Government began to respect the human rights of its citizens.  The resolution before the Assembly did not reflect current realities, he said; that text, with its “stale rhetoric” was designed to “confuse and obscure” the real relationship between the United States and Cuba.
Indeed, he said, this annual exercise by the Assembly attempted, “to no good end”, to obscure some fundamental truths.  The Cuban Government’s own policy was the largest obstacle to the country’s own development, concentrating political and economic decisions in the hands of the few and stifling economic growth.
The United States was, in fact, a leading source of food and humanitarian aid to Cuba.  He said that in 2010 alone, the island nation had received some $3.5 billion in total sales of United States goods, including some $360 million in agricultural products.  The United States had also authorized $861 million in humanitarian assistance to Cuba.  Moreover, he emphasized, it was the Cuban Government that had denied its citizens the right to self-determination for over half a century.  He objected to the multilateral discussion of the United States’ relationship with Cuba.  Nations had the right to determine their own bilateral interests in accordance with their own national values, he said, and that included international relationships.
Many of the nearly 40 speakers throughout the day-long discussion alluded to the sweeping changes – known as the “Arab Spring” – that had recently led thousands of people in the Middle East and North Africa to realize their right to self-determination and to steer the course of their own development.  In light of those “unexpected and profound” political changes, said the representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the application of justice could not be confined to the national level.  It should also extend to the international arena and to relationships between Member States.
It was “utterly troubling” that, to this day, “the screws of an unfair and unwarranted blockade […] are still being tightened” against Cuba, he said.  Nevertheless, the punitive measures imposed against that country had persisted, “and with them endures the suffering of its brave people”.  He urged the United States to promptly end the embargo and, “once and for all”, to listen to the will of the overwhelming majority of the international community.
Echoing that call, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said that, half a century ago, the world had witnessed a “Cuban Spring” in the form of an indigenous and popular uprising against a brutal dictator.  They had chosen for themselves a new path of progress, global citizenship and development which was guided by the fulfilment of the needs of its citizens, particularly the poor.
Some States had not greeted that uprising with the same enthusiasm with which they welcomed, assisted or instigated other, subsequent revolutionary movements, she added.  Instead, the embargo imposed on Cuba had been an “unmitigated failure” and had only caused suffering to its people.  Indeed, while other unjust and antiquated structures had fallen, it alone remained as the last relic of a Cold War that otherwise only existed in the history books.
The representative of Viet Nam agreed, emphasizing that – even as the estimated loss and damages caused by the embargo approached $1 trillion – the suffering of the Cuban people transcended that “staggering” figure.  “The basis of the [embargo’s] policies and measures is a violation of the right of a people to self-determination,” he stressed, adding that all people had the right, among other things, to determine their own political system and their path to development.
Also speaking today was the Minister of State for External Affairs of India, as was the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia.
Representatives of the following countries also spoke: Argentina (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Kazakhstan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC)), Uruguay (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)), Mexico, Venezuela, China, Algeria, South Africa, Belarus, Indonesia, Solomon Islands and the Russian Federation.
Also speaking in explanation of vote before the vote was Nicaragua’s delegate.
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote were the representatives of Poland (on behalf of the European Union), Namibia, Zambia, Iran, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, Nigeria, Myanmar, Brazil, Syria, Gambia, Sudan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Argentina, United Republic of Tanzania and Angola.
The representative of Cuba took the floor in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 26 October to consider the reports of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

