The Daily Star (Lebanon)

U.N. urges end to U.S. embargo on Cuba

Vote can carry political weight, but only Congress can lift economic ban

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UNITED NATIONS/ WASHINGTON: The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmi­ngly adopted its 27th annual resolution calling for an end to the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba after a failed bid by Washington to amend the text to push Cuba to improve its human rights record.

The U.N. vote can carry political weight, but only the U.S. Congress can lift the more than 50-year-old embargo. The United States and Israel voted against the resolution, 189 countries voted in favor and Ukraine and Moldova did not vote.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told the General Assembly that the resolution was an opportunit­y for countries “to feel they can poke the United States in the eye.”

“But you’re not hurting the United States when you do this. You are literally hurting the Cuban people by telling the regime that their treatment of their people is acceptable,” she said ahead of the vote.

The U.S. consistent­ly voted against the U.N. resolution­s for 24 years but abstained for the first time in 2016 under former President Barack Obama, as Washington and Havana forged a closer relationsh­ip.

But relations have deteriorat­ed sharply since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, returning to Cold War characteri­zations of Cuba and tightening trade and travel restrictio­ns that had been eased by Obama.

The U.S. voted against the U.N. resolution last year along with Israel. The General Assembly’s remaining 191 members voted in favor.

This year, the United States proposed eight amendments to the resolution, including calling on Cuba to “fully grant its citizens internatio­nally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and free access to informatio­n.”

But all of the amendments failed after more than 113 countries voted against them. Only the United States, Israel and Ukraine voted in favor of all eight amendments. More than 65 countries abstained.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Thursday the U.S. government lacked the “moral authority” to criticize Cuba and others on human rights.

“The embargo is a violation of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of internatio­nal law,” he said before the vote. “It is an act of aggression and an act of economic war, which disrupts internatio­nal peace and order.”

Last month, the United States launched a campaign at the United Nations that it said was designed to highlight the plight of Cuban political prisoners. Protesting Cuban and Bolivian diplomats drowned out the launch by shouting, chanting and banging their hands on desks.

After the vote, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua form a “troika of tyranny” and announced new sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba, and said the U.S. will impose additional ones on Nicaragua.

Bolton says the countries represent “destructiv­e forces of oppression, socialism and totalitari­anism.” He says the trio “has finally met its match” with this administra­tion.

The Cuban measures add more names to those already on a blacklist.

Bolton spoke in Miami, home to thousands of people who’ve fled the three countries. The speech may energize Cuban-American voters who favor a hard-line approach to the island. –

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