|For information only - not an official document.|
|10 November 2000|
For Ninth Successive Year, General Assembly Calls for
End of United States Embargo Against Cuba
Says Blockade Contrary to International Law; United States
NEW YORK, 9 November (UN Headquarters) -- In a recorded vote of 167 in favour, to 3 against (Israel, Marshall Islands and the United States) with 4 abstentions (El Salvador, Latvia, Morocco and Nicaragua), the General Assembly this morning adopted a resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba. It was the ninth such resolution it had passed in so many years. (For details of vote, see Annex.)
[A comparable resolution last year was adopted by 155 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel and the United States) with 8 abstentions (Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Georgia, Latvia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Senegal and Uzbekistan).]
By the terms of today’s resolution, the Assembly reiterated its call on all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures, such as those promulgated on 12 March 1996 and known as the “Helms-Burton” Act. The extraterritorial provisions to the legislation were said to affect the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation, in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law. The Assembly once again urged States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible, in accordance with their legal regime.
Adoption of the resolution would not settle a bilateral difference between his country and the United States, Cuba's Minister for Foreign Affairs told the Assembly. It would address the staying power of the principles of international law; the rejection of extraterritorial laws; respect for sovereignty and the freedom to engage in international trade and navigation.
The blockade against Cuba had been tightened as a result of recent legislative decisions of the United States Congress, despite demands for the end of the embargo by the overwhelming majority of the people in the United States, including an increasing section of its Cuban-born community and a large number of its members of Congress.
He said the incoming President of the United States should decide whether to promote a change in the outdated embargo policy in Congress. The current President had probably wanted to transform the situation that was passed on to him in the beginning, but was forced to act in a completely opposite direction.
In his explanation of vote, the representative of the United States said a trade embargo against the Government of Cuba was strictly a matter of bilateral trade policy, and not a matter for consideration by the Assembly. The contention implicit in the draft that the United States forbade others to trade with Cuba was wrong. Sovereign States themselves decided with which other States they would trade. His country's embargo was one element of promoting democracy in Cuba. He said he disagreed with Cuba's argument that human rights of the Cuban people -- “or rather the lack thereof” -- were a concern for them alone. Human rights violations in any State were of concern to the entire international community.
“The focus of the international community should be on the continuous human rights crisis in Cuba rather than on bilateral aspects of the United States efforts to facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba,” he said. The draft served only to distract the attention of the international community and, worse, “may encourage the Cuban authorities to persist in their tragically misguided policies”.
Also in explanation of vote, the representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the European Union and the United States had agreed on a package of measures including waivers of the Helms-Burton Act and a commitment by the United States Administration not to adopt extraterritorial legislation of that kind in future and an understanding with respect to disciplines for the strengthening of investment protection. The European Union regretted that the United States Administration had not yet fulfilled those commitments, and he called on it to do so.
Most speakers in this morning's debate considered laws and measures such as contained in the Helms-Burton Act, which had extraterritorial implications, to be in violation of international law, the Charter of the United Nations and harmful to the freedom of trade and navigation. Concern with the human rights situation in Cuba was also expressed, and the United States and Cuba were urged to settle their differences through dialogue.
The representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said replacement of the embargo with greater dialogue and cooperation would notably contribute greatly towards the removal of tension between Cuba and the United States, but would also promote meaningful exchange and partnership between two countries whose destinies were linked by history and geography.
The representatives of Belarus, Myanmar, United Republic of Tanzania, Mexico, Viet Nam, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Syria, Malaysia, Angola, Ghana, Libya, South Africa, Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda (speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Iraq, Zambia, Russian Federation, Iran, Namibia, China and Zimbabwe also spoke. The representatives of Costa Rica, Brazil (on behalf of the Southern Common Market and associated States), Norway, Japan, Canada and Australia also spoke in explanation of vote.
