UN General Assembly again votes against U.S. blockade of Cuba
At the UN 187 countries voted to condemn the US embargo of Cuba. Only 2, the US and Israel, voted against the resolution. | UN photo

The United Nations General Assembly on November 2 voted for the 31st consecutive year to approve an unchanging Cuban resolution demanding that the U.S.-imposed economic blockade of Cuba be ended. Approval once more was overwhelming: 187 nations in favor and two opposed, the United States and Israel. Ukraine abstained.

Reacting to the vote, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel proclaimed a “new victory for the Cuban people and their revolution!” He pointed to “the triumph of dignity and the fearlessness of our people,” while expressing gratitude for “the international community’s recognition of and support for Cuba’s heroism and resistance.”

For over 20 years, the only nations opposing the Cuban resolution, apart from the United States, have been Israel and, formerly, a few U.S.-dependent Pacific island-nations. The blockade began in 1962, and so now 80% of Cubans have lived under its sway.

Prior to the vote this year, dozens of delegates representing member states spoke out against the blockade. Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Relations Bruno Rodríguez addressed the General Assembly, insisting that the U.S. blockade interferes with “the right to life, health, progress and welfare of every Cuban family.”

He explained that Cuba’s financial losses due to the blockade reflect factors like the high cost of substituting for goods excluded under the blockade with more expensive goods and/or those with higher transportation costs. Losses take the form also of a generalized lack of necessary materials, goods, and services resulting from the blockade. And “barriers Cuba faces in gaining access to advanced technology” lead to monetary loss.

The chancellor emphasized that “sectors like agriculture and energy face serious obstacles to acquiring spare parts or machinery.” He cited examples of blockade-related shortages such as extreme shortages of gasoline and oil, cancer patients being denied “first line treatments and drugs,” and healthcare providers and their patients lacking respiratory ventilators and medicinal oxygen normally available from abroad.

The blockade’s hurtful impact on the Cuban people shows up dramatically and starkly in the sums of money lost to Cuba’s economy. Rodríguez cited “pain and suffering” showing up as $4.87 billion in losses accumulated between March, 2023 and February 2023. He added that without the blockade Cuba’s GDP would have grown by 9% in 2022.

Total loss in the billions of dollars

An estimate appearing elsewhere shows Cuba’s total monetary loss since the onset of the blockade now to be $159.8 billion. Taking into account inflationary change, that’s $1.3 trillion,

Itemizing the losses, another report indicates that between August 2021 and February 2022  losses in the energy and mining sectors amounted to $185.5 million, in the agricultural sector, $270.9 million; and in banking and finance, $280.8 million. Between January and July in 2021, they were $113.5 million in the healthcare sector; $30.6 million in education; and $31.3 million in the transport sector.

A few examples illustrate how the blockade affects Cubans’ lives:

  • During the last school year, Cuba’s government lacked paper sufficient to “print and assemble books and notebooks for students.” Lack of credit extended by a Canadian paper manufacturer compounded the problem.
  • Presently, according to Granma news service, school books are no longer being produced due to a lack of supplies and spare parts.
  • Lack of access to high-performance brands and equipment, as well as spare parts, is severely handicapping Cuba’s telecommunications sector, thus easing the way for U.S. and European competitors to reach Cuban users.

Legislation with which the U.S. government authorizes its blockade of Cuba includes the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act, the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act (Torricelli Law), and the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (Helms-Burton Law). Throughout, executive actions have determined how the policy is implemented. The Obama administration eased some regulations, after which President Trump added 243 new measures to shore up the regulatory framework.  The Biden administration has continued them.

Fearing stiff penalties imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department for breaking blockade regulations, exporters worldwide comply with blockade regulations. Reacting similarly, international financial institutions rarely make loans to companies operating in Cuba. They usually refuse to provide banking services involving the use of U.S. dollars.

The U.S. government has recently been declaring Cuba to be a terrorist-sponsoring state. Doing so enables it to exert control over the international financial and banking sectors. That kind of action was built into the legislation allowing for such declarations.

Recently Cuban analyst Claudia Fonseca Sosa, conveniently enough, offered President Biden advice on “substantive modifications he might make to ease the blockade. For example, Biden could authorize “the export of U.S. products to key branches of Cuba’s economy” and the export to Cuba of medical supplies and equipment as an aid to Cuba’s manufacture of biotechnical products. The U.S. president could relax prohibitions preventing U.S. companies from investing in Cuba and enable U.S. citizens to receive medical treatment in Cuba.

Improving the prospects for change in U.S. policies toward Cuba is the recently documented role of U.S. blockade in propelling increased numbers of Cubans emigrating to the United States That’s no surprise; creation of desperate living conditions in Cuba was and is the blockade’s  purpose. Elected officials, so far unable to devise means for stemming the great flow of migrants across the U.S. southern border, might prioritize action on that front over harassing Cuba. That’s the hope.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.