Background

The General Assembly met today to consider the Secretary-General’s report on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (document A/66/114), which summarizes the responses of 142 Governments and 26 United Nations bodies, received as at 11 July 2011, following a request by the Secretary-General on that matter.  Replies received after that date will be reproduced in addenda to the present report.
In its 28-page submission to the report, the Cuban Government calls the embargo an act of “genocide”, as understood in the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and an act of “economic war” under the terms of the Declaration concerning the laws of naval war, adopted by the Naval Conference of London in 1909.  “Despite the official rhetoric that attempts to convince the international public opinion that the current United States Government has introduced positive policy changes, Cuba is still unable to trade with subsidiaries of United States companies in third countries”, it states.
“Very conservative estimates” of the direct economic damage to Cubans since December 2010 due to the embargo amounted to $104 billion, Cuba’s submission says.  That figure would have hit $975 billion if it had accounted for the depreciation of the dollar against the price of gold on the international financial market.  The embargo was an “absurd, illegal and morally unsustainable” policy that must be lifted unilaterally, without delay.
DIEGO LIMERES (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, noted that last year’s announcement by the United States on the relaxation of travel restrictions and transfer of remittances had given hope that steps were being taken in the right direction.  But a year later, it was clear that those measures had had only limited effect and that the embargo was still in place.  Largely unchanged, it continued to impose severe economic and financial restrictions on Cuba that negatively impacted the well-being of its people.  Further, it frustrated efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The embargo against Cuba contravened the fundamental norms of international law, international humanitarian law, the United Nations Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States, violating the principles of the sovereign equality of States and of non-intervention and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs, as the Group of 77 and China had pointed out many times before. 
At the second South-South Summit in Doha in 2005, the Group had rejected the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact and all other forms of coercive economic measures, including unilateral sanctions against developing countries.  Recalling that last year a large majority – 187 Member States – had voted in favour of the draft resolution presented by Cuba, he said that the Group of 77 and China fully supported the current text calling for an end to the embargo and urged all Member States to do so.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled that, recently, “unexpected and profound” political changes in many parts of the world had been sparked by an entrenched longing for justice that had, for too long, been unduly denied.  In that light, his delegation believed that the application of the principle of justice should not be confined to the national level, but should also extend to the international arena.  It should not only govern relations between individuals, but also between Member States.  For that reason, it was “utterly troubling” that, to this day, “the screws of an unfair and unwarranted blockade […] are still being tightened” against one of the Movement’s members.
He said that in the past, Washington claimed that it would reach out to the Cuban people and engage with them, but such encouraging words had regrettably not been translated into concrete actions.  The punitive measures imposed against Cuba had persisted, “and with them endures the suffering of its brave people”.  The direct and indirect damages caused by the embargo were enormous, affecting all sectors of the economy including health, nutrition, agriculture, banking, trade, investment and tourism.  Moreover, the unilateral blockade had an extended effect on companies and citizens from third countries, thus violating their sovereign rights.  The Movement reiterated its deep concern over those harmful impacts, he said, adding that they constituted additional arguments in favour of the prompt elimination of sanctions.
It was astounding that the embargo was maintained when a full 187 Member States had voted last year in favour of the General Assembly resolution that called for its immediate lifting, he said.  “Why should the Cuban people continue to suffer when the international community is almost unanimous in its conviction that the cause of their anguish is unjustified and illegal?” he asked, adding that there were no credible answers to that question.  The Movement once again urged the United States to immediately and fully comply with all General Assembly resolutions calling for the end of the embargo, and “once and for all” listen to the will of the overwhelming majority of the international community.
MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that over the years the General Assembly had categorically and overwhelmingly rejected the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact.  Africa shared the views expressed by the international community in its continued opposition to sanctions against Cuba.  The Assembly called upon all States, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law, to refrain from applying, and/or repeal, laws that had extraterritorial impacts affecting the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation.
Repeated calls by the international community remained unheeded and the “sad and tragic” decades-old United States embargo on Cuba had remained in force, he said.  In the report of the Secretary-General before the Assembly, the majority of the United Nations Member States, including from the African continent and various United Nations entities, categorically rejected the imposition of the embargo on Cuba and called for its lifting.  Given their proximity, Cuba and the United States should be natural partners in trade, commerce and investment.  Given the large number of Americans of Cuban extraction, Cuba and the United States should enjoy warm and fraternal relations in social and cultural affairs among their populations.
Yet, the potential of such economic and commercial ties had sadly remained unrealized, he said, adding:  “Whatever the historical roots of this intergenerational embargo, surely the time has come [for] nations to find the courage and sense of global citizenry to overcome differences and nurture coexistence.”  In conclusion, he reiterated Africa’s opposition to unilateral measures that impinged on the sovereignty of another country, including attempts to extend the application of a country’s laws extraterritorially to other sovereign nations.  Africa once again called for the complete and unequivocal lifting of sanctions and embargo against Cuba.
JANINE COYE-FELSON ( Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), declared the group’s continued unequivocal opposition to the United States’ imposition of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba which had been opposed by the overwhelming majority of the international community for the past 19 consecutive years.  The unilateral imposition of extraterritorial laws on third States was contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the Charter, and the embargo itself ran counter to the principles of multilateralism, international law, sovereignty and free trade that the Organization traditionally championed.
She said the stubborn persistence of the punitive embargo, “apparently impervious to the sustained chorus of international criticism – or logic”, was of particular concern to CARICOM, which shared a history, culture, solidarity and kinship with the Cuban people.  Noting its regional status as the most populous State of the Caribbean region, and an integral part of the Pan-Caribbean process, she stressed that Caribbean ties with Cuba had historical significance, cemented by years of active cooperation at various levels, including in the areas of trade, health care, infrastructure and human resource development.
Continuing, she said the significance of the embargo on the Cuban economy continued to be of great concern to CARICOM, and its humanitarian impact on the Cuban people, especially in the health care and food areas, was particularly saddening.  The inability of Cuba to acquire much needed medical equipment, spare parts and latest generation medications because of the embargo continued to affect adversely the island nation’s health care system.  The situation had not been made any easier by the strengthening and more frequent storms and hurricanes wrought by climate change and Cuba’s geographical susceptibility to those natural disasters.  Given Cuba’s peaceful, generous and cooperative international stance, CARICOM reiterated its support for the right of the Cuban people to self-determination, in a manner beneficial to their social and economic development.  She remained hopeful, however, that the United States’ recent recommitment to multilateralism would result in an increased willingness to consider the opinions and concerns of its global friends and partners on that issue.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan), speaking on behalf of the Council of Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that her delegation stood for the rights of every nation to follow its own development, and in that context, condemned unilateral acts that affected sovereignty and State interests.  “We do not agree with any national regulations that infringe, impede or retard the development of any country, including [in the] economic, commercial and financial spheres,” she said, underlining that the imposition of arbitrary unilateral laws contradicted World Trade Organization (WTO) rules prohibiting measures that hindered free trade and shipping.  Like the “overwhelming majority” of the international community, she called for lifting the Cuban embargo in line with the United Nations Charter and General Assembly resolutions.
JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), regretted that the “blockade policy” against Cuba continued unchanged, and had in fact recorded an increase in the restrictions to Cuba’s financial transactions with third countries, and that conditions were again obstructing the way of a greater openness to a direct dialogue.  MERCOSUR and its Associated States believed that the embargo against Cuba went against the principles of the Charter and contradicted the rules of international law, mainly the equality of States, non-intervention in domestic affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes, as well as the rules of the multilateral trade system and those that obliged the members of the WTO.
He said the embargo, which was also against the principles of justice and human rights, represented a collective punishment, created shortages and suffering to the population, limited and delayed development, and seriously harmed the Cuban economy.  Thus, as a matter of principle, MERCOSUR rejected unilateral and extraterritorial measures and in that sense, condemned the application of coercive unilateral measures against free trade, which caused an irremediable damage to the people’s welfare and obstructed the process of regional integration.  The economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba was an example of obsolete policies that did not have a place in today’s world, he added.
H. E. AHAMED, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, aligning with the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Assembly had repeatedly rejected the imposition of laws with extraterritorial impact and all other forms of coercive economic measures.  It also had called on States to respect the Charter and international law yet despite that, the United States’ embargo against Cuba remained in full force, which severely undermined the credibility of the United Nations.  Indeed, the embargo had brought immense suffering for Cubans and had transgressed a sovereign State’s right to development.
Moreover, it had adversely affected Cuba’s economic prosperity, he said, by denying it access to the United States’ market, investment, technology and financial services, as well as to scientific, educational, cultural and sporting institutions.  The embargo’s extraterritorial application also had severely impacted health care, a Millennium Development Goal, as well as health assistance to developing countries.  There was huge potential to strengthen economic and commercial ties.  Steps taken this year by the United States to reduce restrictions on travel and remittances were positive developments, but they were far from enough to make a fundamental change.  India joined others in calling for an immediate end to the Cuban embargo.  He supported the resolution.
JUAN CARLOS ALURRALDE ( Bolivia) said that the Cold War fear of nuclear attacks had largely ended, but other issues – including the threat of climate change, and others – “now strike fear in our hearts.”  He called on the United States to recall the time of John F. Kennedy, in which an American President had supported the right of the German people to determine their own fate and development.  Indeed, today’s United States President should say “I am Cuban”, in the way that Kennedy had declared “I am a Berliner”.
Those that claimed to support democracy were denying the right to democracy in the Assembly Hall today, he continued.  How long would the world wait for that State to change its attitude?  It was crucial that the United States adhere to the wishes of the vast majority of those in the room.  For those reasons, among others, Bolivia fully supported the draft resolution currently before the Assembly.
LUIS-ALFONSO DE ALBA ( Mexico) said that the draft resolution before the Assembly reflected, for the twentieth consecutive year, the international community’s rejection of the embargo imposed against Cuba.  Mexico was opposed to the use of coercive measures that ran counter to the principles of international law, as well as those of the Charter.  That blockade blatantly contradicted negotiations, diplomacy and dialogue as ways to resolve disputes between States.  Many United Nations agencies and bodies, alongside the report currently before the Assembly, had highlighted the negative effects of he embargo – both those that directly affected the Cuban people and those which had an indirect impact on third party States.
For those reasons, Mexico had supported all resolutions against the United States’ unilateral measures.  It continued to support the inclusion of Cuba in dialogue on economic, financial and commercial matters at the international level.  Mexico’s geographical proximity helped it to understand the plight of Cuba.  Additionally, he said, Mexico felt strongly that multilateralism remained the best way to resolve disputes and to ensure peaceful coexistence between States.  Once again, the near-universal rejection of the embargo showed that the time was ripe for lifting that blockade.
JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) endorsed the statements by the representatives of Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Argentina on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and Uruguay on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).  He echoed the fact that Member States had made a near-universal call from the Assembly to end the embargo against Cuba, which, for more than 50 years, had sought to restrict the right of that country’s people to decide their own fate.  That was an “unequivocal sign” that it was necessary to defend the political independence of States, and the fundamental purposes of the United Nations.  It was shameful that the call was ignored year after year.
In that regard, Venezuela supported the various statements on Cuba that had been approved by several groups and forums worldwide.  It was important to remember that a number of Cuban citizens – namely Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labaňino, Antonio Guerrerro and Fernando Gonzalez Llort – remained detained in the United States for defending their homeland against terrorist attacks.  It was also necessary to remember Rene Gonzalez, who had been released but was forced to remain in the United States.  Under the embargo, legislation such as the Torricelli Act and the Helms-Burton Act restricted trade and imposed restrictions against entrepreneurs who wished to invest in Cuba.
However, the blockade was not an “abstract device imposed against a Government”, but had a daily impact on the lives of women, men and children.  It negatively affected the quality of life of sick people, who were denied medical items whose sale was prohibited in Cuba.  It prevented the import of building materials that were needed to make repairs.  Despite those challenges, Cuba had sustained a generous amount of support to neighbouring and other countries.  For those reasons, he demanded the end to the blockade and to the imposition of international double standards.  “Let us stop allowing the condemnation of the weak,” he stressed, “and the toleration of violations committed by the imperialists of the North”.
WANG MIN ( China) said that for 19 years, the Assembly had adopted, by an overwhelming majority, resolutions on the need to end the Cuban embargo, urging all countries to abide by the Charter and international law, and to repeal measures with extraterritorial effect.  Regrettably, those texts had not been implemented and the Cuban embargo had yet to be lifted, which severely violated the Charter and inflicted enormous economic and financial loss on Cuba.  The embargo had impeded efforts to eradicate poverty and violated Cubans’ basic human rights to food, health and education.
China had always believed that countries should develop mutual relations on the basis of upholding the Charter and respecting the right of others to choose their development paths, he said, adding that China opposed unilateral sanctions imposed by military, political, economic or other means.  Noting that China and Cuba had maintained “normal” economic, trade and personal exchanges, he said such mutually beneficial cooperation continued to grow.  Dialogue and harmonious coexistence were the mainstream of international relations, and in that context, he hoped the United States would follow the tenets of the Charter and end its embargo as soon as possible.  He also hoped the relationship between the United States and Cuba would improve with a view to promoting regional development.  China would support today’s resolution.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said the consecutive annual adoption by an overwhelming majority of Assembly members of a similar resolution calling for the lifting of the embargo against Cuba reflected the profound wish of the international community to put an end to that situation, which had lasted far too long.  Algeria had always condemned the imposition of unilateral acts, extraterritorial regulations impeding the development of any country and all forms of coercive economic and trade measures, such as the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, which was openly contrary to international law and the purposes and principles of the Charter.  Every Member State should respect principles of the Charter, including the sovereign equality of States, territorial integrity and non-intervention in the internal affairs of any other State.  It was well-established that this blockade affected Cuba’s economic growth and impeded its human development.
In that regard, it had caused huge economic damage to Cuba, and created economic hardship, daily affecting the well-being of the Cuban people.  Those consequences were exacerbated by the adverse effects of the current global and financial crisis, and the energy and food crisis that had seriously compromised Cuba’s efforts to improve its level of development.  According to estimates by the Cuban Government, confirmed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the cumulative direct and indirect losses to the Cuban economy over 50 years were more than $100 billion.  In accordance with the long-standing position of the Non-Aligned Movement on the issue, Algeria rejected the use of economic measures of coercion and extraterritorial applications of laws imposed on developing countries, and urged the United States Government to end the embargo against Cuba.
DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa) said the question of ending the embargo against Cuba had continued to be a problem for the United Nations despite many calls to eliminate the measures.  The time had come for the embargo to be lifted, and the people of Cuba continued to bear the brunt of the sanctions.  The blockade was a violation of the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention and non-interference in domestic affairs.  It was a violation of international law and showed disregard of the United Nations Charter.  Thus, South Africa joined the majority of countries expressing opposition to all aspects of the blockade.  The situation was further exacerbated by the global financial crisis, food crisis and climate change.  The embargo directly hindered the Cuban economic recovery, and negatively impacted tourism.  The damage was estimated to exceed $975 billion in the future.  South Africa rejected reinforcement of the sanctions.
South Africa was deeply concerned over the widening of the extraterritorial nature of the embargo and rejected the reinforcement of the measures aimed at tightening it, as well as all other recent measures carried out by the United States against Cuba.  His delegation condemned the seizing by the United States of over $4.2 million, in January 2011, of funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which had been earmarked for the implementation of cooperation projects with Cuba.  He supported the content of the press release of 18 October 2011 by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations concerning the intensification of sanctions and extraterritorial persecution of citizens, institutions and companies in third countries that established economic, commercial, financial, scientific and technical ties with Cuba.
South Africa was strongly opposed to the actions of the United States regarding fines levied against foreign banking institutions for having conducted operations with Cuba.  In an attempt to grow trade with Cuba, South Africa was finalizing its proposals to offer a credit line of $10 million to Cuba.  That would be a breakthrough in relations for trade cooperation.  He called on all Member States to support the lifting of the United States’ embargo against Cuba.
LE HOAI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) recalled that, by the end of the current meeting, the Assembly would have overwhelmingly adopted for 20 consecutive years a resolution on the issue of ending the Cuban embargo.  Viet Nam shared the view of the international community that the United States should end the embargo against Cuba, which was a peace-loving nation, for strong legal, political, economic and humanitarian reasons.  The General Assembly had reaffirmed that the policies and measures in pursuit of the embargo, including the “Helms-Burton Act”, went against international law and the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.  “The basis of these policies and measures is a violation of the right of a people to self-determination,” he stressed, adding that they had the right, among other things, to determine their political system and path of development.
Additionally, he said, the embargo had serious and illegal extraterritorial effects on the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of persons under their jurisdiction, their freedom of trade and navigation.  The Government of Cuba estimated that the loss and damages caused by the embargo amounted to nearly $1 trillion.  The suffering of the Cuban people, however, transcended that “staggering figure”.  For those reasons, Heads of State or Government had reiterated their call to end the embargo in the Outcome Document of the fifteenth Non-Aligned Summit held in Egypt in 2009, he said.  Similarly, the discussions taking place today were consistent with the urge for cooperation and dialogue and the General Assembly’s current theme of peaceful settlement of disputes.
CAMILLO M. GONSALVES ( St. Vincent and the Grenadines) said that “half a century ago, the world was witness to the ‘Cuban Spring’:  an indigenous and popular uprising against a corrupt and brutal dictator”.  The Cuban people, unassisted by foreign military forces, had cast off the shackles of rapacious exploitation and chose for themselves a new and uniquely adapted path of progress, global citizenship and development that was measured not by the levels of corporate or individual excess, but on the fulfilment of the needs of its citizens, particularly the poor.  Some States had not greeted that “Cuban Spring” with the same enthusiasm with which they welcomed, assisted or instigated other, subsequent revolutionary movements.
Noting that the scale and scope of the Cuban embargo had no parallel in the modern world, he aligned with those calling for it to end.  He said no one in the Assembly Hall had the right to tell the United States how to conduct its foreign policy or who its friends should be.  At the same time, all Member States were obliged to uphold the Charter and reject instances where national foreign policy decisions “morphed into violations of international law”.
The embargo had been an “unmitigated failure” and had only caused suffering for the Cuban people.  While other unjust and antiquated structures had fallen, it alone remained as the last relic of a Cold War that otherwise only existed in the history books.  “[I]n an interconnected world of open borders, free movement of people, goods and capital, how can the architects of globalization simultaneously legislate the isolation of one State, or place extraterritorial restrictions on commerce, global trade and the movement of individuals?” he asked.  Citing President Obama’s inaugural address to the Assembly on demonstrating that international law was not an empty promise, he urged him to heed the overwhelming voice of the international community.
NIKOLAI OVSYANKO ( Belarus) said that the overwhelming majority of Member States had been demanding the end of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba for decades, regarding it as an uncivilized and unconstructive means of resolving international disagreements.  Unilateral sanctions negatively impacted the lives of the Cuban people, particularly given the economic and financial crises in the world today, which appeared to be about to embark on a second wave.
Noting that the blockade contradicted international law and United Nations decisions, he said that in the current system of international relations, there was no place for unilateral sanctions or other unilateral economic measures to pressure sovereign States.  Nations had the right to determine their own developmental paths.  He hoped that the voice of the General Assembly would be heard as it passed the resolution for the twentieth time.
YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia) called for the conclusion of the unilateral economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba.  The measures undermined the principles of the Charter and of international law, as well as the rights of people to life, well-being and development.  In addition, although imposed unilaterally, the embargo impacted the economic and commercial interests and relations of third countries.  It had also severely affected the daily welfare of Cuban citizens and posed an unnecessary burden to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
Since the embargo had initially been imposed, much had changed, he continued.  Globalization had created conditions for true global solidarity and partnership among nations.  Lifting the embargo would be in keeping with the spirit of the times.  “[T]he time is ripe for relations between the two main parties to be transformed through constructive engagement,” he said.  While encouraged by the small, but meaningful changes that had recently occurred, including the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba and the removal of obstacles to transfer of remittances, he called on all countries to adhere to the principles of equality, mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and good-neighbourliness and respect for human rights.
COLLIN BECK (Solomon Islands), associating himself with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, said that his delegation would again vote with the majority of United Nations Members in support of the resolution to end the blockade against Cuba.  He asked the United States, which had “absolute power” within the multilateral system, to examine its actions towards the people of Cuba through the lens of humanity and to renew its friendship with that country.
In a changing world, the rights, freedoms and laws that were frequently spoken of should be upheld with respect for States to adopt their own political systems, he said.  As a small island developing country, Solomon Islands believed in multilateralism and would vote in support of the resolution.
VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said his country’s position on the resolution was well-known and remained unchanged:  “we express total solidarity with the overwhelming majority of members of the international community who are strongly condemning the trade and economic embargo against Cuba”.  The anti-Cuba blockade had lasted almost half a century and had clearly been unable to influence Cuba’s sovereign choice of development model.  The only consequences of the sanctions had been deteriorated living standards for Cubans, artificial barriers to economic growth and infringements on third-country interests.
The United States’ unilateral, restrictive actions against Cuba had only created the opposite effect of what their instigators had intended during the Cold War, he said, adding that the current United States Administration had raised expectations about changes to Washington’s policy but had made only minimum steps.  He hoped the United States’ decision to end restrictions on visits by United States citizens to family in Cuba as well as on remittances and postal orders would be followed by steps to normalize relations with Cuba and to lift the embargo.  His Government strongly believed such moves would foster progressive social and economic reforms by the Cuban leadership.  The Russian Federation would vote in favour of today’s text.

