By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to condemn the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba for the 30th year, with the Biden administration continuing opposition from former President Donald Trump and refusing to revert to the Obama administration’s 2016 abstention.
The vote in the 193-member General Assembly was 185 countries supporting the condemnation, with the United States and Israel opposing it, and Brazil and Ukraine abstaining.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said before the vote that since 2019, the US government “has intensified the siege around our country, bringing it to an even more cruel and humane dimension, with the aim of inflicting deliberately doing the greatest harm possible to Cuban families. ”
In the first 14 months of the Biden administration, damage to Cuba’s economy was estimated at $6.35 billion, or more than $15 million a day, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the Biden administration was continuing Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy. He said that despite some positive but limited adjustments in recent months to US flights to Cuba, remittances and consular procedures, these do not “change US economic, trade and financial measures in any way.”
“The blockade, which has been tightened to the extreme, continues to be the central element that defines US-Cuban policy,” the foreign minister said.
U.S. political adviser John Kelley told the assembly after the vote that the United States remained committed to the pursuit of the freedom and dignity of the Cuban people, focused on their political and economic well-being, and that they were concentrating their efforts “on democracy, human rights and fundamental rights”. freedoms. »
He recalled that the Cuban government had continued the crackdown on protesters in response to July 2021 protests by tens of thousands of Cubans across the island demanding freedom.
He said the Cuban government “has also used harsh prison sentences, even against minors, intimidation, tactics, arrests, internet disruptions, government-sponsored mobs and appalling prison conditions to attempt to prevent Cubans from exercising their human rights”.
While the United States holds the Cuban government accountable, Kelley said, “The people of the United States and American organizations donate a significant amount of humanitarian goods to the Cuban people, and the United States is the one of Cuba’s main trading partners.
Cuba’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Yuri Gala, replied: “If the United States government really cared about the well-being, human rights and self-determination of the Cuban people, it could lift the embargo.
The United States defends individual freedoms in Cuba, Gala said, “yet it has not rolled back restrictions that directly impact Cuban entrepreneurs in areas such as software development, hospitality and other areas”.
Rodriguez earlier told the assembly, “We don’t blame the blockade for all the difficulties our country is facing today.”
“But those who deny its very serious impacts or do not recognize that it is the main cause of the deprivations, shortages and hardships suffered by Cuban families would not be telling the truth,” he said.
Rodriguez accused the United States of using its powerful media and digital platforms “in a virulent disinformation and smear campaign against Cuba.” He said the United States employs “the most diverse unconventional methods of warfare, using our children, our youth, and our artists as targets for this political and media bombardment.”
Thursday’s 185-2 vote was similar to previous years.
The General Assembly vote in November 2019 was 187 to 3, with the United States, Israel and Brazil voting “no” and Colombia and Ukraine abstaining.
The 75th session of the assembly began in September 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the vote on the Cuba resolution was postponed until June 2021, when the vote was 184 to 2, the United States and Israel voting “no” and Brazil, Colombia and Ukraine abstaining.
General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding and unenforceable, but they reflect world opinion and the vote gave Cuba an annual step to demonstrate the isolation of the United States in its decades-old efforts to isolate the Caribbean island nation.
The embargo was imposed in 1960 following the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the nationalization of property owned by American citizens and businesses. Two years later, it was reinforced.
Then Cuban President Raul Castro and President Barack Obama formally restored relations in July 2016, and that year the United States abstained on the resolution calling for an end to the embargo for the first time. But Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, was highly critical of Cuba’s human rights record, and in 2017 the United States again voted against the resolution.
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