DARE OLUWASEUN JOSEPH
Nigeria joined 186 other countries at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday in voting against the United States’ economic and trade embargo against Cuba.
At the general assembly on Thursday, 187 of the 190 member states voted against the embargo that has been in force since 1960. Only the United States and Israel voted to maintain the embargo, while Ukraine abstained. Somalia, Venezuela and Moldova did not vote. All African countries that voted supported lifting the embargo.
The draft resolution is titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
It has for years been on the UNGA agenda and member states have voted overwhelmingly for an end to the embargo.
Last year, 185 member states voted in favour and two against (Israel and the United States), with two abstentions (Brazil and Ukraine), expressing concern about the adverse effects of such measures on the Cuban people and Cuban nationals living in other countries.
Though General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding and are unenforceable, they reflect the world opinion.
The embargo was imposed in 1960 following the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the nationalisation of properties belonging to US citizens and corporations. Initially, the embargo did not include food and medicine, but they were later included in 1962 when the US government strengthened the sanctions.
In 2016, former US President Barack Obama and the then Cuban President, Raul Castro, briefly restored relations. But Donald Trump, who succeeded Mr Obama, later reintroduced much of the sanctions in 2017, accusing Cuba’s government of human rights violations.
Addressing the Assembly on Thursday, the Cuban foreign minister, Bruno Parrilla, described the more than 60-year blockade as an economic warfare against the Cuban people. He said the embargo violates the rights of all Cuban men and women.
According to him, 80 per cent of the country’s population has never known life without the ‘crippling US blockade’.
“It is an act of economic warfare, in times of peace, creating a situation of ungovernability and an attempt to destroy the constitutional order,” he said, noting that Cuba was not a threat 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 added.
The Cuban foreign minister said the US had been pressuring banks worldwide not to deal with his nation, becoming victims of US hostility and its harmful impact on the global financial system.
He said the “tightening economic siege” has been accompanied by a disinformation campaign against Cuba, seeking to destabilise and discredit the country.
He accused the US government of creating a “media crusade” in the US aimed at encouraging discontent and a false impression of a domestic political crisis in Cuba.
But the US Representative, Paul Folmsbee, said the sanctions are part of his country’s effort towards encouraging Cuba to advance democracy and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Voicing the US opposition to the resolution, he asked the General Assembly to instead 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.”
He said the US recognizes the challenges the Cuban people face, explaining that sanctions include exemptions and authorizations relating to exports of food, medicines, and other humanitarian goods to Cuba.
“The US opposes this resolution,” he said, adding “We strongly support their pursuit of a future with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
As he continued his speech, Mr Parrilla reiterated Cuba’s support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people, whom he said were currently being massacred on their own illegally occupied land.
“These barbaric acts must stop”, he stated, referring to the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli-Palestinian war in Gaza has been on for close to a month since an offensive by Hamas that killed 1,400 Israelis on 7th October.
In retaliation, Israel has killed more than 9,000 Palestinians in an operation that has now lasted weeks. The United Nations said its humanitarians are unable to deliver aid to the north of Gaza as the ground war intensifies.