Introduction and Action on Draft

BRUNO EDUARDO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, introduced the draft on the “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”.  He said that through the Torricelli Act – the official action that had led to the “notorious” extraterritorial implementation of the blockade laws against third States – the United States had committed to strengthening the siege around the island of Cuba in a cruelly opportunistic manner.
The General Assembly had adopted the decision to include the current item in its agenda in 1991, he recalled, and, at that time, it had seemed impossible that the Assembly would still be discussing the matter 20 years later.  Indeed, for two decades, the Assembly had invariably called for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade by the United States.  In 1996, the Helms-Burton Act had expanded the unprecedented extraterritorial scope of the blockade and comprehensively typified the “change of regime” and eventual intervention in Cuba; no one knew if the “Bush Plan for Cuba” of 2004 had been abrogated.
The direct economic damage imposed exceeded $975 billion, he said, adding that the United States Government, in a 1960 referendum, had itself stated that the objectives pursued by the blockade had been to cause “disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship […] to weaken the economic life of Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and to overthrow the Government”.  Today, Cuba was still unable to freely export or import products or services of any sort to and from the United States, to use American dollars, or other restrictions.
He said that the ban on Cuban companies’ trade with American subsidiaries in third countries also remained unchanged, while entrepreneurs interested in investing in Cuba continued to be sanctioned, threatened or blacklisted.  In January 2011, more than $4 million in financing from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria – which was destined to fund projects in Cuba – had been confiscated; meanwhile, while there had been an “alleged” relaxation of laws preventing Americans from travelling to Cuba, the truth was that freedom of travel continued to be hampered.
Pointing out a number of other examples of the negative effects of the embargo – which, he stressed, were “endless” – he recalled that President Obama had recently responded with a “non-committal refusal” to an offer made by the Cuban Government to hold a dialogue on items on the bilateral agenda.  For its part, Cuba was changing its will, aiming for “more revolution and a better socialism”.  Indeed, the only thing that had not changed in the last 50 years had been the blockade and the “hostile and aggressive policy of the United States”.  Cuba would continue to promote equal opportunities for every child and would not abandon anyone to his or her own fate.  It would not renounce social programmes, not universal health and education.  It would continue to guarantee the right to work, the right to equal pay, and other rights.  “We will continue to believe in human values,” he said, adding that all Cuban citizens would continue to be able to exercise their human rights.
Family ties and the limited cultural, academic and scientific exchange that currently existed between the United States and Cuba showed how positive it would be to expand those links for the benefit of both people.  Cuba’s proposal to move towards normalization of relations and to expand bilateral cooperation in different areas still stood, he stressed, adding nonetheless that the five Cuban political prisoners serving unjust sentences in the United States or forbidden to return to Cuba must be released.  He further asked the community of nations to support the draft resolution currently before the Assembly.
Speaking in explanation of position before action on the text, the representative of the United States said that the draft resolution had been designed to “confuse and obscure”.  The United States reaffirmed its strong commitment to the right of the Cuban people to fully determine their own future, he stressed, adding that in fact, the Cuban regime had denied them of that right for more than half a century.  The United States further affirmed its right to determine its own bilateral interests in accordance with its own national values, and that included international relationships.  In that regard, its relationship with Cuba – of which the embargo was only one part – was a bilateral issue and a matter of national concern.
Indeed, the annual exercise by the Assembly attempted, “to no good end,” to obscure some fundamental truths.  The Cuban Government’s own policy was the largest obstacle to the country’s own development, concentrating political and economic decisions in the hands of the few and stifling economic growth.  The exercise further concealed the fact that the United States was a leading source of food and humanitarian aid to Cuba, and that it did not restrict aid to that country.  In 2010 alone, Cuba had received $3.5 billion in total sales of United States goods, including some $360 million in agricultural products.  It had also authorized $861 million in humanitarian assistance to Cuba.  Those figures alone were enough to rebut the “spurious allegations of genocide”, he stressed, adding that the charge greatly misused that important term and insulted its true victims.
Moreover, the draft and the “stale rhetoric around it” ignored some basic facts.  The United States was, in fact, open to a new relationship with Cuba, which could begin if the Cuban Government began to respect human rights and the rights of Cuban citizens to determine their own destiny.  Cuba should also release American citizen Alan Gross, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to connect the Cuban Jewish population to the Internet.  Recent changes in policy, made by President Obama, built upon the country’s previous engagement with Cuba, and showed the strong commitment of the United States to the Cuban people – contrary to the picture that had been painted throughout the current debate.
The United States was prepared to do its part, but improving the situation required efforts by the Cuban Government, as well.  It must ensure that the Cuban people enjoyed the freedoms on which the United Nations insisted in the cases of other countries, he stressed.  For those reasons, and because the resolution did not reflect current realities, the United States would vote against it.
Also speaking ahead of the vote, the representative of Nicaragua said the General Assembly would again demand an end to the embargo towards the Cuban people, and the United States was trying to justify and bend a people who would never bend, because they had a will of steel.  He made clear his support of the resolution, and expressed support regarding the updated information on the damages the United States was causing to Cuba with the most criminal embargo of the history of mankind.  He recognized Cuba’s generosity and humanism, and said, who if not Cuba was the first to step up when its neighbours were in need.
However, he said there was an attempt to destroy the Cuban socialist revolution by continuing to implement the embargo, and he said it must end now.  It had been clearly shown that nobody supported the embargo and it was time to correct the measures that violated humanitarian law and the United Nations Charter.  Even the people of the United States did not support this embargo and more voices were calling for an end to this inhumane policy.
He said that regional Governments, who along with Cuba tenaciously fought the embargo, considered blockade a policy of intervention in the region.  He said that the region would walk hand in hand until “this historic error” was made right.  He noted that the policy was an obstacle to Cuba’s development and called for its end.  Indeed, nobody was fooled “by more than 50 years of terrorist acts”.  One gesture would be to free the Cuban heroic patriots in prison, as they defended Cuba.  Once again, he expressed his strongest condemnation of this embargo, which was contrary to international law and a threat to peace and multilateralism, and an insult to human values.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution on ending the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba (document A/66/L.4) by a recorded vote of 186 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel) with 3 abstentions (Marshall Islands, Palau, Micronesia).  (See Annex)

