On November 2, the United Nations General Assembly voted 187-2 (US and Israel voting no), with one abstention (Ukraine) to condemn the United States economic, commercial, and financial embargo of Cuba.
This is the 31st time that such an overwhelming majority of nations criticized the US’s unilateral coercive measures against Cuba. Representatives of many of the nations speaking before the vote also denounced the US for placing Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
On the same day more than 40 solidarity activists gathered in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco to call critical attention to this 60-year embargo (or, more appropriately, blockade). Similar rallies, marches, and car caravans took place in many cities across the US and Canada in the week leading up to the U.N. General Assembly vote.
Speakers at the San Francisco rally announced the results of the U.N. General Assembly vote, which had taken place earlier in the day. They also commented on how the blockade, which had been tightened during the Trump administration and only very partially rolled back by the Biden administration, hurt Cuban women, men, and children by limiting the countries access to food, medicine, and other necessities.
Some speakers at the rally called special attention to Cuba being placed on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, noting that it was more appropriate for the US to be on this list, given its decades of supporting terrorist acts against Cuba. Those attending the rally were also encouraged to sign the “Let Cuba Live” global petition, which is part of a campaign to gather one million signatures and present them to President Biden in December (see photo #2).
At the U.N., Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla spoke with reasoned passion that because of the blockade Cuban families lack goods, there are long queues and excessively high prices, even while the government makes great efforts to feed its people. He stated: “Cuba is prevented from buying from US companies and its subsidiaries in third countries, equipment, technologies, medical devices and end use pharmaceuticals, and is therefore forced to acquire them at exorbitant prices by way of intermediaries or to replace them with less-effective generic drugs.”
Foreign Minister Rodríguez Parrilla commented that 80 per cent of the Cuban population has never known life without the crippling US blockade. It is “an act of economic warfare, in times of peace,” designed to destabilize the country.
The Foreign Minister reminded those at the General Assembly that Cuba was not a threat at all to the US and that to subject a small nation for decades to economic warfare was unacceptable. The whole country was being deprived of the right to progress, through an “illegal, cruel and inhumane policy,” he said.
The Cuban foreign minister cited the example of the US government pressuring banks worldwide not to deal with his nation. He also pointed out that the blockade separated Cuban families and deprives US citizens of their right to visit Cuba as well as restricting citizens of other countries from gaining access to visas to travel to the US after having been in Cuba.
The Foreign Minister also called attention to the “media crusade” in the US aimed at encouraging discontent and a false impression of domestic political crisis in Cuba. Moreover, he reported that between March 2022 and February 2023 the estimated damages caused by the blockade were more than $4.8 billion.
When the representative of the United States, Paul Folmsbee, spoke to explain his almost totally isolated vote, he stated: “We strongly support their pursuit of a future with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” He noted that sanctions are “one set of tools” in the US broader effort towards encouraging Cuba to advance democracy and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. He concluded, saying that “the US opposes this resolution” and encouraged the General Assembly to urge the Cuban Government to adhere to its human rights obligations “and listen to the Cuban people and their aspirations to determine their own future.”
Somehow the fact that only one other country (Israel) agreed with the US position opposing the resolution did not resonate with the U.S. representative (or his boss in the White House) that the debate and voting in the U.N. General Assembly provided an example of democracy in action at the international level. The US representative, moreover, didn’t seem to understand that the blockade against Cuba violates the human rights of the Cuban people.