The Assembly will meet again Friday, 10 November, at 10 a.m. to take up consideration of cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Community of Central African States; implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the year 1990; global implications of the year 2000 date conversion problem of computers; and the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Assembly Work Programme
The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly met this morning to begin its consideration of the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.
[In October 1960, the United States imposed a partial embargo, which became a total embargo 16 months later, in February 1962, when it was expanded to include everything but non-subsidies sales of food and medicines. In March of that year, the United States further extended the embargo to include the imports of all goods made from Cuban materials, or containing them, regardless of where they were manufactured.]
Under this agenda item, the Assembly had a report by the Secretary-General (document A/55/172 and Addendum 1) on the necessity of ending that economic, commercial and financial embargo. The report contains responses from 55 governments and 10 United Nations organs and agencies on the implementation of resolution 54/21 on the "necessity of ending that embargo".
The response of the Cuban Government, contained in the report, notes that the embargo -- maintained since 1960 -- has been rejected by the Assembly, and repeatedly condemned by many different institutions and individuals at the international, regional and national levels.
According to the Cuban Government, the criminal nature of the embargo is evident from its very formulation, but even more so from its lengthy implementation. The reaffirmation of the intent to maintain and strengthen it still further in the current circumstances is all the more immoral and compromising for that country, insofar as the United Nations General Assembly had adopted, since 1992, eight consecutive resolutions that unequivocally expressed the need to end that cruel and inhuman policy, and insofar as the majority by which the international community has vigorously and repeatedly opposed the policy had grown from 59 votes in 1992 to 155 in 1999.
Despite the will of the majority of the international community, the only changes made to the policy have been aimed at intensifying, widening and deepening it, states the Cuban response. The United States Government continues to prohibit enterprises situated and registered under the laws of third countries from exporting manufactured products containing components or materials of United States origin to Cuba, or the exporting to the United States of products manufactured with raw materials from Cuba. The Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts remain basic pillars of that policy.
[The Helms-Burton Act, adopted in 1996, allows suits to be filed in United States courts against any corporation from any part of the world that is doing business in Cuba. The Torricelli Act (1992), formerly the Cuban Democracy Act, ostensibly seeks a peaceful transition to democracy and a resumption of economic growth in Cuba through the careful application of sanctions directed at the Government of Cuban President Fidel Castro.]
The report states that conservative analyses of the embargoes impact on the population and the country, as a whole, show that the United States embargo has caused losses to Cuba on the order of $70 billion. It is estimated that, in 1999 alone, because of the effects of the embargo, Cuba had to spend an additional $98 million for the purchase of food, such as wheat, vegetable oil, beans, poultry and powdered milk.
After nearly 40 years of suffering and deprivation as a result of that policy, the people of Cuba decided to take a supremely important and unprecedented step, in their ongoing denunciation of the United States Government for its embargo and its policy of systematic aggression, by bringing before the Cuban courts two lawsuits against that Government, one for “human damages” and one for “economic damages”.
As a result of those lawsuits, which were duly notified in a timely fashion to the competent United States authorities, and following the legal proceedings initiated to hear both lawsuits, the United States Government was declared to have civil responsibility for its illicit acts against Cuba and was sentenced to provide reparation and compensation to the Cuban people in the amount of $121 billion for economic damages and $181.1 billion for human damages.
Addendum 1 to the report contains replies received from other governments, a reply received of the United Nations system and one from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlighting some developments of recent years that have signalled a new trend in United States politics towards Cuba.
According to UNCTAD’s reply, one of the most recent efforts to lift the United States embargo on Cuba involved the introduction in the Senate, in May, of “The Cuba Trade Normalization Act of 2000” aimed at removing the unilateral restraints on exports of food and medicine to a number of countries, including Cuba.
Before the Assembly was a draft resolution (document A/55/L.7), sponsored by Cuba, on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.
By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would reiterate its call on all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures, as promulgated on 12 March 1996, known as the "Helms-Burton" Act, the extraterritorial effects of which affect the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation, in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law.
