UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution on Wednesday urging the United States to repeal its 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, which the country’s foreign minister vowed would never bring the Cuban people “to their knees.”
It was the 17th straight year that the General Assembly called for the embargo to be repealed “as soon as possible.”
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said he hopes the next U.S. president will respond to the international appeal.
But he said whatever the eventual decision, “I would like to reiterate that they shall never be able to bring the Cuban people to their knees.”
U.S. diplomat Ronald Godard said every country has the right to restrict trade. He said the embargo is justified because the Cuban government is undemocratic and restricts political and economic freedom.
The vote in the 192-member world body was 185 to 3, with 2 abstentions. The U.S., Israel and Palau voted “no” while Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained.
That was one more “yes” vote than last year’s vote of 184 to 4 with 1 abstention, and when the final vote flashed on the screen in the General Assembly chamber, there was loud applause.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with Cuba, lists the country as a state sponsor of terror and has long sought to isolate it through travel restrictions and a trade embargo. The embargo, imposed in 1962, has been tightened during President Bush’s two terms.
Perez Roque blamed the sanctions for more than $93 billion in total economic damage over the decades.
But Godard told the General Assembly “the real reason the Cuban economy is in terrible condition and that so many Cubans remain mired in poverty is that Cuba’s regime continues to deny its people their basic human and economic rights.”
The American people, he said, remain the largest providers of humanitarian aid to the Cuban people, providing $240.5 million in private aid in 2007. The U.S. has increased assistance to non-governmental organizations to help address basic needs but Cuba rejected offers of U.S. aid following two devastating hurricanes, he said.
“We cannot accept alleged assistance from those who have intensified the blockade, sanctions and hostility against our people,” Perez Roque told the General Assembly.