62nd General Assembly of the United Nations
FARUKH AMIL ( Pakistan), on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said those Governments had condemned the use of economic sanctions at the Second South Summit held in Qatar in June 2005. Further, they had recognized that the embargo had caused a high degree of economic and financial damage that had impacted the well-being of the Cuban people, and called on the United States to end its embargo. At the annual Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 held in New York in September, the ministers once again firmly rejected the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact, emphasizing that such actions undermined the principles of the United Nations Charter and threatened trade. They had, therefore, called on the global community neither to recognize nor apply those measures.
The Group was committed to working towards a better world in which all nations -– large and small -– could coexist peacefully, he continued. The achievement of such coexistence required an adherence to the rule of law, including international law. In conformity with the fundamental norms of international law, the United Nations Charter and the principles governing peaceful relations among States, he supported the need to eliminate coercive economic measures. Further, the continued imposition of the embargo against Cuba violated the principles of sovereign equality of States and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. Replacing the embargo with greater dialogue and cooperation would contribute greatly to removing tensions. The Group would again support the draft resolution to end the embargo.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that he opposed the adoption and implementation of extraterritorial or unilateral coercive measures or legislation, including unilateral economic sanctions, other intimidating measures and arbitrary travel restrictions, that sought to exert pressure on non-aligned countries, threatening their sovereignty and independence, their freedom of trade and investment, and preventing them from exercising their right to decide their own political and economic systems. Those actions were flagrant violations of the United Nations Charter, international law, the multilateral trading system and the norms and principles governing friendly relations among States.
He called upon the United States to end the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, expressed concern over its widening extraterritorial nature and rejected measures by the United States Government to reinforce the embargo and other measures against the people of Cuba. He urged strict compliance with all resolutions calling for the end to the embargo.
PAULETTE A. BETHEL ( Bahamas), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), aligned herself with Pakistan’s statement on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China. She said CARICOM had always recognized the importance of mutually beneficial relations among Caribbean countries, as they faced globalization challenges from a unified perspective. Recalling the communiqué from the Second Meeting of the CARICOM/Cuba Ministers of Foreign Affairs last May, she said those principles had embodied the conduct of CARICOM international relations. CARICOM reiterated its complete opposition to the punitive embargo, which had gone on for far too long. Further, her delegation maintained its opposition to the imposition of extraterritorial laws on third States, which was contrary to the Charter.
The significant impact of the embargo on the Cuban economy was of great concern to her delegation, as was the humanitarian impact on the Cuban people, particularly in the area of health care and food. Cuba was an integral part of the Pan-Caribbean process, and CARICOM’s links with Cuba remained strong. Noting that Bahamanian Prime Minister Denzil Douglas had expressed CARICOM’s deep appreciation for the technical and other assistance that Cuba had provided to the Caribbean, she said it was no small feat that Cuban assistance in the field of health was considerable, even as the impact of the embargo was systematically stiffened.
Through its actions, Cuba had shown it was an integral part of the Caribbean, she said. The country had not threatened any Member State, but rather, had sought to assist its neighbours in the quest for human development. The embargo against Cuba was an anachronism, and served no useful purpose in the twenty-first century, which was also facing the climate change challenge. As CARICOM enjoyed friendly relations with Cuba and the United States, she called for a “new beginning” between those countries, akin to initiatives undertaken for negotiations of far more difficult international issues. Within that context, CARICOM States supported the draft resolution.
JORGE VALERO, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela , said the embargo against Cuba was genocidal and unilateral, and had flagrantly violated both the Charter and the norms of international law. His country categorically rejected the application of laws with extraterritorial effects, which intervened in States’ internal affairs. The embargo was an “anachronism of failed imperial policies”, which had been rejected by the peoples and Governments of the world. The United Nations had repeatedly rejected the embargo.
He recalled that, a few days ago, United States President George W. Bush had threatened to intensify the embargo against Cuba and urged the deepening isolation of the country. In those actions, the President had hoped to undermine Cuban institutions. It was a new attempt to reacquire Cuba. Venezuela was against such “irrational purposes” and urged all States to reject them. The inhuman measures imposed by the United States for more than 45 years had had a terrible impact. Yet, despite the embargo, Cuba had maintained its solidarity with peoples in the South, and Venezuela appreciated that solidarity.
Venezuela firmly demanded the end of the cruel and punitive embargo, he said, adding that human rights were repeatedly violated by such genocidal actions. Indeed, the embargo had impeded the necessary dialogue and cooperation that must prevail among States. He said the Assembly had rejected the United States’ unilateral act and it was time to repeat that determination. His delegation subscribed to Egypt’s statement, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Uruguay’s statement on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR). Venezuela would vote in favour of the resolution to end the embargo.
CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) once again expressed his Government’s disapproval of the economic, commercial and financial embargo of the United States against Cuba and said the use of such coercive actions was not supported by the United Nations Charter. Such unilateral mechanisms could result in severe humanitarian consequences and signified a refusal to use diplomacy and dialogue as the ideal path to solving controversies between States. Some of the consequences of the embargo included, among others: alterations of foreign bank transactions with Cuba; greater difficulty in attracting foreign investment to Cuba; greater difficulty integrating the country into the world trade system; limitations to Cuban access to credits; and greater difficulty in obtaining necessary procurement and supplies for Cuba.
He said his Government was continuing bilateral and multilateral relations with Cuba, based on the general principles of international law. Mexico remained fully opposed to the exercise of national norms on other countries that went against international law. For 16 years Mexico had supported an end to the embargo, and in order to favour economic and commercial exchange, as well as regional cooperation and development, his country had assisted Cuba in its incorporation into all regional integration mechanisms. The observance of international law and principles was necessary to overcome the differences among States and to guarantee an environment of international peace. Societies evolved according to their own circumstances and not as a result of externally imposed mechanisms. As such, his Government reaffirmed its support for the resolution.
HOANG CHI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) said the economic, commercial and financial embargo, imposed for nearly 50 years against Cuba by the United States, had caused huge economic damages and untold suffering to the Cuban people. It had severely hindered Cuba’s economic and social development and undermined its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Direct economic damages exceeded $89 billion over the last half-century, while last year’s damages to Cuba’s foreign trade alone were worth over $1.4 billion. The embargo had been not just sustained over the years, but rather tightened, through the enforcement of laws and provisions of a distinctly extraterritorial character.
That embargo ran counter to the fundamental principles of international law, the United Nations Charter and the regulations of the World Trade Organization, he said. Continuing such coercive economic measures would only cause further tension in bilateral relations between the United States and Cuba and further damage vulnerable groups within Cuba. It was no surprise that the embargo had been repeatedly rejected by a growing number of Member States, to a point where opposition to it was almost unanimous. Every nation had the inalienable right to determine its own political system and path of development and differences between the United States and Cuba should be settled through dialogue and negotiations, based on mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. Normalization and development of friendly relations between the two neighbours would serve the interests of both countries, as well as those of regional and international peace and security. He reaffirmed his Government’s friendship and solidarity with the Cuban people and called upon the United States to put an immediate end to its policy.
FELIPE PÉREZ ROQUE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, recalled that the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against Cuba had lasted nearly half a century, causing losses of over $89 billion. At the current dollar value, those losses accounted for no less than $222 billion. As such, anyone could understand that the blockade was the main obstacle to the well-being of the Cuban people, and constituted a systematic, blatant and massive violation of rights.
He said the document outlining the purpose of the embargo, initiated by United States President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960, had sought to estrange internal support for the political opposition in Cuba. It worked on the basis that money must be denied, with a view to causing hunger, despair and the overthrow of the Government.
Today, President George W. Bush had urged Congress to maintain the embargo, he continued. Indeed, 7 in 10 Cubans had lived their lives only knowing such aggression against the country. The United States had ignored “with arrogance and political blindness” the 15 resolutions calling for the lifting of the blockade. It had adopted new measures that “bordered on madness and fanaticism” to deepen the blockade, which had never been enforced with such viciousness as in the past year. For example, the United States had penalized the alliance of Baptist churches that had claimed to have been tourists with religious purposes. In 2006, the United States had forbidden American companies from providing Internet services to Cuba, and thus today, if one tried to access Google Earth in Cuba, a screen would appear: “This service is not available in your country.”
Children, in particular, had been impacted by the embargo, as they could not receive high-quality anaesthesia. The United States delegation should explain why Cuban children suffering from cardiac arrhythmia were enemies of its Government. He reiterated his solidarity with American filmmakers Oliver Stone and Michael Moore who had shot documentaries in Cuba. The fact that Mr. Moore was being investigated for a trip to Cuba constituted “twenty-first century McCarthyism”.
He said the Assembly had heard United States representatives say that the issue was a bilateral matter. However, the ruthless economic war imposed on Cuba was an affront to international law and the United Nations Charter. The extraterritorial enforcement of American law, scorning the legitimate interests of third countries to develop normal trade relations with Cuba, concerned all States. From May 2006 to May 2007, 30 countries had been impacted by the extraterritorial provisions of the blockade. PSL Energy Services, for example, had been fined in 2007 for exporting equipment and services to Cuba for the oil industry. BASF AG also had been prevented from selling an herbicide-related product from Germany or its Latin American subsidiaries, while the Hilton Group had announced it would ban bookings of Cubans in all its hotels around the world, as it would be subject to fines.
