5th November 2017
At the United Nations General Assembly on 1st November 2017, the world voted with Cuba in support of a resolution calling for an end to the 55 year old US blockade of the island.
The final vote, 191 to 2, saw the United States isolated, as only it and Israel voted against all 191 other member states. Although the vote is non-binding it sends a clear message to the United States government that it stands alone when it comes to its policy of blockade
In 2016, the US historically abstained for the first time after 24 years of voting against the resolution. In her speech to the UN, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador told the organisation said that they were reversing this decision since the US people had spoken by electing a new president (Trump) who supported the blockade.
She described the debate on the blockade at the United Nations as “political theatre” and said the US delegation was voting to continue the blockade out of solidarity with the Cuban people. Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s chief negotiator in talks with the US, branded these comments as disrespectful to the United Nations and an insult to Cuba.
Nikki Haley’s comments also contradict US public opinion which is in favour of normalising relations with Cuba and ending the blockade. On Tuesday 31 October a group of democratic senators urged Trump by letter to abstain from the vote again. “Our failed embargo against Cuba has been repeatedly and publicly condemned by the international community as ineffective and harmful to the people of Cuba,” the senators wrote. “The longer we maintain this outdated Cold War policy the more our international regional credibility suffers.”
Opening his speech to the UN, Bruno Rodriguez, Cuban Foreign Secretary, condemned the “offensive and interfering” statement made by Nikki Haley.
He described the blockade as “a flagrant, systematic and massive violation of the human rights of all Cubans.” “It can be described as an act of genocide”, and “an obstacle to the humanitarian support that Cuba offers to 81 countries of the global South,” he said.
Country representatives from across the globe spoke in support of the Cuban resolution, praising the country for the international solidarity that it provided to many poor nations in the form of medical brigades and training, despite the effects of the blockade on its own economy. They also lamented the deteriorating relations between the US and Cuba following the election of Donald Trump and called on the US to return to the path of respectful relations with the island.
In response to the vote, CSC director, Rob Miller said:
“This is a cynical move by the US government. The Trump administration, in its desperation to appease right-wing politicians, is systematically destroying the last two years of progress in diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“At a time when the island needs materials and equipment to aid its recovery from Hurricane Irma, the US policy appears more vicious than ever. It is vitally important to maintain the international campaign against the US blockade so that the US government receives a clear message that the rest of the world supports the Cuban people in their call to end this cruel and archaic policy.”