End the blockade of Cuba, UN says

In an all but unanimous vote on Nov. 8, the UN General Assembly for the 14th consecutive year called for the U.S. government to get rid of its 45-year-old economic blockade of Cuba. A Cuban resolution for an end to the blockade was opposed by only four nations: the United States, the Marshall Islands (population 59,000), Palau (20,000) and Israel.

Cuba had the support of 181 nations. One country abstained and four were absent from the voting. The tally last year was 179-4.

Interviewed by reporters, John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, belittled the assembly’s action as “a complete exercise in irrelevancy.” Invoking an arcane parliamentary procedure that allowed him to speak from his seat, Ronald Godard, Bolton’s colleague on the assembly floor, declared, “The United States trade embargo is a bilateral issue and should not come before the General Assembly.”

The assembly clearly thought otherwise.

For weeks prior to the vote, the Cuban government disseminated extensive information on the history of the blockade and its effects on Cuba’s health care, agriculture, industry and foreign trade. Damage done by the blockade to Cuba, and its ramifications worldwide, were summarized in a 63-page report sent to the assembly on Sept. 27.

In addition, Cuban government ministries posted detailed accounts on the Internet of how U.S. policies affect people and organizations within Cuba and individual companies throughout the world.

On the day of the UN vote, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque succinctly and comprehensively described for the General Assembly the consequences of the blockade and how it works. His speech laid out facts and data and could well serve as a one-stop resource for opponents of the U.S.-imposed blockade.

A main point was this: “Over these past almost 47 years, the blockade has cost the Cuban people $82 billion. No economic or social activity in Cuba escapes the consequences of such figures. There is not a single human right of the Cuban people which is not violated by this blockade.”

Perez Roque noted that Washington recently has tightened the blockade and expanded its reach. Mocking its own call for “free trade,” the U.S. government has imposed fines and threats on one foreign company after another, according to the foreign minister, forcing them to give up trade with Cuba.

“The blockade is an economic war waged on an international scale with incomparable zeal,” he said. He condemned the blockade “as an extraterritorial application of United States laws” and a violation of international law.

Ending the blockade would also benefit workers in the United States, Perez Roque said. Citing a June 2005 study from the University of Southern Alabama, he asserted that ending the blockade would add millions of dollars in income to U.S. companies and create thousands of new jobs.

Perez Roque also spoke in “defense of the rights of the American people whom we hold in great esteem and for whom we feel respect and friendship. ... The blockade ... violates [their] constitutional rights. It prevents them from traveling to Cuba, from experiencing our culture.”

Cuba will not bend, he promised, adding that Washington does not reckon with “the courage, spirit of independence and political consciousness the Revolution has implanted in the people of Cuba.” He cited the five Cuban nationals in U.S. prisons, unjustly persecuted for their work to expose terrorist plots by right-wing elements in Miami, and their families as examples “of the unbreakable spirit with which we, the people of Cuba, defend, now and forever, our right to build a more just, supportive and humane society.”

He concluded: “Moral authority is not achieved by force. It is not won by waging war or by using weapons. [It] is won by exemplary actions, by respecting the rights of others, even of those who are poor and powerless.”