By the same draft, the Assembly would once again urge States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible, in accordance with their legal regime.
SERGEI LING (Belarus) said that the subject of the embargo against Cuba was important, and, despite the fact that the General Assembly considered the subject every year, the issue was of special importance in the Millennium Assembly. There was a growing wave of protest against the measures applied against Cuba for political reasons. Belarus had confirmed its adherence to the fundamental principles of State sovereignty, non-interference and freedom of international trade. Belarus had never applied, and would not apply in the future, any measures or laws of that kind. His country believed that international disputes should be solved by negotiation. All possibilities were present for the settlement of the dispute between Cuba and the United States, and he called on all parties to act to that end.
WIN MRA (Myanmar) said that, in each of the past eight years, the General Assembly had, by an overwhelming majority, called on States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws that had extraterritorial effects. He regretted that, despite numerous appeals and resolutions of the General Assembly, the United States had not yet found it possible to bring an end to those unilateral measures that continued to severely affect the socio-economic situation in Cuba.
He noted limited measures taken by the United States to step up humanitarian contacts with Cuba, partially by liberalizing deliveries of medicine and foodstuff to Cuba and allowing charter flights between Cuba and the United States. However, those selective measures had not actually contributed towards the easing of the ban, but had rather reinforced the complex, legislative framework that made up the embargo. The economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States Government against Cuba continued with serious consequences for the social and economic situation of the country, he said. The embargo and related legislation constituted a major obstacle to the recovery of the Cuban economy and consequently impeded the normal functioning of social services, and affected the living conditions of the Cuban population.
He was strongly opposed to the unjust application of measures such as the Torricelli and Helms- Burton Acts and other embargo regulations, he said. Myanmar was opposed to the promulgation and application by Member States of laws and regulations, the extraterritorial effects of which affected the sovereignty of other States and the legitimate interest of entities or persons under their jurisdiction. Limits to freedom of trade and navigation violated the universally-adopted principles of international law. In the interest of upholding the principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, Myanmar, consistent with its stand in previous years, would vote in favour of the draft resolution.
M.W. MANGACHI (United Republic of Tanzania) said his country regretted that, despite numerous appeals and resolutions of the Assembly, the United States had not been able to bring to an end the unilateral measures against Cuba, which had caused undue suffering to its people. Even Pope John Paul II had made a special appeal to that effect. Recent measures for relaxation remained far short of what had to be done.
Normalization of relations was in the interest of both countries, he said. The existing conflict was a product of the cold war. He hoped, in the new millennium, the relics of that episode could be buried. The Helms-Burton Act had been rejected by the Assembly, the Non-Aligned Movement and others . It infringed on the Charter of the Organization regarding the sovereign equality of all Member States and violated the principle of freedom of trade and navigation. He hoped that the United States would heed the pleas made in the Assembly to engage Cuba in a dialogue, with a view to ending the embargo and normalizing relations. It would be in the best interest not only of both nations, but the international community, as a whole.
MANUEL TELLO (Mexico) said the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law had governed Mexico’s foreign policy, and Mexico was committed to the inalienable right of all States to choose their own economic, political, social and cultural systems, in accordance with the will of their peoples.
For that reason, Mexico had never applied extraterritorial laws. His Government reiterated that instruments designed to undermine the sovereignty of other nations, such as the Helms-Burton law, were unacceptable to international law, and contrary to the principles ratified by the San Francisco Charter of the United Nations. For the past eight years, the overwhelming majority of Member States had rejected those extraterritorial measures, yet the General Assembly was here for the ninth year.
He said the embargo against Cuba had had a negative effect for more than 40 years, which had tragic consequences for the most vulnerable sectors of society in that country, notably children, women and the elderly. He called for an end to the embargo. It was necessary to do away with the intolerance straight away, because it was only by open and respectful dialogue that the international community could attain the goals of the founders of the United Nations. Mexico would continue to maintain a high degree of cooperation and economic trade with Cuba because it was joined with the Cuban people by history, geography and culture.
NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam) said that it was of grave concern to many countries, Viet Nam in particular, that the United States had made no effort to heed the appeals to end the embargo imposed against Cuba. The embargo and blockade continued to cause serious hardships and damage to the Cuban people. He firmly believed that those inhumane policies must be abolished once and for all. Healthy international relations could only be built on the basis of equality among States, non-discrimination and respect for the right of every nation to chose its own way of development.
He said differences between the United States and Cuba should be solved through dialogue and negotiation, on the basis of the principles of respect for each other’s national independence and sovereignty, and non-interference in the internal affairs of States. He welcomed every effort to that effect. He reaffirmed his country’s full support, cooperation and solidarity with the Cuban people and Government.
FELIPE PÉREZ ROQUE, Minister for Foreign Affairs (Cuba), said the blockade against Cuba had been tightened as a result of recent legislative decisions of the United States Congress. He asked how that was still possible when the overwhelming majority of the people in the United States, including an increasing section of its Cuban-born community, its press, business people and even a large number of its members of Congress were demanding the end of the embargo against his country –- and that after months of struggle for the return of Elián Gonzalez to his family in Cuba. He also wondered how the powerful, extremist minority in the Cuban-born community in the United States, who benefited from the blockade, and their allies, the Republican leadership in Congress, could impose their will on Capitol Hill, where there had already been six votes supporting changes in the policy towards Cuba.
He noted that, last August, the United States Senate had adopted the so-called Ashcroft Amendment to allow the sale of foods and medicines to Cuba. However, the Republican leadership in collusion with Miami-based anti-Cuban sectors, managed to remove it from the final text. In March, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again adopted the amendment by consensus, and, in May, the committee of the House of Representatives adopted an amendment also aimed at allowing the sale of foods and medicines to Cuba. In July, an amendment similar to the previous initiatives also passed the Senate. The same day there were two significant votes in the House of Representatives, in which amendments enabling Americans to travel freely to Cuba, and authorizing the sales of foods and medicines were both adopted.
However, he went on, the Republican leadership and Cuban-American Congress people, not only managed -- in violation of the United States legislative process -- to prevent all those proposals from being enacted, but they also imposed other amendments that actually reinforced the blockade. On 28 October, United States President Clinton finally signed the bill, codifying into law the new measures that tightened the blockade. Yet, Mr. Clinton himself had expressed reservations about the measure. Mr. Clinton also signed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, by which the United States Government was authorized to appropriate $161 million in frozen funds belonging to Cuban enterprises and banks. It also set down the right to such dispossession in the future, should any transactions come about once the blockade was lifted.
That money, he said, would be handed over to “Miami-based terrorist groups” under the pretext of compensating the relatives of pilots of one those terrorist organizations, who died when engaged in one of many acts of provocation against Cuba, while jeopardizing the life of innocent people and air traffic in the area. The United States Government was well aware of how that unfortunate incident happened, and who should be held accountable for it.
He said the incoming President of the United States should decide whether to promote a change in the outdated embargo policy in Congress, or whether to continue holding a people “hostage to the interests and delusions of revenge of an extremist, unscrupulous minority that had long been overridden by history”. The current President of the United States probably wanted to transform the situation that was passed on to him in the beginning, but was forced to act in a completely opposite direction.
He told the Assembly that today’s vote would not settle a bilateral difference between his country and the United States. It would address the staying power of the principles of international law; the rejection of extraterritorial laws; respect for sovereignty and the freedom to engage in international trade and navigation.
ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that, like the overwhelming majority, his country was still worried by the non-application of the provisions of Assembly resolutions asking the United States to lift the blockade against Cuba. It had lasted too long and had not served the interest of the two parties. In the interest of peace, stability and cooperation in the region and the world, there should be an end to it. As a relic of the old bipolar era, it obstructed efforts to build a new world order based on the principles of the United Nations Charter.