The United States President had said Cuba’s regime used the embargo as a “scapegoat” for its miseries, he continued. However, the Secretary-General’s report clearly proved that United States actions over the last year to reinforce the blockade had had serious consequences in Cuba. Today, the Cuban people were following with hope the Assembly’s decision. “Never had a nation such profound convictions to fight,” he said. Cuba would fight with the conviction that defending its rights today was tantamount to fighting for the rights of all peoples. He requested voting in favour of the resolution to end the embargo against Cuba. He had the legitimate right to say “long live Cuba”.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa) said that for 47 years the people of Cuba had lived under a unilateral economic, commercial and financial embargo by the United States, which meant that the majority of Cuban citizens had known no other life. Even so, the Cuban people had survived. Cuba offered assistance to many developing countries in the areas of health, education and biotechnology. “The embargo that was designed to stifle the everyday lives of the Cuban people has instead produced a contribution by Cuba to the betterment of the lives of other people around the world.” He particularly noted Cuba’s contributions to his own country’s freedom and democracy in the fight against apartheid.
He opposed the United States embargo against Cuba as a violation of the principles of the sovereign equality of States and of non-intervention and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. Guided by the norms of international law and conduct, South Africa believed that constructive dialogue would foster mutual trust and understanding and was committed to working towards a better world for all, including the Cuban people, and one in which all nations could coexist peacefully. He also expressed opposition to the use of coercive measures to pressure developing countries as contrary to international law, international humanitarian law, the United Nations Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States. He believed the overwhelming majority of Member States present today would join South Africa in its support for the Cuban people.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that, for 15 years, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution urging all countries to comply with the United Nations Charter and the principles of international law by repealing all laws and measures that compromised the sovereignty of other States. Despite those resolutions, the long-term economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba imposed by the United States continued. Normal economic, commercial and financial ties among countries were in the global interest and, as such, the international community had the right to raise serious concerns over the embargo and sanctions suffered by Cuba over the years. Not only did those sanctions harm the interests of Cuba and many other countries, they also went against the principles of democracy, freedom, rule of law and human rights.
Forcing another country, through embargo and sanctions, to give up its right to independently choose its path of development constituted a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, he continued. Such practices had nothing to do with promoting democracy or freedom since they were extraterritorial in nature and thus in violation of international law. The sanctions against Cuba were opposed by all countries and ran counter to the principle of trade liberalization. They also seriously obstructed the efforts of the Cuban people to eradicate poverty, improve their living standard, pursue economic and social development, and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Countries should develop State-to-State relations based on equality and in compliance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, and they should be allowed to choose their own political, economic, and social systems and their mode of development. As such, he requested the ending of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba and expressed hope that a spirit of dialogue and exchange would take its place.
A.A. PANKIN ( Russian Federation) said that Russia shared the position of the majority of Member States in opposing the United States embargo against Cuba and calling for its end. Normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States would help to integrate Cuba into the region and internationally. The State Duma of the Russian Federation issued an appeal to Member States and international parliamentary organizations in which it noted the suffering to the Cuban people caused by the United States embargo, called that blockade a holdover from the cold war period and called for its end.
He said that the continued commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba by the United States was counterproductive and unresponsive to the spirit of the times. Further, it was an impediment to building a just world order in keeping with the United Nations Charter and international law. It also ignored the universal opinion of Member States with regard to the principles of replacing confrontation with cooperation and the right of people to choose their political, economic and social systems.
MOHAMMAD SALIM ( India) said the international community had categorically opposed the extraterritorial aspect of the embargo imposed against Cuba by the United States. His Government joined that opposition and the General Assembly’s repeated rejection of the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact and all other forms of coercive economic measures. Through its resolutions, the Assembly had called upon Member States to respect their obligations under the United Nations Charter and international law by repealing and invalidating laws and measures that went against the Charter’s principles. The continuation of the embargo on Cuba had hampered that country’s ability to pursue development initiatives and had caused severe humanitarian damage, particularly in terms of medical care and access to medical equipment, medicines and diagnostic aids. Other areas affected included nutrition, education, international trade and investment, and transportation.
