Wednesday, November 14, 2012

US Stubborn On Cuba Policy Despite General Assembly Call For End To Embargo

RTT News

11/14/2012 2:31 AM ET

The United States has reiterated that its policy on Cuba is not going to change despite an overwhelming U.N. resolution calling for an end to Washington's decades-old multiple embargo on the Communist state.

"Look, our Cuba policy is generated towards creating better ties with the Cuban people outside of the government. You know our concerns about the Cuban Government. Our policy remains the same. It's not going to change," State Department deputy spokesman Mark C. Toner told reporters at a daily press briefing on Tuesday.

To a question whether "you can accept that the international community is speaking out against a policy that you've had in place for five decades," Toner replied: "Our Cuban policy remains intact."

Earlier in the day, for the 21st consecutive year at the United Nations, the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba.

When 188 Member-States voted in favor of the resolution, only three - Israel, Palau and the United States - voted against it. Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia abstained from voting. The General Assembly reiterated its call to all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures not conforming with their obligations to reaffirm freedom of trade and navigation.

The delegates urged President Barack Obama, fresh-off a re-election victory, to "act on the right side of history" and lift Washington's crushing economic, commercial and financial embargo on the island nation.

The 193-member General Assembly "once again urges States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible," the text added.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla told the Assembly during the debate that preceded the vote that the last four years of President Obama's administration had witnessed a "persistent tightening" of the blockade, which had been in place for over half a century. This is contrary to his announcement after being elected in 2008 of "a new beginning with Cuba."

"There is no legitimate or moral reason to maintain this blockade," he said, adding that the use of "less strident and threatening rhetoric" and certain partial measures to relax travel restrictions on residents of Cuban origin and others for academic, scientific or cultural purposes had failed to conceal the tightening of the blockade over the last four years.

"The blockade is one of the main causes of the economic problems of our country and the major obstacle to its economic and social development," he added.

Parrilla noted that "keeping this policy in force harmed the interest of American citizens and companies, especially in times of economic crisis and high unemployment." He termed the blockade as "just a weapon in the hands of an ever more exiguous, isolated, violent and arrogant minority."

He called on Obama "to start a new policy towards Cuba," which would constitute a "historical legacy."

U.S. delegate Ronald Godard said that his country, like others, determined the conduct of its economic relationships with other States based on its best interest. With regards to Cuba, the priority of President Obama's administration was to empower Cubans to determine their own future.

Today's resolution, he said, sought to "identify an external scapegoat" for Cuba's economic problems, where in fact they were caused by the country's failed policies over the last half a century.

Irrespective of U.S. policy, it was "unrealistic" to expect Cuba to thrive unless it opened its monopolies, respected international property rights and allowed unfettered access to the Internet, among other things, the representative added.

The resolution before the Assembly today only served to distract from the real problems facing the Cuban people, he stressed, pointing to politically motivated detentions, preventing access to journalism and restricting similar freedoms.

The representative of Venezuela, one of Cuba's closest allies, said that while the embargo was an expression of a "barbarous" policy, some "advocates of imperialism" calling Cuba a threat to the region was a "massive lie."

The United States does not have full diplomatic relations with Cuba, and still maintains a more than half-a-century-old economic embargo on its smaller neighbor. The Caribbean nation remains on the list of countries designated by the U.S. as "terrorism sponsor."

However, since 1966, Washington has been granting Cubans automatic residence if they can reach the United States, where they have formed a strongly anti-Havana diaspora.

Signs of change began to show when Raul Castro, the brother of Cuban Communist revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, assumed power in 2008. Raul said that Havana is prepared to discuss anything Washington wants, including human rights and political prisoners.

After 50 years of icy relations, the two countries resumed in 2009 direct talks on migration and on re-establishing direct mail service. Raul has pressed for economic reforms over the past two years aimed at upgrading Cuba's state-dominated economy, which relies heavily on the Leftist government of oil-rich Venezuela for support.

The Cuban government calls the 53-year-old embargo an act of "genocide," and "economic war." In its 27-page submission to the U.N. Secretary-General's report on the necessity of ending the U.S. embargo, Havana maintains that the economic damage caused to the Cuban people by the embargo as of December 2011 - taking into account the depreciation of the dollar against the price of gold in the international market - amounted to $1.066 trillion.

At current prices, the damage amounts to more than $108 billion.

The General Assembly will reconvene on Wednesday to consider the report of the Human Rights Council.

by RTT Staff Writer

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