UN condemns U.S. blockade of Cuba, again

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In what has become an annual exercise, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution Nov. 8 censuring the U.S. blockade of Cuba. This year the resolution, introduced by Cuba, won the support of 183 nations — a new high — with only four opposing votes: the United States, Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau. Micronesia abstained.

Every year since 1994, more than 100 nations have voted to condemn the U.S. blockade. Since 2000, the number has reached more than 167. In 15 years, the U.S. has never gotten more than three other countries to join it in opposing the resolution.

Before the vote, U.S. Deputy Ambassador Ronald Godard told the General Assembly, “We maintain this embargo to demonstrate our continuing call for economic and political freedom for all Cubans.” In a striking show of disbelief, the Assembly delegates burst forth with loud applause when the final vote tally flashed on the UN tabulation screen.

The Bush administration this year earned one other defeat on Cuba. Prior to the voting on the resolution, the right-wing Australian government dutifully introduced a motion calling upon the Assembly to add a U.S.-devised amendment to Cuba’s resolution, referring to “valid concerns about the continued lack of democracy and political freedom in Cuba” and calling upon Cuba to “respect human rights.”

That maneuver, aimed at diverting attention from the worldwide rejection of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, failed by a vote of 126-51. Of the 126 negative votes, 115 came from members of the Non-Aligned Movement. And Australia went on to vote in favor of the Cuban anti-blockade resolution.

Afterward, Cuban spokespersons said the U.S. had used pressure, threats and even blackmail in a campaign to secure friendly votes, urging delegates, if necessary, to abstain or be absent from the voting. The Ivorian delegate, for example, bowing to U.S. threats to veto the continuing presence of UN peacekeeping troops in Côte d’Ivoire, was away from his desk when the Cuba vote was called.

Speaking on Cuban television the next day, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque lauded the UN vote as recognition of the Cuban people’s steadfastness and of the “moral authority and prestige of Cuba and the accomplishments of its revolution.” He saw the result as gratitude for Cuba’s “internationalism and willingness to share what it has with other countries.”

He added, “The support and solidarity shown our country was impressive. Representatives from many delegations came to congratulate us.”

In an earlier speech before the UN vote, the Cuban foreign minister emphasized the negative aspects of the U.S. application of the blockade to other countries who wish to pursue economic relations with Cuba, and restrictions placed on imports of food and medicines. The U.S. purpose, he contended, has long been “to break us through hunger and disease.” He condemned U.S. policies as genocidal and as violations of international law.

Perez Roque’s speech is noteworthy for its review of Bush administration schemes to recover U.S. control over the island, as manifested by plans released in May 2004 and again last July. He also reviewed Cuba’s record of solidarity, particularly medical support, for the peoples of the world. The speech is available at www.granma.cu/ingles/2006/noviembre.

Reflecting upon Cuban successes, Perez Roque reminded the Assembly delegates “and particularly the U.S. delegation” of the words of Cuba’s national hero Jose Marti: “Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone.” Said Perez Roque, “It is those trenches of ideas that have made the noble, generous and heroic people that I represent here invincible.”

atwhit @ megalink.net