A repeal of the blockade would help to normalize relations between the two countries and improve the political climate in the region, he said. The blockade, with its extraterritorial impact, had been further strengthened this year, contrary to what a public relations effort would have people believe. He appealed to the United States to put an end to the anachronistic blockade.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said that, in view of increasing opposition to it year by year, the blockade against Cuba should be ended. The principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter had confirmed the right of non-interference and State sovereignty, and those had been underlined in the Millennium Summit declaration. All Members of the United Nations, and especially the big Powers, should be more respectful of the Charter.
He said the sanctions imposed against the Cuban, Libyan, Sudanese and Iraqi people should not continue. Such sanctions constituted untenable oppression of those peoples, especially since they impeded the establishment of an environment favourable to the reduction of poverty. The sanctions against Cuba for four decades deepened the suffering of the Cuban people, especially the young and the elderly. It was also in violation of the rules of international trade. He said his delegation recognized Cuba’s willingness to establish a dialogue to remove the blockade. The United States policy towards Cuba should comply with the position of the international community reflected in the Assembly.
MOHAMMAD KAMAL YAN YAHAYA (Malaysia) said that, while recent developments within the United States appeared to point towards an emerging trend seemingly favourable towards Cuba, it was clear that there remained influential elements that had yet to grasp the present international political and economic realities characterized by increased globalization and interdependence among States. Those elements failed to realize that this was an age when walls were demolished and bridges were built in relations among States, particularly between neighbours.
Malaysia remained firmly opposed to all forms of economic, commercial and financial sanctions and embargoes that ran counter to the spirit and letter of the Charter of the United Nations. In that regard, he was particularly opposed to the continued unilateral application of a coercive economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. He failed to understand how a poor and small developed country could pose a threat to the national interests of a big and powerful country like the United States.
He joined the call of the international community for an immediate end to the embargo on Cuba, which violated the principles of international law and international humanitarian law. It had inflicted tremendous socio-economic damage and hardships to the people of Cuba, especially children, women, the elderly and the sick. The embargo violated the principle of global free trade and human rights, and had had a grave humanitarian impact on the lives of the ordinary Cuban people. Malaysia would unreservedly support the draft resolution before the Assembly.
JOSE PATRICIO (Angola) expressed strong condemnation of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba. That firm position was linked to Angola's political and economic values, and the principles of Angola’s foreign trade policy, which was based on recognized principles of freedom of international trade, non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of the State. Angola had always defended the right of each State to choose its own destiny and policy, and the Cuban people had the equal right to trade freely with any State.
Since 1991, when the present issue has been submitted for the first time in the Assembly, Angola had always had a clear position on the issue, he said. Angola had voted for an end to the economic, trade and financial blockade against Cuba, because such a blockade had been the cause of social constraints which affected the quality of life of the Cuban people.
He reaffirmed his country’s determination to participate in the achievement of the United Nations goals, including diplomatic settlements of the disputes between Member countries. He, therefore, urged the parties to do everything in their power to establish a political dialogue that might lead to the end of the blockade for the benefit of both the Cuban and American people.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said that the current item had first been inscribed on the Assembly’s agenda more than 37 years ago. Since then, the international support for the resolutions on the issue had increased. No doubt, that reflected an unequivocal manifestation of Member States' profound concern and rejection of policies that applied extraterritorial laws and unilateral measures of one State against another. Ghana was a firm believer in the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and in international law and reaffirmed its opposition not only to the embargo, but also to the extraterritorial application of national legislation such as the Helms-Burton law. That law sought to impose, on third countries, punitive measures that impeded international transactions. No country should be encouraged or allowed to pursue unilateralism at the expense of fruitful international cooperation, particularly in an era of multilateralism and globalization.
