Nigeria and 186 member states of the United Nations on Thursday voted by a large margin against the United States’ economic and trade embargo against Cuba, first imposed in 1960.
One hundred eighty-seven states voted for the resolution put forward each year against the embargo, with only the U.S. and Israel voting against it and Ukraine abstaining.
The resolution’s full title is the ‘Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba’.
The UN General Assembly voiced concern that despite its resolutions dating back to 1992 (Resolution 47/19), “the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba is still in place” and that “the adverse effects of such measures on the Cuban people and on Cuban nationals living in other countries.”
It recalled measures adopted by then-U.S. President Barack Obama in 2015 and 2016 “to modify several aspects of the application of the embargo, which contrast with the measures applied since 2017 to reinforce its implementation.”
The General Assembly reiterated its call for all states to refrain from promulgating and applying such restrictive laws and measures in line with their obligations under the UN Charter and international law.
Representative Paul Folmsbee of the U.S., while explaining the vote, said his country strongly supports their pursuit of a future with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
He, however, noted that sanctions are “one set of tools” in the U.S. broader effort towards encouraging Cuba to advance democracy and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Mr Folmsbee said the U.S. recognised the challenges the Cuban people face, explaining that sanctions include exemptions and authorisations relating to exports of food, medicines and other humanitarian goods to Cuba.
“The U.S. opposes this resolution,” he said, encouraging the General Assembly to urge the Cuban government to adhere to its human rights obligations “and listen to the Cuban people and their aspirations to determine their own future.”
Earlier, Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, while introducing the draft resolution, said the more than 60-year blockade violated the rights of all Cuban men and women.
“Families lack goods, there are long queues, excessively high prices and the Government makes great efforts to feed its people,” said Mr Parrilla.
“Despite wavers on food products, the U.S. is violating rules of international trade,” he said. “Cuba is prevented from buying from U.S. companies and its subsidiaries in third countries, equipment, technologies, medical devices and end use pharmaceuticals.”
Mr Parrilla added, “It is therefore forced to acquire them at exorbitant prices by way of intermediaries or to replace them with less-effective generic drugs,” citing testimony from Cuban families wrestling with serious illnesses.
“How different could (their) lives have been if Cuba was not prevented from acquiring directly from the U.S. market the (medications) to prevent the spasms,” he stressed.