Cuba’s efforts to provide assistance under South-South cooperation in the field of medicine were also hindered due to the embargo, he continued. As well, there had been an adverse impact on gross domestic product (GDP) growth, export revenues, industrial and agricultural production and trade. Embargoes and economic blockades were against the spirit of unhindered trade and commerce without barriers. The embargo had done nothing but delay Cuba’s progress towards development and the continuation of such a policy was nothing “but a desire to continue an age old unjust arrangement”. In an age of globalization, that was especially unacceptable.
He said the United States and Cuba should be natural partners in trade, commerce and investment, and a considerable part of the business sector in the United States could benefit from greater contact with Cuba. Limited United States exports of agricultural and medical products to Cuba were testimony to the interest and potential of trade, and various legislative attempts in the United States to relax the embargo also supported that view. In conclusion, he reiterated his Government’s opposition to unilateral measures that impinged upon the sovereignty of another country and his support for the resolution under consideration.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) supported the lifting of the embargo against Cuba and, quoting the World Summit Outcome 2005, said democracy was “a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives.” The people of Cuba had the right to determine how they were to be governed, who would govern them, and for how long. The attempt to impose sanctions on Cuba was an attempt to impose regime change. The embargo hurt the Cuban people and crippled their economic development. The international community had consistently called for the lifting of the embargo and that “universal voice” should be heeded.
Isolationism did not do any country any good, he said. Even in the United States there were elements of support for lifting the embargo, including one of the presidential candidates for the 2008 elections. It was high time the concerned authorities in the United States heeded the call of those overwhelming voices to lift the embargo, which was against the principles of international law and free trade, and contrary to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
E. Hugo Siles-Alvarado ( Bolivia) said, after 47 years of a relentless blockade against Cuba and after 15 resolutions of the General Assembly requesting the lifting of the unilateral embargo by the United States, the international community could see the “clear failure of this commercial, economic and financial embargo as a mechanism to impose foreign ideologies on a sovereign nation”. The Viet Nam War had demonstrated that no brute force was capable of oppressing the “fearless will of sovereign nations” in their struggle for the right to self-determination. On the contrary, such actions only served to unite a people against their oppressors.
The embargo policy of the United States against Cuba was a clear violation of the human rights of the Cuban people, he said. Such actions warranted corresponding sanctions by the General Assembly. However, the Assembly could not impose such sanctions, since it had established and continued to follow the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The Assembly resolutions adopted year after year did not have any implications for the countries involved, because the Assembly did not have the power to apply them. It was imperative, therefore, to give the General Assembly the power to make binding decisions -- for instances, such as in the current instance, where there was a violation of human rights. He called on the international community to build a genuine peace based on mutual respect and non-interference in other countries’ sovereign affairs. It was now time to impose reason and lift the “inhuman embargo” on Cuba.
HINDI ABDELLATIF ( Libya), supporting Pakistan’s statement on behalf of the Group of 77, said that for over 40 years, the economic, commercial and financial embargo had impeded the economic and social development of Cuba. That situation had arisen despite the fact that the Assembly had called for ending the embargo, which had been tightened by extraterritorial laws and provisions. Indeed, the embargo ran counter to international law and the United Nations Charter, and promulgation would only lead to further tension in bilateral relations, and have a particularly serious impact women and children.
His delegation was strongly opposed to unilateral measures imposed for political reasons, he explained. Libya was extremely concerned at the imposition of the coercive economic embargo, particularly as it was against the principles of equal rights of States and non-interference in internal affairs of other countries. It impinged on Cuba’s right to development, food and medical care. The imposition of the embargo had never been the appropriate means for solving problems among States. Negotiation, reconciliation, arbitration and transparent settlements were the necessary methods. States had repeated that fact through the General Assembly resolutions, which embodied logic and justice. Furthermore, those resolutions had sent the clear message that a comprehensive peace could not be achieved without international cooperation based on respect for State sovereignty.
AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) expressed sympathy for the people and Government of Cuba and joined the call for ending the embargo against that country and its people. Over the years, it had become evident that the wide-ranging embargo was specifically targeted to inflict the maximum amount of suffering on the people of Cuba and, in that way, undermine the Government. The victims came from every social group, but the young, old, and people with disabilities were particularly affected. Those actions were “morally reprehensible” and were outside the values espoused by the General Assembly, in particular the protection of civilians irrespective of race, colour or citizenship. The heroic resilience of the Cuban people had made the embargo futile and now, at a time when international peace and security was a common and major goal of the international community, it was time to review that strategy.
