UNITED NATIONS – The UN General Assembly called on Wednesday once again for an end to the embargo against Cuba, approving a resolution to that effect in a vote of 191-2, with only the US and Israel casting “no” votes.
A year ago, the text of a similar resolution had passed without opposition for the first time ever, given that both Washington and Tel Aviv decided to abstain amid the rapprochement with Havana being undertaken by the Barack Obama administration.
On Wednesday, however, the government of Donald Trump – and his Israeli partners – opted to vote against the measure as part of the “new focus” of his policy toward the communist island.
Trump, who supports maintaining the embargo, wants “greater emphasis” on pushing for human rights and democracy on the island and has conditioned the ending of US sanctions on progress in those areas.
Washington’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, defended on Wednesday the US stance, referring to the General Assembly vote as “political theater” orchestrated by Cuba.
Haley, in addition, downplayed the fact that the resolution has the support of practically all UN members.
“As long as the Cuban people continue to be deprived of their human rights and fundamental freedoms – as long as the proceeds from trade with Cuba go to prop up the dictatorial regime responsible for denying those rights – the United States does not fear isolation in this chamber or anywhere else,” she said.
The General Assembly – every year since 1992 – has been demanding an end to the US embargo, always with the overwhelming support of the international body’s member states.
The broad consensus was in evidence once again on Wednesday, with different groups and regional organizations clearly expressing their criticism of the unilateral US policy before the vote.
Many of them, in addition, lamented the new strategy toward Cuba being pursued by Trump and the tightening of the so-called blockade on the island, in contrast to the message sent a year ago by Obama.
The US Congress is the only entity that may lift the embargo, although Obama was unsuccessful at getting lawmakers to do so, but the president has broad authority to determine the level of application of such a measure using his/her executive powers.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez was very critical of Trump’s stance on the matter, emphasizing that the US leader “does not have the slightest moral authority to criticize Cuba.”