For first time, U.S. changes its position on U.N. resolution blasting
Cuba trade embargo
BY FRANCO ORDOÑEZ
For the first time in a quarter century of voting on it, the United
States on Wednesday declined to oppose a United Nations resolution
condemning the American trade embargo against Cuba, drawing harsh
criticism from South Florida lawmakers, who called it another example of
the Obama administration's bending to the will of the Castro government.
"The United States has always voted against this resolution. Today,
United States will abstain," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power
said to applause from the U.N. General Assembly.
The vote, the 25th time the U.N. has voted to condemn the embargo, was
overwhelming, with 191 nations voting in favor and two – the United
States and Israel – abstaining.
Despite the nearly unanimous approval, the practical impact of the vote
will be small. While U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the
embargo the "most unjust, severe and long-lived system" of sanctions
ever applied against a country, lifting the embargo can be accomplished
only by the U.S. Congress.
But the U.S. abstention aligns the Obama administration with the
international community against the laws imposing the embargo, which
continues to be backed by Republicans in Congress.
Florida Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart and
Sen. Marco Rubio blasted the abstention, saying the Obama administration
had failed to honor and defend U.S. laws in an international forum.
Diaz-Balart said the U.S. should stand in solidarity with the Cuban
people, "rather than siding once again with their oppressors." Rubio
accused the United Nations of giving "voice and legitimacy" to America's
"It's no surprise the United Nations would endorse economic concessions
to the Castro regime," Rubio said. "But it is shameful for the Obama
administration to refuse to abide by existing U.S. law and to dismiss
the will of the American people."
Mauricio Claver-Carone, the executive director of the U.S.-Cuba
Democracy PAC, a political action committee, called it "perhaps the most
egregious breach" of President Barack Obama's constitutional
responsibilities and oath of office.
Those working to lift the embargo said the vote acknowledged that the
"obsolete" policy had no place in international affairs.
IT IS SHAMEFUL FOR THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO REFUSE TO ABIDE BY
EXISTING U.S. LAW AND TO DISMISS THE WILL OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
"As Cuba continues to play a growing and constructive global role, our
policy of isolation not only weakens our international credibility but
threatens our national security, as well as our economic and human
rights interests in the region and around the world," said James
Williams, the president of Engage Cuba, a coalition of people and
organizations working to lift the embargo
A U.N. report estimated that the embargo has inflicted more than $1
trillion in accumulated economic damage over more than 50 years.
In its own critical report, the Cuban government claims the embargo has
put lives at risk because of sanctions that restrict access to
diagnostic equipment for leukemia patients and devices crucial for
pediatric heart surgery. It chides the U.S. government for blocking kids
from getting Louisville Slugger baseball bats and Wilson baseballs and
forcing Cuban schools to pay three times as much for beginner violins
that it could get from the United States for $79 apiece.
Power called the abstention a "small step" by the United States toward
eventually lifting the embargo. She defended the legality of the embargo
and said it conformed with the U.N. Charter and international law, but
said the resolution illustrated how the U.S. policy toward Cuba hadn't
"The resolution voted on today is a perfect example of why the U.S.
policy of isolation toward Cuba was not working – or worse, how it was
actually undermining the very goals it set out to achieve," Power said.
"Instead of isolating Cuba, as President Obama has repeatedly said, our
policy isolated the United States. Including right here at the United
Bruno Rodriguez, the foreign minister of Cuba, called the United States'
decision a "positive step" toward improving relations between the
nations. But he said the vote didn't change the fact that the embargo
was still in place and continued to hurt the Cuban people. And he
criticized the United States for allowing Americans to purchase
unlimited quantities of Cuban-made cigars and rum, while limiting U.S.
companies from investing in Cuba.
"We recognize that the executive measures adopted by the U.S. government
have been positive steps, but with a very limited scope and effect,"
Rodriguez said, referring to Obama's recent issuance of new regulations
governing relations with Cuba. " . . . The president of the United
States has ample executive prerogatives that he has not fully used, as
he could still do to substantially modify the practical implementation
of the blockade and its economic and humanitarian impact."
Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @francoordonez.
Source: US abstains on UN's Cuba embargo resolution | In Cuba Today -