Explanations of Vote after the Vote

The representative of Poland, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said his delegation opposed extraterritorial measures taken in United States law, such as the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts.  Those measures must not be allowed to affect commercial relations between Cuba and EU member States.  The Union’s position regarding relations with Cuba had been set out in 1996 and reflected a common position.  He sought a result-oriented engagement with Cuba and reaffirmed the Union’s commitment to continuing dialogue with the Cuban Government, civil society and other actors.
Reiterating the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future, he welcomed the Cuban Government’s release of 75 political prisoners, and called upon it to recognize the civil and political rights of its people and to accede to the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Noting the negative impact of the embargo on the Cuban people, he rejected all unilateral measures against Cuba that were contrary to international law.  The European Union had unanimously voted in favour of the resolution.
Namibia’s representative said that this year marked the twentieth anniversary the Assembly had acted on a similar resolution on the embargo, but the blockade was still in place.  That was in stark contrast to the overwhelming appeal by the international community to end this unjust policy against the people of Cuba.  In fact, the debate would not have been necessary had the United States lifted the blockade years ago.  His delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution because he believed in the principle of peaceful coexistence of all nations, respect for sovereign equality, open trade among nations, and above all, the spirit of good neighbourliness.
The imposition of the blockade against Cuba was an outdated form of punishment.  His delegation remained concerned about the promulgation and application of laws and measures constituting economic embargo against any friendly and peaceful country.  He said that Namibia had always maintained the view that the blockade ran counter to the spirit of the United Nations Charter, international law and the Millennium Declaration.  The same blockade continued to cause irreparable damage to the economic, social and cultural development of Cuba as it deprived its people of the opportunities emanating from free trade.
The Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts were extraterritorial in nature and, thus, interfered with the sovereign rights of Cuba and violated the rules of international trading systems.  He was convinced that the two neighbouring countries would both benefit from the normalization of relations and the removal of restrictions between them.  “In our view, all human rights, be they political, cultural or economic, are inseparable.  Through the blockade, the people of Cuba are being denied these basic fundamental human rights just because of the political system they have chosen,” he said.  Thus, Namibia voted in favour of the draft resolution, and expressed solidarity with the people of Cuba.
Also speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Zambia said the Assembly found itself in a situation that reminded his delegation of “Humpty Dumpty” who said that “words only mean that which I want them to”.  As such, he asked what democracy was if the universal resolutions of the United Nations that called for the lifting of sanctions are routinely ignored. 
“What is the rule of law if General Assembly resolutions that declare sanctions illegal continue to be ignored?” and “Is the law only a law when [one] decides it is a law?”  When the international community talked about sovereign equality of nations, did that principle only apply when it concerned the sovereignty of “someone we like?”  It was thought that true freedom embraced a diversity of opinion, thought and political systems.  Indeed freedom also meant the right to be wrong.  He said his delegation voted in favour of the resolution because “it is the right thing to do”.
The representative of Iran said that the overwhelming support for the resolution reflected the common understanding and will of the international community concerning the “inhumane and illegitimate” embargo imposed by the United States against the Cuban Government and people.  Depriving civilian populations of their economic and social rights infringed upon their basic human rights and was therefore illegal.  Indeed, this was the main feature of the sanctions as known today.  Such measures were illegal largely because economic sanctions were a tool to impose hegemonic intentions of big powers; sanctions always ended in targeting daily lives of civilians; sanctions had proven to be futile and there was no strong proof that independent nations compromised their revered national interests to hegemonic powers due to sanctions.
The most deplorable form of sanctions was the imposition of unilateral blockades and extraterritorial application of domestic laws by one State.  Numerous international documents had called for swift invalidation of all such measures.  Indeed, one wondered what more should be done to convince the Government of the United States to lift the inhumane and futile economic blockade.  He said his delegation strongly rejected and remained opposed to the application of unilateral and economic trade measures by one State against another, as well as to the extraterritorial application and effects of national legislation on the sovereignty of other States.
The representative of Zimbabwe said the last 20 years had heard an overwhelming number of States call for the end of the Cuban embargo, a blockade which violated international law and countered the United Nations Charter, to which the United States was a founding signatory.  It also frustrated Cuba’s efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals and denied the country access to markets, development aid and technology transfer, all of which were vital to its development.  Zimbabwe understood the difficulties associated with such ill-conceived measures, as it also had fallen victim to them.  Her Government rejected the passage of laws with the goal of achieving regime change.  Cuban national pride had taken root to defeat such foreign interference.  She expressed solidarity with the Government and people of Cuba and had voted in favour of today’s text.
The representative of Ecuador congratulated Cuba on today’s victory.  Ecuador had voted in favour of the resolution which was counter to international law and the principles of peaceful interaction among States.  The blockade jeopardized the Cuban people.  He demanded an end to the blockade and all unilateral actions counter to international law and appealed to common sense to end the blockade.
The representative of Nigeria, aligning with the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement, supported States’ inalienable right to determine their own development model.  Nigeria was “uncomfortable” with the embargo against Cuba, as it countered multilateralism, international law, sovereignty and free trade, principles the Assembly had championed for years.  Nigeria opposed the punishment of innocent people and, thus, favoured the dismantling of both the structures that enforced the embargo and the logic underpinning its existence.  For such reasons, Nigeria had voted in favour of the resolution.
Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Myanmar said that his delegation supported Cuba, particularly regarding the situation of that country’s elderly, women and children.  The hardships set in motion by the embargo affected the innocent people of Cuba, and went against the sovereign equality outlined in the United Nations Charter.  Moreover, the measures deviated from international law.
Brazil’s speaker said that the economic, financial and social blockade against Cuba had been rejected by the great majority of Member States, including his own country, for the twentieth time in as many years.  It went against international law and inhibited regional relations.  Although measures announced by Washington last January had been positive, they did not change the situation or mitigate the suffering of the Cuban people.  Brazil had voted in favour of the resolution.
Syria’s representative said the Cuban embargo contravened the principles of international law, including humanitarian law, the sovereign equality between States, non-intervention and freedom of navigation and trade.  It was illegal and challenged the legal credibility of United States’ policies.  Such measures had been imposed by the United States and other European countries with the goal of weakening some States, attempting to force them to adopt certain measures or change their policies.
He said the embargo had caused more than $10 billion in damage to the Cuban economy and violated human rights.  Despite that the Assembly had issued resolutions for 20 years, the embargo remained.  Sanctions imposed on developing countries, including Syria, constituted collective punishment under the pretext of maintaining human rights.  He called for ending the embargo and hostile policies pursued outside the framework of international law.  For such reasons, Syria voted in favour of the resolution.
In explanation of the vote, the representative of Gambia said in light of the global economic crisis, this was neither the time nor the season to impose sanctions or reinforce them.  Even in the best of times, they inflicted untold suffering.  As the global financial crisis continued unabated all nations were under constant pressure from the negative impact of the crisis.  The economic embargo could be characterized as “aggression” against a sovereign State, with a negative downstream effect, particularly on vulnerable groups. 
Many delegations pointed out that the sanctions undermined the capacity of Cuba to obtain the Millennium Development Goals.  In light of all that, Gambia was consistent in its support of denouncing the sanctions and calling for the repeal of laws relating to Cuba.  Gambia had supported the resolution of this august body, out of the necessity of ending the sanctions.  In conclusion, she aligned herself with the statements made by the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Sudan’s representative said that the international community had rejected unilateral coercive measures that crossed borders.  Continued support for the resolution revealed “total rejection” of the embargo, as it violated the basic principles of the Charter, international law and norms governing national economic and commercial relations between States, and inhibited development.  Since 1997, Sudan too had suffered from such unilateral measures by the United States with deleterious effect on the people’s well-being.  He condemned the imposition of such measures on developing countries and called for a world where all States lived in peace.  That required commitment to the Charter’s principles and to sound management of international relations.  He urged States that had taken unilateral measures against other States to repeal them.
The representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic said that for the twentieth consecutive year, the Assembly had adopted, by an overwhelming majority, a resolution demanding an end to the embargo against Cuba, and called on all States to respect the Charter and norms of international law.  It also called for an end to all measures whose extraterritorial effects threatened the sovereignty of States or the legitimate interests of persons under their jurisdiction.
Despite such calls, the embargo and its extraterritorial aspects seriously violated the goals and principles of the Charter and relevant United Nations resolutions, he said, which had caused considerable economic losses for Cubans.  The embargo also had impeded efforts to eliminate poverty, promote economic and social development and attain the Millennium Development Goals.  Reiterating his opposition to the embargo, he reaffirmed his country’s solidarity with the Cuban people and joined international calls to end the embargo.
The representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis voted in favour of today’s text and said that Cuba was among his country’s closest allies.  Saint Kitts and Nevis also respected the United States’ role in international relations and recognized its recent concessions related to the embargo.  “However, that is not enough.  Friends must tell friends when they are wrong or misguided,” he said.  In supporting the resolution, his country continued to be an advocate of that truth.
Supporting the principles of sovereignty, non-intervention and the strengthened role of the United Nations in international affairs, he said Saint Kitts and Nevis did not support measures that impeded free trade.  Nor did it apply laws that had extraterritorial effect.  It felt strongly about ending the Cuban embargo.  Cuba was a pan-Caribbean partner, and the embargo’s negative impact on it was “profound and unfair”.  Amid a global recession, the embargo stunted Cuba’s development, which contravened the principles held dear by those imposing it.  It also impeded progress, which was why he had voted in favour of today’s resolution and called on both sides to find common ground.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that today was the twentieth year the topic was being debated.  In addition, for many decades, major documents had been adopted at international and regional meetings on the issue, and there were more calls than ever to end the blockade against Cuba.  Yet, those sanctions remained in place a full decade into the new century.  The embargo was aimed at destroying the socialist system, even though the Cuban people had chosen that system freely.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea condemned strongly the economic embargo as it violated the Charter and had been “flagrantly imposed” on the sovereignty of Cuba and its people.  Once again, he urged the United States to lift the economic, commercial and financial embargo at the soonest possible time.  Finally, he expressed support and solidarity with the Cuban people to preserve their sovereignty in the face of the embargo.
Argentina’s representative said his country had voted in favour of the resolution and would fully implement it.  Foreign laws were not valid when they claimed to have extraterritorial effect, including through extending an economic blockade with the goal of changing a Government.  His delegation’s vote today reflected a position that favoured an end to unilateral measures and a commitment to multilateralism.  The Cuban embargo countered the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter.  It endured, despite the numerous international calls against it.  Rejecting the embargo, he reiterated his firm support for Cuba.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, aligning with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, as in past years, his delegation had voted against the embargo for the Cuban people who had suffered so long under it.  Despite the call for the embargo’s end, the people of Cuba continued to suffer as though the international community did not care.
“Whenever the bulls fight, it’s the grass which gets hurt,” he said, reciting an adage from his country which adequately reflected the adverse effect on common people of any embargo, he said.  It was high time to end the suffering once and for all.  Despite encouraging measures taken by the United States since 2009, the embargo continued to severely constrain Cuba’s development and improvement of the standard of living of its citizens.  He supported direct dialogue between the parties to resolve their differences for the betterment of Cuba’s citizens.
The representative of Angola said the Assembly had once again adopted a resolution urging all countries to withdraw laws and regulations with extraterritorial measures that undermined State sovereignty.  He was perplexed as to why the United States embargo against Cuba remained in place, as it violated State sovereignty and encroached on the rights of persons, entities and companies under State jurisdiction to establish or propose economic, commercial, financial or scientific relations with Cuba.  He urged international support for more engagement between the two countries, with a view to identifying a solution.
He went on to say that the Secretary-General’s report stated there had been no improvement towards ending the embargo, a measure that had severely penalized Cubans by preventing economic programmes from being carried out.  Angola adhered to the Charter and respected all Assembly resolutions, he said, reiterating his country’s commitment to international law, which supported the elimination of all coercive economic measures as a means of political persuasion.  Angola had voted in favour of the resolution, as the embargo flagrantly violated the right to sovereignty and equality among States, as well as the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.

