The world again condemned the embargo on Cuba on Wednesday, while the United States continued to defend it.
Miami World / AP
With its vote against an annual resolution condemning the embargo in the United Nations General Assembly, the government of Democrat Joe Biden showed that it has not softened its policy towards the island and follows the same hard line of the Donald Trump administration who tightened the blockade.
Of the 193 countries that make up the Assembly, 184 voted in favor of the resolution while Israel voted with the United States against. Three countries – Colombia, Ukraine and Brazil – abstained. Four countries – Central African Republic, Moldova, Myanmar and Somalia – did not vote.
The resolution is voted on every year at the UN to disapprove of the measures imposed by Washington in order to pressure a change in the political and social system on the island after the arrival of Fidel Castro to power. The vote has been held since 1992 and is not binding, so the United States can ignore the opinion of the rest of the countries.
Before the vote, the policy coordinator of the US mission to the UN, Rodney Hunter, said that the sanctions imposed on countries are a legitimate way to carry out foreign policy, national security issues and other objectives.
“The United States is not alone in this opinion or in this practice. Sanctions are a single set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy, respect human rights, and help the Cuban people exercise the fundamental freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ”Hunter said. “So we are opposed to this resolution.”
For his part, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said in his speech that, like COVID-19, the blockade “suffocates and kills and must stop” and harshly criticized the tightening of the embargo promoted by Trump through 243 “measures unilateral coercive ”.
“All these measures remain in force today and in full practical application and, paradoxically, are shaping the conduct of the current US government,” said the Cuban Foreign Minister.
“The campaign platform of the Democratic Party promised voters to quickly reverse the actions taken by the Donald Trump government, in particular the elimination of restrictions on travel to Cuba, remittances and compliance with bilateral migration agreements, including the visas, ”Rodríguez continued.
“Some blame this pernicious inertia on the electoral ambitions associated with Florida or the non-transparent balances of political and legislative elites,” he said. “What will those who voted for President Joseph Biden think of what happens?”
In 2016, under the presidency of Barack Obama, the United States abstained for the first time in 25 years from voting against the resolution. At that time there was a rapprochement between the two countries that has already been left behind.
In 2020 the General Assembly did not vote against the embargo due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Cuban authorities have said that the losses caused by the United States sanctions reached 9,157 million dollars between April 2019 and December 2020.
The figure is astronomical for a small country that is going through a severe economic crisis exacerbated by Washington’s measures. Goods whose production level is low on the island, such as food – flour, chicken, milk powder – or supplies must be imported at double their price since they cannot be purchased in the neighboring country. Furthermore, Cuba cannot export its products to the United States or use dollars.
The Trump administration tightened the embargo with measures that range from the suspension of cruises and remittances and travel restrictions, through cuts in consular attention to the island or opening the persecution of the ships with fuel that the island buys.
It also opened the possibility for people to bring to court companies from third countries that dare to invest or operate with Cuba and imposed fines on international banks that accepted money from the Caribbean nation.
Trump’s argument is that the Cuban government violates the human rights of citizens. On a day-to-day basis, this translates into long queues to supply the population and occasionally for cars to load fuel, a black market for products and price increases.
During his election campaign, Biden said he would dismantle some of those measures to return to the policy of dialogue initiated by Obama, but so far there have been no changes.
Hunter also said Wednesday that his country recognizes the challenges Cubans face.
“That is why the United States significantly offers humanitarian products to Cuba and is one of Cuba’s main trading partners. Every year we authorize billions of dollars in exports to Cuba, including food and other agricultural raw materials, medicines, medical devices, telecommunications equipment, consumer goods and other things to support the Cuban people, ”he said.
For his part, Rodríguez accused the United States of carrying out subversion programs to which the country dedicates tens of millions of dollars from the federal budget every year “and additional amounts of a covert nature.”
“The purpose is to produce political and social instability in the context of the economic difficulties that the United States government itself causes,” said the Foreign Minister. “They calculate that if they subject the Cuban population to hardships and promote artificial leaders who incite disorder and instability, they can generate a virtual political movement in digital networks to later take it to the real world.”