UNITED NATIONS, Oct 29: A record-equalling 188 countries condemned on Tuesday the five-decade-old US embargo against communist Cuba in an annual UN General Assembly vote that signalled hardening opposition to US sanctions.
Only Israel joined the United States in the opposing resolution, the smallest number ever. Last year two allies voted with the US government.
Three Pacific island states normally close to the United States — Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau — abstained as the barrage of criticism of the embargo reached a new peak in the 22nd annual vote at the UN Assembly.
China, Iran, which has launched a bid to thaw relations with the US administration, Latin American and African nations all publicly condemned the United States.
“The US policy against Cuba is suffering from an absolute international isolation and discredit and lacks every ethical or legal ground,” Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said.
While the United States has eased travel restrictions on Cubans, Parrilla said: “Sanctions remain intact and are being fully implemented.”
Cuba has lost more than $1.1 trillion dollars because of the embargo, according to the minister who told the meeting how the blockade prevents Cuba from getting heart and anti-Aids drugs for children.
The United States is being used as an “external scapegoat” for the island’s problems, a US diplomat, Ronald Godard, hit back in an address to the meeting.
“Our sanctions policy toward Cuba is just one of the tools in our overall effort to urge respect for the civil and human rights” upheld by the UN, Godard said.
He said that two billion dollars in remittances were sent to Cuba from the United States in 2012 and that the United States is the biggest foreign food supplier to the island.
“The international community cannot in good conscience ignore the ease and frequency with which the Cuban regime silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly (and), impedes independent journalism,” Godard said in an appeal to other countries to oppose the resolution.
The United States started imposing measures after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 and nationalised US-owned properties. An official embargo was imposed in 1962.