Right of Reply

Exercising his delegation’s right of reply, Cuba’s speaker said he was taking the floor to counter the “flagrant lies” by the United States delegate in defence of the policies of former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.  He agreed that the blockade was just “one facet” of the United States’ policy against Cuba.  Other acts included subversion, the deployment of agents on Cuban territory and CIA cover operations.  He would ensure that the Geneva Convention on Genocide reached the United States’ delegate’s desk, as his country was responsible for extrajudicial executions, torture, kidnapping and use of secret jails in Europe.  The United States even maintained a “concentration camp” on illegally occupied land in Guantánamo.
There were strict relations between the two countries that could not be described as trade relations, he said, because provisions in the international trade system were routinely flouted.  The United States’ delegate also had lied when he cited humanitarian aid provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  Rather than wage wars, the United States would do better to heed the voice of its own people, notably those down in Wall Street, who were complaining about an absence of true democracy in the United States, about corporations that placed profit before people, and about the triumph of egoism over justice.  People were complaining they had lost their homes, lost pensions and lost social security, while the rich received bonuses.
He went on to say that more than 3,000 United States citizens were now on death row, adding that just a few weeks ago, the world had watched aghast as Troy Davis had been executed.  While the United States delegate had said a United States citizen was being held in Cuba for connecting the Jewish community to the Internet, he also understood that that person had committed a crime that was subject to sanctions in the United States.  Moreover, the five Cubans suffering under cruel and degrading conditions for trying to avert terrorist acts against the United States should be freed.  The political battle being waged today was for an end to the Cuban blockade and a system that engendered injustice, he said.

ANNEX

Vote on Ending United States Embargo against Cuba

The draft resolution on the Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo Imposed by the United States against Cuba (document A/66/L.4) was adopted by a recorded vote of 186 in favour to 2 against, with 3 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea‑Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor‑Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Israel, United States.

Abstain:  Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Palau.

Absent:  Libya, Sweden.

General Assembly calls again for end to US embargo against Cuba

October 26, 2011

The Cuban delegation waits as the General Assembly votes on resolution calling for an end to the US embargo

25 October 2011 –

The General Assembly today renewed its call, for the 20th consecutive year, for an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba for the past half century.In a resolutionadopted by 186 votes in favour to two against (Israel and the US) and three abstentions (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau), the Assembly reiterated its call to all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures not conforming with their obligations to reaffirm freedom of trade and navigation.

It also urged them to repeal or invalidate such laws and requested the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the resolution at the Assembly’s next session, which begins in September 2012.

Introducing the text, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Foreign Minister of Cuba, stated that the US has never hidden the fact that the objective of the embargo – which he said has caused more than $975 billion in damage to the Cuban people – is to overthrow his country’s Government.

“What the US Government wants to see changed will not change,” he stated, declaring that the Cuban Government will continue to be “the government of the people, by the people and for the people.

“Our elections shall not be auction sales. There shall not be $4 billion electoral campaigns nor a parliament supported by 13 per cent of voters,” he added.

The US representative, Ronald Godard, said that for yet another year, the Assembly is taking up a resolution designed to confuse and obscure.

“But let there be no confusion about this: the United States, like most Member States, reaffirms its strong commitment to supporting the right and the heartfelt desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their future.

“And let there be no obscuring that the Cuban regime has deprived them of this right for more than half a century,” he stated.

Mr. Godard added that the economic relationship between the US and Cuba is a bilateral issue and is not appropriately a concern of the Assembly.

“The embargo represents just one aspect of US policy towards Cuba whose overarching goal is to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, principles to which this Organization is also dedicated,” he said.

 

Wrap up: UN Vote against US Blockade and Statements by Cuba

October 26, 2011

South Journal—How many times does the UN General Assembly have to adopt the Cuban Resolution demanding the lifting of the US blockade of Cuba for Washington to abide by, respect and honor the decisions of the International Community?

The resounding vote on Tuesday by 186 UN member nations revealed, for the 20th year in a row that the world maintains its stance against the US measure, but Washington just turns a deaf ear on the international claim.

Here we offer you the vote by regions:

A new vote in favor of Cuba, in respect to last year, was given by Southern Sudan; no new votes against Cuba. The countries that were absent from the vote were Libya and Sweden. Those that abstained were the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau, and the votes against were obviously given by the United States and Israel.

 Geographical Areas

 Northern Africa and Middle East (19 countries): 17 in favor, one against (Israel) and one absent (Libya).

Sub-Saharan Africa (48 countries): 48 in favor.

Asia and Oceania (36 countries): 33 in favor, 3 abstentions (Marshall Islands, Palau and Micronesia).

Latin America and the Caribbean (33 countries): 33 in favor.

Western Europe and other states (29 countries): 27 in favor, one absent (Sweden) and one against (U.S.A.).

Eastern Europe (28 countries): 28 in favor.

Total in favor: 186

Statements by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez at the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly. Excerpts:

On Cuba´s Position

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez

Cuba´s expressed willingness to hold a dialog with Washington on all issues of bilateral interest has been met with the surreptitious rejection by President Barack Obama, whose stance is a repetition of that of his predecessors.

Cuba already made the big change in 1959 and at the high price of 20 000 lives in a fight against the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Cuba has continued to change every day and due to its capacity of renovation has been able to resist. Cuba is now changing and will continue to change everything that must be changed in the context of the Revolution and Socialism.

The Cuban government will not experience the change that Washington is looking for. Our elections will not be auctioned. There will not be any electoral campaign sponsored with 4 billion dollars or a Parliament with 13 percent of voters´ support. We will not have political and corrupt elites foreign to the people. We will continue to be a true democracy and we will defend the right to true and objective information.

We will continue to defend “all justice” and we will protect equal opportunities for every child, we will not leave anybody on its own. We will not renounce our social policies. Health and education will continue to be universal and free of charge. We will continue to guarantee the right to employment and retirement pensions and social security. We will maintain the correspondence between work and salaries. We will protect maternity and the disable. The human being will continue to be the first priority. We will defend our culture and believe in human values. Human rights will continue to be guaranteed for all Cubans.