The unilateral anti-Cuban legislation had gravely undermined the effort of the Cuban people to achieve economic and social development with unavoidable consequences on the living standards of the population, he said. Such practices were a flagrant violation of human rights, as they were fraught with harmful humanitarian consequences. He appealed to the United States to respond positively to Cuba's offer to enable the two countries to enter into a new era of bilateral relations. The cooperation and understanding shown between the two governments on the unfortunate situation of Elián Gonzalez should serve as a source of encouragement for direct talks on their differences.
Despite the hardships endured by Cubans over the years, the Government and people of that country had made laudable strides in their pursuit of solidarity and internationalism, he said. Cuba had assisted many developing countries, including Ghana, in the fields of medical health and education, which had contributed to the well-being and prosperity of millions of people around the world. He said that having crossed the threshold into the new millennium, all Member States of the United Nations must ensure that the relics of the cold war era were discarded from the agenda of the General Assembly by shedding attitudes that did not enhance the trends towards international cooperation and understanding.
ABUZED OMAR DORDA (Libya) said his country wished to reassert its condemnation of coercive measures carried out against Cuba by the United States. Force did not replace the right of law; the embargo was against all international laws and standards. The United States was seeking to impose its own standards.
He said Cuba was a tiny country refusing to be subjugated by a giant nation, which wanted to dictate what Cuba’s economic, political and social regime should be. Libya considered Cuba a model, to be followed by all. The economic blockade should have been eliminated long ago, in accordance with the conscience of the peoples of the world. The international community should value Fidel Castro, who had lived in his own country as a giant.
Furthermore, he went on, Cubans were superior in medical services and education; in fact, some Americans and Canadians went to Cuba to receive treatment. The Government of Cuba gave medicines to non-Cubans, treating malaria among other diseases. While one country deprived others of medicines, Cuba shared with countries throughout the world. That made Cuba a “big country” in his view, it was the one which voluntarily assisted others.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said the tragedy of the unilateral embargo was that it still caused untold suffering on the Cuban civilian population, who carried the brunt of that injustice. It was, therefore, no wonder that the overwhelming majority of Member States would rally in support of the resolution. He said South Africa viewed the continued imposition of an economic, financial and commercial embargo by the United States against Cuba as a flagrant violation of the principle of the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. All countries should reject the unilateral extraterritorial imposition of sanctions because they stood in stark contrast to international laws that guided all civilized States.
IGNACIO ARCAYA (Venezuela) noted that the Millennium Summit had reaffirmed that multilateralism as promulgated in the United Nations, constituted one of the best means for promoting solutions of problems of common interest. He said the Helms-Burton law was at variance with the principles and norms of international law and peaceful coexistence between nations.
He said Venezuela rejected the application of such measures, which contradicted free access to markets and the consolidation of the process of integration in the age of globalization. Unilateral laws, such as the Helms-Burton Law, undermined the rules of trade enshrined by the World Trade Organization (WTO). He said his Government supported statements on the matter adopted by the Organization of American States (OAS), the Rio Group, the Nonaligned Movement, and the summit of heads of States of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.
The economic blockade against Cuba, he went on, was contrary against international law and against the Cuban people’s right to achieve social development. Venezuela hoped to put an end to these measures and called for understanding between the parties.
PATRICK LEWIS (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking for the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said those nations firmly believed that the principles of international law and freedom of trade and navigation should be respected. They maintained no legislation or measure that would impinge on the sovereignty of any State and the legitimate interests of its nationals.
In keeping with the policy of mutual respect and good neighbourliness and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter, he went on, Member States from the Caribbean had sought, collectively and individually, to strengthen links with Cuba. The aim was to promote Cuba’s gradual economic integration into the sub-region, through functional cooperation and trade. The Caribbean Community therefore remained opposed to the perpetuation of policies which gave rise to continued tension in the area, and which imposed artificial barriers to regional trade and cooperation. Wishing to see progress in the establishment of a regime of peace and cooperation in the Caribbean sea, CARICOM members urged both parties to engage in a process of dialogue to bring an end to policies of confrontation and exclusion.
