On Oct. 28, the UN General Assembly voted, as it has done every year since 1992, on a Cuba-sponsored resolution to end the U.S. economic blockade of the socialist island. This year the vote was 179-4 in support of the resolution, another high-water mark for this worldwide, non-binding referendum against the 43-year-old U.S. embargo.

In the history of such votes, in any given year no more than four nations have cast votes against the resolution. This year, the U.S. had the support of only Israel, and the Marshall and Palau Islands. Abstentions have fallen from 70 in 1992 to one (Micronesia) this year.

The Cuban government estimates that the four-decade-old blockade has cost the Cuban people $79 billion in economic losses and more than 3,500 deaths.

Mexico’s UN Ambassador Enrique Berruga, one of 12 addressing the assembly prior to the vote, castigated the U.S. government for consistently ignoring UN condemnation’s of the embargo. According to Berruga, Washington is weakening the “UN’s multilateral role.”

Felipe Perez Roque, the Cuban foreign minister, characterized “the longest blockade in history” as a violation of international law and a “worldwide genocidal economic war against Cuba.”

He cited examples of the blockade’s reach: Japanese car manufacturers must certify to the U.S. government that cars they sell contain no metals “contaminated” by Cuban nickel, and a European candy-maker is forced to prove that its products contain no Cuban sugar.

Perez Roque spoke about effects of the blockade on health care in Cuba. The Abbott Company is prohibited from selling two drugs in Cuba that are essential in the treatment of AIDS patients. Cuba has to buy Ritonavir and Lopinavir in Europe, at six times the U.S. price. He reported that the Bush administration recently fined the Chiron Corporation $168,500 because its European subsidiary had arranged for the sales in Cuba of two children’s vaccines.

The Cuban foreign minister added: “On behalf of the Cuban people, whose sons and daughters have gone to heal, teach, build and fight side by side with every country [in need]; on behalf of the memory of the 2,000 Cubans who laid down their lives fighting colonialism and apartheid in Africa; on behalf of the 22,474 Cuban health cooperators currently rendering services in 67 countries of the Third World; on behalf of the Cuban professors who are now teaching over 17,000 youths from 110 countries in our schools free of charge; on behalf of five young Cuban heroes who are enduring cruel and unjust prison terms for fighting terrorism; in sum, on behalf of a small country that is harassed for wanting to be free, I would like to ask you, once again, to vote in favor of the draft resolution submitted by Cuba.”

For the 13th consecutive year, the response was overwhelmingly “Yes.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.

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