Cuban economy will have to be efficient, but it will continue to be at the service of citizens. The life of our people will be reflected as the most important macroeconomic statistics. Economic policies will continue to be consulted with the people. We will not admit corruption, speculation, and we will not deprive the people from their money to save any banks. We will continue to pursue the participation of foreign companies in Cuban economy with no exception.

Responding to the US Representative at the UN General Assembly

Washington´s representative at UN

Following statements by US representative Ronald D. Goddard , the Cuban Foreign Minister took the floor: (Excerpts)

My remarks at this point during the debate are only justified to respond to the flagrant lies said by Mr. Goddard. You can fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

Mr. Goddard has come here to defend the policy implemented by former President Bush in 2005 and he has also spoken in favor of the policy led by Obama. The question is: “What policy is he defending?

According to a facsimile document by the Daytona Beach Morning Journal, dated May 16, 1972, Ronald D. Goddard, director of the Miami Office has been reassigned to Washington. Along with his work with the peace keepers and other missions of high interest in Latin American countries, he was the Chief of the Miami-based Coordinator´s Office for Cuban Affairs. The coordinator would take on the responsibility of covert actions as he is also in charge of legal operations.

I agree with Goddard that the blockade is only one aspect of the US policy against Cuba. He must know for sure that the other important element includes internal subversion; US paid agents inside Cuba, USAID and CIA-funded covert operations.

It is not true that the United States and Cuba are commercial partners. The possibility for Cuba to purchase—under difficult conditions—foodstuffs in the United States has been the result of efforts by sectors that oppose the US blockade of Cuba. These purchases have taken place under tough regulations, which cannot be considered a commercial relationship, much less a flexibility measure. Such regulations violate the norms of the International Trade System.

Mr. Goddard lied when he deliberately used figures in this session. He includes the so-called humanitarian assistance donations to Cuba in the funds used by the USAID to operate against constitutional order in Cuba.

Mr. Goddard lied when he said that US citizen and USAID contractor Alan Gross was punished in Cuba for providing the local Jewish community with Internet access. Goddard knows that Gross is a specialist in this subject and he was carrying out a covert operation in Cuba and committed crimes that are also punishable in the United States.

The political battle waged here today reveals, as Cuban Commander-in-Chief wrote in his article title “NATO´s Genocidal Role” the need to put an end not only to the blockade, but also to the system that creates injustice on our planet, squanders its natural resources and puts human survival at risk.”

Also Read Fidel Castro: Cuba will Expose US Blockade and Capitalist System

Cuban Report on the US blockade of Cuba

 

Eye Care in Cuba: A Different Approach

October 25, 2011

By Ana Laura Arbesú ( prensalatina )

Care, teaching and research go hand in hand in Cuban ophthalmology, a discipline involving 1,800 professionals and technicians and high technology services.

“We work simultaneously with these guidelines, because each surgical intervention involves a detailed study and follow up,” said Doctor Reinaldo Diaz, medical director of the Ramon Pando Ferrer Ophthalmology Institute of Cuba, the leading ophthalmology center of Cuba, to Prensa Latina.

“Our goal is to apply these results to daily work. All the diseases are managed by a research protocol,” Doctor Diaz said.

A total of 25 centers in the entire island are supplied with qualified personnel for cataract, glaucoma and cornea surgical operations, treatment with different kinds of laser, pediatric surgical operations, the treatment of strabismus and eyelid defects, he added.

With more than three decades of work in the prevention of blindness, the center made a great qualitative and quantitative leap in patient care since it put Operation Miracle (Vision Now) in practice in 2004, a mission carried out by Cuba and Venezuela to give ophthalmologic services.

Diaz pointed out that since then, 2.2 million patients from 34 nations of the world, 17 of them from Latin America,15 from the Caribbean and 2 African countries, have benefited from the program.

Such experiences contributed to the knowledge of ocular diseases in different regions of the world and enhanced the training of Cuban professionals in their work to prevent ocular disabilities in Cuba and other underdeveloped countries, Diaz emphasized.

To this effort to improve the visual capacity of patients in the entire world is added the global scientific community working on programs of care for the most needy. One example is the Vision 2020 Program, dedicated to the elimination of this avoidable pathology in the next decade.

Cuba joined this initiative, together with 40 nations of the world to unite efforts aimed at the elimination of blindness and visual incapacity and the rehabilitation of patients. Cuba also joined the project for World Vision Day, celebrated on the second Thursday of October every year. In 2011, it concentrated on eye health and equal access to care for associated diseases.

In Cuba, the program included conferences and educational interventions to inform people how to access the services from their own communities. “It was done differently here, since medical attention is guaranteed at all levels from infancy,” emphasized Diaz.

“On the other hand, inhabitants from other countries have to wait for that date as the only chance to have access, for example, to a free refraction or perhaps another service given by some organization. A total of 284 million people in the world are living with visual discapacity, and 80 percent of them are curable or preventable,” Diaz added.

Uncorrected refraction errors, including myopias, far sightedness or astigmatism constitute 43 percent of these discapacities, followed by cataracts and glaucoma.

With the accelerated rhythm of aging in the world population, and considering that from the age of 50 most people present some anomaly, such statistics by global institutions are calling attention to the urgency of dealing with an avoidable health problem.

That is the challenge for organizations and governments in their effort to establish the mechanisms to reach good visual health before the second decade of the 21st Century.

 

End the unjust blockade of Cuba

October 25, 2011

G Anthony HYLTON
Jamaica Observer – Tuesday, October 25, 2011

For the 20th consecutive occasion, today Cuba will submit for the consideration of the UN General Assembly the draft resolution entitled, “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”.

Last year, 187 UN member states voted in favour of this resolution, which is irrefutable proof that the battle for the lifting of the blockade has the recognition and support of the vast majority of the members of the international community.

The economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba remains in place and is further intensified despite the repeated and almost unanimous demand by the international community, particularly the United Nations General Assembly, for its elimination. This results from the September 14, 2009 Presidential Order to extend the application against Cuba of the Trading with the Enemy Act, keeping in place the legal framework in which the policy of blockade against Cuba in 1962 is based.

The measures taken by President Obama on the travel and remittances by Cuban émigrés do not change the complex framework of laws, regulations and provisions of the blockade policy against Cuba. Besides, US citizens are still prohibited from travelling to Cuba, with very few exceptions and through very strict regulations.

As a result of the strict and renewed enforcement of these laws and other normative provisions, Cuba continues to be unable to: freely export or import goods and services to or from the United States, use the US dollar (which is the global reserve currency) in its international financial transactions, have bank accounts, in US dollars, in banks from third countries.

The extra-territorial application of the blockade has been extraordinarily reinforced, as proved by the strengthening of the sanctions and prosecution against third countries’ citizens, institutions and companies that establish or intend to establish economic, commercial, financial or scientific and technical relations with Cuba. The US government thereby abrogates the right to decide on matters that are relative to the sovereignty of other States.

Cuba continues to be unable to trade with US companies in third countries. Likewise, entrepreneurs from third nations who are interested in investing in Cuba are threatened and placed on a blacklist.

The extraterritorial effects of the blockade have particularly impacted on the monetary and financial sphere. In fact, the increased surveillance of Cuba’s international financial transactions, (including those coming from multilateral organisations for the cooperation with the island) has been one of the distinctive features in the implementation of the blockade policy under the current US administration.

From March 2010 to April 2011, there were significant multimillion-dollar fines imposed on US and foreign banking institutions for engaging in operations connected in one way or the other with deterrence. These kinds of sanctions have had an effect and, in the case of banks in particular, entail breaking relations with Cuba and/or forcing Cuban transactions to be made under more precarious conditions. These include banking arrangements with financial institutions here in Jamaica.

Cuba continues to be unable to have access to bank credits from banks in the United States, their subsidiaries in third countries and from international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank.

No blockade has ever been as far-reaching, prolonged and impactful against a people as the one being implemented by the United States against Cuba for half a century.

The blockade violates international law and is against the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. It is a transgression of the right of a sovereign State to peace, development and security and, in its essence and objectives, an act of unilateral aggression and a permanent threat against the stability of a country and I dear say to the entire Caribbean region.

The direct economic damage to the Cuban people by the implementation of the economic, commercial and financial blockade of the United States against Cuba is incalculable.

The blockade is a relic of the Cold War era and continues to be an absurd, illegal and morally unsustained policy that has not succeeded and will not likely to succeed in fulfilling the purpose of breaking the political will of the Cuban people to preserve its sovereignty, independence and right to self-determination. However, it causes shortages and needless suffering to the Cuban population, limits and restrains the development of the country and seriously damages the Cuban economy. It is one of the main hindrances to Cuba’s economic and social development.

The People’s National Party has long been of the view that this issue of the blockade against Cuba has long ceased to be a foreign policy matter for the United States. What else can explain the contradiction in the handling of this matter but the activist role of Cuban Americans in South Florida, New Jersey, New York and elsewhere in the US? I have said as much to the previous Secretary of State, Ms Condoleeza Rice, when I indicated in a meeting with her that the difficulty for countries like Jamaica in discussing this matter of Cuba with our partner and friends in the US is that a resolution of this issue is being held hostage to US domestic political interests.

What else would explain the US rapprochement with communist countries such as Vietnam and China (to name a few), and the extension of the blockade policy against Cuba?

The blockade is a unilateral and immoral policy which is rejected both within the United States and by the international community.

We hope that those governments, including our government, committed as we are, to the norms of the multilateral trading system, to the freedom of trade and navigation and to the rejection of the extraterritorial application of national law, will vote today in favour of the draft resolution at the United Nations General Assembly, which demands the lifting of the said US blockade.