SAEED HASSAN (Iraq) said that, for the ninth year in a row, the international community was calling on the United States to adhere to the principles of the United Nations Charter. The United States, however, had persisted in applying the embargo against Cuba, which had lasted for 40 years and had caused a humanitarian disaster. It had seriously hampered the economic and social development in Cuba, and had caused undue suffering of Cuba’s people. The effects on third party countries should also be mentioned. The blockade was an organized genocide, and the perpetrators should be punished under the Geneva Convention. Moreover, the Cuban people deserved compensation for the damages suffered.
It was ironic, he said, that the United States claimed to be working on behalf of democracy while committing those acts. It was trying to install in Cuba another regime like the Batista regime, as it was doing in other parts of the world. The blockade was an intervention in internal affairs of other States. He said the United States was applying unilateral sanctions against more than 70 countries, not to mention global sanctions on Iraq, which constituted genocide. Half of the Iraqi people had been victim, in particular, women and children. The United States cold-bloodedly continued to kill Iraqi children, despite the fact that its actions were illegal, in violation of the United Nations Charter, particularly of Article 24. The United States should revise the policy radically and lift the inhumane blockade. He hoped the resolution would be the last appeal for an end to the policy of arrogance and interference in other countries.
MWELWA C.MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) said that Zambia firmly believed that the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba was a breach of international law and a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter. The extraterritorial provisions of the Helms-Burton and D'Amato legislation infringed upon the territorial integrity of other States, and also impeded international navigation and free trade. He was concerned by the adverse effects the embargo had on the Cuban people, especially on vulnerable groups, such as children, women and the elderly.
Being both a landlocked and transit country, Zambia was better placed to appreciate the importance of promoting freedom of navigation and trade, he said. Zambia had consistently reaffirmed the right of access of both landlocked and transit States to and from the sea by all means of transportation, in accordance with international law. He was also committed to developing rule-based trade with all countries in the world.
With the end of the cold war, the international community was optimistic that there would be a resolution of this question, he said. However, it was regrettable that conditions that had dictated its very existence were still very much prevalent. He called for a complete lifting, without conditions, of the embargo against Cuba.
T. OLUSEGUN APATA (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said that the embargo imposed against Cuba was a unilateral action whose extraterritorial effects had no validity in public international law. The embargo must be lifted immediately to permit the free flow of international trade. Nigeria and the Group of 77 believed that the economic embargo, which had lasted too long, served no other purpose that to preserve tension between two neighbouring countries and impose hardship and suffering on the people of Cuba. They were also convinced that the replacement of the embargo with greater dialogue and cooperation would contribute greatly not only towards the removal of tension between them, but would also promote meaningful exchange and partnership between two countries, whose destinies were linked by history and geography.
VLADISLAV FEDORTCHENKO (Russian Federation) said that, together with other States, his country had repeatedly expressed its disagreement with the efforts by certain circles in the United States to tighten the sanctions regime against Cuba and to exert pressure on third countries and certain international organizations to force them to curtail their cooperation with Cuba. It clearly ran counter to the norms of international law, goals and principles of the United Nations Charter. Russia supported the appeal to all States to refrain from adopting or applying such unilateral coercive measures in circumvention of the United Nations Security Council. He also urged the States having such legislation and continuing to apply it to take necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.
His country regarded the steps that had been taken lately by the United States administration aimed at stepping up humanitarian contacts with Cuba, partially liberalizing deliveries of medicine and foodstuff to the island and expanding the geographical area for charter flights between the two countries, as moves in the right direction. He hoped that those measures, along with the United States Administration decision to reunite Elián Gonzalez with his father, would mark the beginning of a constructive reconsideration of the United States policy towards Cuba. The Russian Federation reaffirmed its intention to further develop normal trade and economic relations with Cuba.
HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba contravened all laws and principles governing international relations, and the provisions of the United Nations Charter, as well as laws governing international trade and related conventions. Promotion of international cooperation and friendly relations among States, and strengthening of commitments to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and international law constituted the very basic purpose of the creation of the Organization.