The Cuban people had stood firm against the embargo and subsequent tightening through the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts, he said. Embargoes and blockades were an antiquated means of warfare and there was currently a multitude of options for peacefully resolving differences in the international community in a humane way. The Assembly had overwhelmingly called for the lifting of the embargo and it was necessary for countries to heed that call to avoid adopting a double standard where some resolutions of the Assembly were heeded but others weren’t. Wisdom should prevail in reviewing and progressively easing an embargo against a people whose only crime was to live on their sovereign soil. The people of Cuba were currently bracing for the onslaught of yet another tropical storm. Such natural calamities should “prick the conscience” of Governments and help them recognize, value and respect human life and the suffering of innocent people. He expressed hope that the Assembly’s appeals would not go in vain and would be heeded by all peace-loving people and their Governments in the future.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE ( Zambia) said the Helms-Burton legislation violated the sovereignty of Cuba and constituted a breach of international law not in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter, particularly “the sovereign equality of States, non-interference in their internal affairs and freedom of international trade and navigation.”
He continued, saying the report of the Secretary-General, once again, vindicated the position consistently held by the Assembly over the years -- that the embargo against Cuba hurt the innocent people of Cuba, particularly women and children, the most vulnerable. Additionally, despite the hardship caused for four decades by the embargo, the Cuban people had become more determined and united in defence of their country’s sovereignty. Zambia would, once again, vote in favour of the draft resolution.
MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) said Cuba had heroically resisted for almost 50 years the most aggressive imperialist policy of the United States. Under the inhuman and illegal blockade, the United States had undertaken every effort to thwart the dreams of the Cuban people. Nicaragua had also been the victim of such a blockade, and experienced the effects of such inhuman measures. It was a source of pride for her country to join with Latin America and the Caribbean in favour of the draft resolution.
International trade relations had been affected by the illegal blockade imposed against Cuba, and the complementary Helms-Burton Act, she continued. Such plans were interventionist violations of international law and should be condemned. She extended solidarity to the five Cuban heroes who remained in United States prisons. The cold war had ended and had given rise to new forms of relations among nations. Why had the global community’s will been ignored, she asked. Cuba was sparing no effort to fight against the blockade. Recalling that Cuban doctors provided help to countries around the world, she said Cuba was ready to share what it had achieved with other developing countries.
Nicaragua welcomed Cuba’s initiatives to achieve an unconditional dialogue to find a political solution, and regretted the imposition of new measures, which sought to deepen the blockade. She was, however, encouraged by the business, religious, scientific and academic communities that had joined States in calling for an end to the blockade. The United States Government must end its blockade, and problems between the two countries must be settled through dialogue, on the basis of mutual respect. Nicaragua reiterated its unconditional support to the Cuban people in its titanic struggle against the empire.
BONIFACE G. CHIDYAUSIKU ( Zimbabwe) reiterated his country’s firm commitment to the fundamental principles of sovereign equality of States, non-interference in their internal affairs and freedom of international trade. For over four decades, all debates at the United Nations had protested against unilateral economic measures applied in order to achieve certain political objectives. However, numerous resolutions had failed to convince successive United States administrations to end unilateral measures. The United States’ extension of territorial jurisdiction to all countries was contrary to the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in States’ internal affairs recognized under international law. United States policy undermined the Cuban people’s right to development and contradicted freedom of trade.
He said Cubans, like their Zimbabwean counterparts, had been bombarded by propaganda broadcasts by radio, the aim of which had been to incite the population to effect regime change. The doctrine of regime change contradicted the principle of sovereignty, and there was no justification for continuing such cruel and immoral United States policies. As a current victim of domestic laws that had extraterritorial impact, Zimbabwe fully understood the need to end the unilateral embargo on Cuba. His country stood firm with Cuba in the fight to end the embargo.
In explanation of the vote before the vote, RONALD GODDARD (United States) pointed out that the decision to trade with other countries was a bilateral issue not appropriate for discussion by the General Assembly and that, from time to time Member States had undertaken similar measures with regard to other countries. He asked Member States if they wanted to set a precedent and whether they would like such a resolution in another context. He said that the embargo was caused by Cuba in its denial of freedoms to its people. The purpose of the embargo was to end the grip of the Cuban Government on the Cuban people.
He noted that the United States was one of Cuba’s largest trading partners, accounting for more than $2 billion in medical and agricultural commerce, he said, noting that the United States was the largest provider of humanitarian aid to the Cuban people. He urged Member States and non-governmental organizations to support Internet access and full access to libraries for all young people in Cuba and called for the release of all political prisoners and the restoration of basic human rights. Rather than voting for the resolution against the United States, he urged Member States to oppose the resolution and oppose the Cuban Government’s embargo on freedom, which was the real cause of the embargo.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba by a recorded vote of 184 in favour to 4 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States), with 1 abstention (Micronesia).