G Anthony Hylton is the Jamaican Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/pfversion/End-the-unjust-blockade-of-Cuba_10009114#ixzz1bnrYmIwR

Evidence against the Cuban Five Found to be Biased

October 25, 2011

(Prensa Latina) The U.S. legal system used information from
biased sources to locate the site where two light airplanes were shot down after
illegally entering Cuban territory on February 24, 1996, the Havana Reporter
weekly reported on Monday.  ( http://www.prensa-latina.cu/images/stories/Media/TheHavanaReporter3.pdf, )
 


According to the Cuban newspaper, the revelation is contained in a book by
Brazilian researcher Fernando Morais, The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, which
recounts the actions of Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Ramon Labañino,
Rená González and Gerardo Hernández, five Cubans who, until their arrest in
Miami in 1998, were monitoring terrorist actions by anti-Cuban groups based in
Florida.

Morais devoted pages 373-376 of his book, published in Portuguese in Brazil in
August, to analyze the U.S. version of the events involving the two light
airplanes belonging to the anti-Cuban organization Brothers to the Rescue, which
supposedly were downed in international waters, contrary to what Cuban
authorities say, the English-language weekly edited by Prensa Latina recalled.

During the launch of his book in Brasilia on Sept.15, Morais explained that
while conducting his research, he realized that the lawyers for the Cuban Five
failed to thoroughly investigate the owner and the company that owned the cruise
ship Majesty of the Seas.

The first officer of that ship, Norwegian-American Bjorn Johansen, a witness for
the prosecution against the Five, admitted that he based his testimony about the
site of the shoot-down on a visual observation of the site where his own ship
was – which he wrote down on a piece of paper – and not the electronic register
that marked the ship’s location in the Florida Strait.

That statement by Johansen, who admitted that he talked for hours with FBI
agents, was used to justify a sentence of two life terms in prison plus fifteen
years prison for Gerardo Hernández. However, a key question failed to be asked,
Morais said: who were the owners of the Majesty of the Seas?

On page 375, the writer says that a cursory investigation using the archives of
newspapers and of the Cuban-American National Foundation would have provided
important information.

Johansen worked for Royal Caribbean Cruises, the group that owned the ship, and
in February 1996 his second-in-command was Peter G. Whelpton of the United
States, who introduced himself as a member of the Cuban-American National
Foundation and director of the Blue Ribbon Commission for the Economic
Reconstruction of Cuba, both opposed to the Cuban government.

In his book, Morais also revealed that a series of articles published by The New
York Times in 1995, the president of the CANF at the time, Francisco “Pepe”
Hernandez, included Royal Caribbean Cruises among the 40 firms that contributed
$25,000 create his organization. Mysteriously and inexplicably, however,
Whelpton’s involvement with these Cuban counterrevolutionary forces was not
verified or used in the court case.

This information comes in addition to the refusal by the United States
government to hand over information from its radars about the exact site where
the anti-Cuban organization’s two light planes were downed, despite Havana’s
insistence demand for that information, given that it holds the two planes were
shot down over Cuban waters.

To write his book, Morais carried out field research for two years and
interviewed 40 people, including 17 in Cuba, 22 in the United States and one in
Mexico.

The harsh sentence of two life terms plus 15 years handed down to Hernández is
based on evidence that he informed Havana that the two Brothers to the Rescue
aircraft would be flying over the Cuban capital on February 24, 1996. In that
regard, Morais recalled that the two light aircraft were downed after years of
provocations and violations of Cuban airspace by exile groups in Florida.

Based on his investigation, Morais said, that information was completely public.

Also, U.S. State Department documents contained information showing that the
U.S. Undersecretary for Hemispheric Affairs warned U.S. aviation authorities
about the actions of Brothers to the Rescue and the possibility that the Cuban
government would lose its patience and shoot down their planes, Morais said.

Therefore, it is untenable to accuse Gerardo of having passed information that
was public, he said.

State of Siege: New Book by Salim Lamrani

October 25, 2011

État de siège; les sanctions économiques des États-Unis contre Cuba (State of Siege; The United States’ economic sanctions against Cuba). a new book by Salim Lamrani. Prologue by Wayne S. Smith, preface by Paul Estrade. Paris, Editions Estrella, 2011. 14 euros. Available at http://www.amazon.fr/siege.

CSF: You’ve just published a new book under the title État de siège? What exactly do you cover in it?

SL: As the book’s subtitle suggests, it covers the unilateral economic sanctions that the United States first imposed upon Cuba at the height of the Cold War. The goal of these sanctions has been the overthrow of the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, the social and economic reforms of which did not sit well with the Eisenhower administration of the period. More than a half century later the Soviet Union has disappeared and the Cold War is only a fading memory, still the United States persists in maintaining an economic state of siege that is suffocating for all levels of the Cuban population, although it  primarily effects the most vulnerable sectors: women, the elderly and children.

It is important to note that the diplomatic rhetoric used by the United States to justify its hostility towards Cuba has changed from period to period. Early on, it focused on nationalizations and their compensation. Later, Washington invoked the alliance with the Soviet Union as the principal obstacle to the normalization of relations between the two countries. Then, during the 1970s and 1980s, it cited Cuban intervention in Africa–more precisely in Angola and Namibia. Those interventions, designed to aid the national liberation movements fighting to obtain independence and to support of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, were cited as justification for the maintenance of economic sanctions. Finally, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Washington brandished democracy and human rights as an argument for maintaining its stranglehold on the Cuban nation.

CSF: What exactly is the impact of these sanctions on the Cuban population?

SL: The economic sanctions against Cuba constitute the principal obstacle to the development of the country and all sectors of the society are affected by it. It is important to note that the United States, for evident historical and geographic reasons, has always been Cuba’s natural market. The distance separating the two countries is less than 150 km. In 1959, 73% of all Cuban exports were destined for the U.S. market and 70% of its imports came from the States. There was, therefore, a significant dependence upon Cuba’s northern neighbor. Between 1960 and 1991, relations with the USSR had softened the sanctions, but this is no longer the case.

Thus practically, Cuba is unable to sell anything to the United States, which remains the world’s primary market. Nor can it buy anything from it other than, and since 2000 only, a few primary agricultural products that it is forced to purchase under severe restrictions, for example, Cuba is required to pay in advance in a currency other than the U.S. dollar–something that forces Cuba to shoulder the additional costs engendered by the exchange rates–all of this without the possibility of contracting a loan. This limits enormously the island’s commercial possibilities, forcing it to pay a much higher price to a third country.

CSF: You also emphasize the effects of the extraterritorial economic sanctions.

SL: Indeed, since 1992 and the adoption of the Torricelli Act, these sanctions apply equally to third countries that might wish to trade with Cuba. This constitutes a serious violation of international law which prohibits any national legislation from being extraterritorial, that is to say, from being applied outside of national boundaries. For example, French law cannot be applied in Spain and Italian law cannot be applied in France. Nonetheless, United States economic sanctions remain applicable to all countries that trade with Cuba.

Thus, any foreign ship that docks in a Cuban port finds itself forbidden to enter U.S. ports for a period of six months. Cuba, being an island, is heavily dependent upon maritime transport. Of the commercial fleets that operate in the Florida Straits, most conduct the bulk of their activities with a clear understanding of the importance of this market and do not run the risk of transporting merchandise to Cuba. When they do, however, they demand a higher tariff than that applied to neighboring countries, such as Haiti or the Dominican Republic, this in order to make up for the shortfall that results from being banned from U.S. ports for having done so. Therefore, if the standard price for transporting merchandise to the Dominican Republic is 100, this figure that can rise to 600 or 700 for Cuba.

CSF: You also comment on the retroactive nature of the economic sanctions.

SL: Since the adoption of the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, all foreign enterprises that wish to invest in Cuban property that had been nationalized in 1959, risk prosecution in the United States and seeing its U.S. investments frozen. This law is a judicial aberration because it is both extraterritorial and retroactive–in other words, it applies to events that occurred before the law was adopted, something that is contrary to international law. Take the case of the anti-tobacco law in France. This law was promulgated on January 1, 2008. But if you smoked in a restaurant on December 31, 2007, you would not be prosecuted, because the law cannot be applied retroactively. The Helms-Burton Act applies to events that occurred during the 1960s, something that is clearly illegal.

CSF: The United States maintains that the economic sanctions are a simple bilateral question that does not concern the rest of the world.

SL: The example that I have already cited demonstrate the exact opposite. I’ll give you another. In order to sell on the U.S. market, a German, Korean, or Japanese automobile manufacturer–in reality the nationality matters little–is obliged to demonstrate to the U.S. Treasury Department that its products do not contain a single gram of Cuban nickel. It is the same for all of the agribusiness enterprises that wish to invest in the U.S. market. Danone, for example, must demonstrate that its products contain absolutely no Cuban raw materials. Cuba cannot sell its natural resources and its products to the United States, but in these exact cases, neither can it sell them to Germany, Korea or Japan. These measures deprive the Cuban economy of much needed capital and Cuban exports of many markets around the world.

CSF: The economic sanctions have also had an impact on healthcare.

SL: Indeed, nearly 80% of all patents applied for in the medical sector belong to U.S. based multinational pharmaceutical companies and their subsidiaries, which puts them in the position of being a quasi-monopoly. It should be noted that international humanitarian law forbids all restrictions on the freedom of movement of foodstuffs and medicines, even during wartime. And officially, the United States is not at war with Cuba.

Here is a clear example: Cuban children could benefit from the Amplatzer septal occluder, a cardiac plug manufactured in the United States, that allows one to bypass open heart surgery. Dozens of children are waiting for this operation. In 2010 alone, four were added to this list: Maria Fernanda Vidal, five years old; Cyntia Soto Aponte, three years old; Mayuli Pérez Ulboa, eight years old, and Lianet D. Alvarez, five years old.

Are these children responsible for the differences that exist between Havana and Washington? No! But they are paying the price.

CSF: In your book, you also talk about the irrational nature of certain restrictions.

