On Wednesday the 23rdJune, most countries voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution to call to an end the US embargo on Cuba. According to the UN, ‘a total of 184 countries on Wednesday voted in favour of a resolution to demand the end of the US blockade in Cuba, for the 29th year in a row, with the United States and Israel voting against’.
Meanwhile, Colombia, Ukraine and Brazil abstained on the vote. ‘With overwhelming backing from the international community, the resolution has been approved ever since 1992 when the General Assembly began to vote annually on the issue, with the sole exception of 2020, due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic’. This vote was meant to take place in October last year.
Therefore, it was the 29th vote in a row that the resolution was adopted by the UN. While the Assembly vote demonstrates a willingness for the international community to support the lifting of the US blockade on Cuba, it is the role of the US Congress to lift the economic, commercial and financial embargo in place for the last five decades.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, present during the vote in the General Assembly Hall, said that the blockade was a “massive, flagrant and unacceptable violation of the human rights of the Cuban people”.
He added that the embargo is about "an economic war of extraterritorial scope against a small country already affected in the recent period by the economic crisis derived from the pandemic". Mr. Rodriguez estimated 2020 losses to be $9.1 million.
The diplomat said that the sanctions have made it harder for his country to acquire the medical equipment needed to develop COVID-19 vaccines as well as equipment for food production."Like the virus, the blockade asphyxiates and kills, it must stop”, he urged.
Meanwhile, Political Coordinator for the US Mission, Rodney Hunter, said during the vote that sanctions are “one set of tools in Washington's broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy, promote respect for human rights, and help the Cuban people exercise fundamental freedoms”.
He underscored that despite the blockade, the US recognizes “the challenges of the Cuban people” and therefore, the US was “a significant supplier of humanitarian goods to the Cuban people and one of Cuba's principal trading partners”.
“Every year we authorize billions of dollars’ worth of exports to Cuba, including food and other agricultural commodities, medicines, medical devices, telecommunications equipment, other goods, and other items to support the Cuban people. Advancing democracy and human rights remain at the core of our policy efforts”, he said.
This is not the first time that the US has voted against the UN resolution to end its embargo on Cuba. It has consistently voted against UN resolutions for 24 years but abstained in 2016, under the then President, Obama. According to Reuters, ‘Washington and Havana forged a closer relationship’ which was the reason for this abstention.
Meanwhile, ‘Washington then returned to opposing the resolution under President Donald Trump's administration. Trump also rolled back nearly all measures Obama had taken to ease the embargo and improve ties between the United States and its old Cold War foe.
Biden vowed during his campaign to reverse some of Trump's Cuba measures that "have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights." However, he has yet to make good on that pledge and his administration has said a shift in policy toward Cuba is not among its top priorities’.
There is no justification for the continuation of the US blockade and embargo on Cuba, which has lasted for over five decades. It has inflicted enough suffering on the people of Cuba, economically, commercially, and socially. The Biden Administration must take steps towards ending this blockade, once and for all.
It is highly unlikely that this blockade will end any time soon, as it seemed that towards the end of the presidency of Obama, in 2016, that Washington and Havana forged closer relations and the possibility of the lifting of this embargo appeared to grow. However, this was reversed under the regressive policies of the Trump administration.
Biden pledged to end these regressive measures on the people of Cuba and to date, he has not delivered on these pledges. It cannot continue to consistently vote against a UN resolution which endorses the ending of the embargo of US Congress on Cuba. By doing this, it also ignores the will of 184 countries who have expressed support for an end to this blockade.