SL: Indeed, it should be noted that since 2004 and the strict application of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) rules, any American tourist that smoked a Cuban cigar or consumed a glass of Havana Club rum during a trip abroad risks a fine of a million dollars and ten in years in prison. Another example: a Cuban living in France theoretically cannot eat a hamburger at a McDonald’s. Of course, these measures are irrational because they are unenforceable. The United States does not have the material and human resources to put a U.S. agent on the trail of each tourist. Nonetheless, it illustrates the United States’ obsessive desire to economically strangle the Cubans.

CSF: Your book contains a prolog by Wayne S. Smith and a preface by Paul Estrade, both well known Cuban specialists, but no doubt without a large audience. Remind us of who they are.

SL: Wayne S. Smith is a former U.S. diplomat and currently a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC. He was the last American diplomat with the rank of ambassador to be posted in Cuba, this between 1979 and 1982. Under the government of Jimmy Carter, he distinguished himself through his politics of dialog and rapprochement with Havana. He is a partisan of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States and his preface takes stock of the anachronistic, cruel and ineffectual nature of these economic sanctions.

As for Paul Estrade, he is a professor emeritus at the University of Paris VIII and, without a doubt, the best Cuban specialist in France. His works on Cuban issues are standard references in the academic world. In his preface, he points to the way in which the state of siege against Cuba is voluntarily obscured by the medias when they report on the economic difficulties of this country.

http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs3312.html
Translated for CubaNews from the French
by Larry R. Oberg, Québec City, Québec,
October 23, 2011. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

The U.S. Blockade on Cuba Is Not a Bilateral Measure

October 24, 2011

 

On October 25th, a vote will be taken at the United Nations on the issue of the U.S. blockade on Cuba. The United States has always claimed that the issue should not discussed at the United Nations because each government has the right to choose the countries they want to keep relations with, and therefore consider the embargo of Cuba as a bilateral issue.

 

It is true that bilateral relations are not of the concern of the United Nations. The differences between Cuba and the United States, however, go beyond bilateral boundaries. Both countries disagree on the definition of this extraterritorial policy, which the United States insists in calling an ‘embargo,’ but Cubans clearly perceive as a blockade.

 

When it is referred to as ‘blockade’ it does not mean that the United States does not want to have business relations with Cuba and Cubans insist in establishing such relations. It rather makes reference to a series of congressional laws, decrees and presidential amendments aimed at constantly hindering Cuba’s business relations and suffocate a country to which the United States has not declared war. U.S. regulations target third countries and put all kinds of pressure on third parties, including state-run and private business. The Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts are good examples of this punitive policy towards the island nation.

 

It is not an embargo, it is a blockade, because it is extraterritorial and escapes U.S. jurisdiction in that third countries are systematically prohibited from exporting goods to Cuba, specifically products which include parts or technology manufactured in the United States. Subsidiaries operating with U.S. capital in third countries are also prohibited from establishing commercial and economic relations with Cuba, and the importation of Cuban products, even in the form of products included in products manufactured and semi-manufactured by third countries, is forbidden. This illegal and uncivilized policy also boycotts Cuba’s dealings with financial and credit institutions, who risk severe sanctions if they dare to trade with Cuba.

 

In countless occasions the possibility for Cuba to import products aimed at satisfying basic human needs has been denied – and not only in the United States. The U.S. government makes pressure on third countries to impede this, and many times negotiations are impossible due to the prohibition that products containing more than 10 percent of US-made parts or materials cannot be exported to Cuba, without obtaining a permit first.

 

According to U.S. blockade regulations, products containing components or materials made in the United States cannot be directly or indirectly exported to Cuba. Not even in those cases in which such components or materials have been completely transformed into new products entirely manufactured in third countries.

 

There are no express exceptions in the case of medicines, which in May 1964 became subject to specific licenses granted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

 

Moreover, section 385.1 establishes that, as part of the foreign policy of the government of the United States, the need for previous authorization of the U.S. Department of Commerce to export or re-export virtually any product or technical information of American origin to Cuba. Add to this that denying such permits is almost the established policy in this department, with some exceptions when it comes to matters of a humanitarian nature.

 

But, what does the United States understand by ‘humanitarian’? Cuba could present countless examples to prove that it is impossibility to purchase medical and laboratory equipment, even for diagnosing serious diseases such as cancer, and other medicines and reactants produced by U.S. laboratories, among others.

 

It is obvious that the U.S. blockade is not a bilateral measure, and that they are simply trying to avoid the issue due to the negative implications it may have in the eyes of the international community, given the ineffectiveness and irrational character of this genocidal measure.

( editorial Granma )

Stop spamming Cuba

October 24, 2011

latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-cuba-20111024,0,3770098.story

Editorial

Stop spamming Cuba

An American company last month began sending thousands of unsolicited text messages a week to cellphones in Cuba under an $84,000 annual government contract. That’s dumb.

October 24, 2011

For more than 25 years, Radio and TV Marti have served as a reminder of America’s failed policy toward Cuba.

The stations were launched in 1985 as a way to crack Fidel Castro’s control over mass media. Since then, they have become little more than a financial black hole. The government has spent nearly $500 million on, among other things, a twin-engine plane, a blimp and a satellite to beam broadcasts into Cuba. The broadcasts, however, are rarely seen or heard. Castro has successfully jammed the stations’ signals, and denounced Washington’s efforts as a violation of international treaty obligations.

So it’s disappointing that the U.S., which in recent years has taken steps to improve relations with Cuba, has opted to sustain and expand these anachronistic broadcasts that serve no purpose other than to placate Cuban exiles in Miami and stoke Castro’s anti-American rants.

Last month, an American company began sending thousands of unsolicited text messages a week to cellphones in Cuba under an $84,000 annual contract with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs the stations. The texts repackage Radio and TV Marti content, such as Major League Baseball scores and invitations to join Internet chats. The strategy is the cyber equivalent of dropping propaganda leaflets on the island. It is ineffective and, according to Cuba, illegal. Moreover, it ignores the fact that less than 10% of Cubans — or roughly 1 million— own cellphones, and that Internet access in Cuba is among the lowest in the world and is strictly regulated by the government.

Surely Washington doesn’t think that spam is going to threaten the Castro brothers’ firm grip on power. And certainly it must know that Cuba isn’t hermetically sealed from the outside world. More than 2 million tourists from Canada, Latin America and Europe pour into Havana each year, and pirate satellite dishes make U.S. television stations, including Univision, accessible to those Cubans with means and courage.

Congress ought to stop pretending that Radio and TV Marti remain relevant. And if President Obama is interested in reaching the Cuban people, he should push Congress to lift the travel ban. Person-to-person contact, not spam, is the way to win the hearts and minds of Cubans.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

Cuban Colmenita Children in Harlem

October 23, 2011

Escrito por Estela McCollin For Deysis Francis Mexidor, special correspondent

New York, Oct 22 (Prensa Latina) Public Harriet Trubman Learning Center, in Harlem, north Manhattan, expects today La Colmenita, a Cuban child theater company that several US cities have had the privilege to enjoy these days.

Each presentation is better than the previous, and that was confirmed Friday night at the theater of Centro Hostos para las Artes and la Cultura in Bronx, New York, where their performance pleased the public so much that it had to be extended, with the people standing in applause, asking for more and saying Viva Cuba! and Bravo!, making the little bees outgrow on the stage.

The 22 boys and girls came up to the public as if a bigger power would lead them. They faced the public as Company Director Carlos Alberto Cremata always instructs, straight in the eyes, for what he knows it is the only way to know when a message is understood.

And they achieved special communication with those who saw their piece Abracadabra, that honored the five anti-terrorist Cuban fighters arrested in the US on September 12, 1998.

“We have learnt of a history told with particular sensitivity,” Gilbert Brownstone, president of the Brownstone Foundation, promoter of this “beautiful project conveyor of love and justice,” told Prensa Latina. “Participants included many Puerto Ricans, who learnt in the spot who Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez really are. They were surprised and moved,” he commented.

From now on, the Cuban Five, as they are internationally known, are more familiar to those who have had the chance to enjoy La Colmenita’s work and in Hostos Center laughter, music and songs also brought tears to the people’s eyes through a script that kept the fire live till the end, which is the meaning of Abracadabra in Old Hebrew.

“Spectacular display of a sad episode of injustice,” burst a Puerto Rican mother who arrived early at the theater to “get a front-row seat.”

But in Brooklyn, a new development followed the show: the public asked the children more about Gerardo, Ramon, Antonio, Fernando and Rene, and asked What else they can do for the Cuban Five?” .

In Washington, Tia Powell Harris, Arts Director in Duke Ellington School of the Arts, admitted that the Cuban Five case “is complex for both Americans and Cubans, but she could not avoid being on the side of these activists, who share similar events in our history.”

“The play reminds me of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. and many more men and women fighting for the rights of others. That element in the play motivated my involvement and interest to learn more….”, she said in a local TV channel report.

Monday, La Colmenita has a key test ahead with its appearance at the United Nations, few hours ahead of the vote at the UN General Assembly of Cuba’s report on the Necessity to End the Commercial and Economic blockade that successive US Administrations have imposed on the Cuba for more than 50 years, a unilateral policy responsible for more than $975bn in losses

In October 2010, it won 187 support votes for its annulment.

The Centro Hostos para las Artes y la Cultura is part of the Hostos Community College with more than 6,000 students, and is one of the 25 schools of New York City University.

“Many Cuban artists have also visited and worked at the Center, preceded by the 1996 visit of Los Van Van orchestra,” its Director Wallace Edgecome told Prensa Latina. They were followed by Los Aragones and Reve Orchestra, the Maestro Chucho Valdes, Bobby Carcaces and Septeto Nacional.

La Colmenita still has some work ahead to complete their tour of the US but, and in spite of the tiresome number of performances from October 13, they seem tireless. It is a sound truth that children embody all the energy in the world.

 


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