Recourse to unilateral coercive economic measures was an anomaly, he said. Such policies and measures constituted major impediments to freedom of trade and finance, limited access of countries to financial resources and, thus, hampered achievement of economic cooperation and development. It was imperative that the international community reject the promulgation and application of unilateral actions and laws with extraterritorial impacts that adversely affected the sovereignty and economic, commercial and financial interests of other States, as well as the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction.
The undeniable right of every State to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system must be respected, he said, without interference in any form by another State. He advocated the removal and elimination of all economic and trade embargoes imposed against Cuba. Differences between States should be settled in a peaceful manner. Cognizant of the economic, social and financial difficulties the Cuban nation faced as a result of the embargo, he believed that the embargo served no purpose other than to preserve tension between the two neighbouring countries. He would, therefore, vote in favour of the draft resolution.
HAROLDT URIB (Namibia) said that his country's position on the matter was well known. Namibia opposed the continued extraterritorial extension of the commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States. It had repeatedly advocated an end to that economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, as the Helms-Burton Act and the D'Amato legislation were breaches of international law and a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter. Moreover, those punitive measures were contrary to peaceful co-existence and cooperation among nations and ran counter to free trade.
The embargo continued to severely undermine the economic and social development of Cuba and its people, he said. The world could not and must not be a passive witness to this injustice, which caused untold suffering to the Cuban people, especially women and children. The international community had, time and again, rejected the hostile policy by the most powerful nation against a small developing country. In that context, the Group of 77, at its South Summit held in Havana in April, launched an appeal to the United States calling on it to immediately lift the economic embargo imposed on Cuba since 1960.
Namibia enjoyed excellent bilateral relations with both the United States and Cuba, he said. He believed that the immediate lifting of the embargo would not only benefit the people of Cuba but those of the United States as well. For those reasons, Namibia would, once again, vote in favour of draft resolution.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said the economic, political, and trade embargo against Cuba had caused enormous problems for Cuban people, harming the health and welfare of women and children. The embargo was of serious concern because countries had the right to choose their own systems. The United States was trying to subvert the Government of Cuba, violating the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and should be condemned by the international community.
He said China felt that all countries should abide by the Charter and avoid laws that were extraterritorial. Unfortunately, the United States wilfully persisted in passing those laws, as well as in continuing its obsolete practice of economic blockade. Dialogue should be pursued, instead of confrontation. He urged the United States to halt the suffering of the Cuban people.
China felt that the international community should continue its efforts against the embargo, he said. His Government called on the United States to give up its cold war mentality and lift the economic, commercial and cultural blockade.
TICHAONA J.B. JOKONYA (Zimbabwe) said that he regretted that all past efforts, including numerous General Assembly resolutions, had not succeeded in solving the problem. As a friend of Cuba and a strong adherent to international law, Zimbabwe regretted that, before the eyes of the entire international community, the people of Cuba had suffered for more than 30 years under a unilaterally imposed embargo. The “extraterritorial tentacles” of that embargo sought to punish Cuba's friends and trade partners for coming to the aid of a small island country or seeking business opportunities therein. The international community could not stand by while the very foundations and pillars of international cooperation and multilateralism were undermined.
He said he believed the Assembly had the prerogative not only to come to the aid of victimized countries, but also to defend the principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity, which were enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
Action on Draft Resolution
BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica), explaining that his delegation would vote in favour of the draft resolution, said he condemned the unilateral imposition of economic measures against the Cuban people. Those measures and the so-called Helms-Burton Act were clearly in violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. The international community, as a whole, must approve any regime of sanctions. The imposition of unilateral sanctions must be rejected. Costa Rica believed it was essential for Cuba to become integrated into global markets so that it could achieve greater development for the well-being of its people.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France), speaking for the European Union and associated States, said in explanation of vote that the United States trade policy towards Cuba remained basically a bilateral matter. What the European Union opposed was the extraterritorial extension of the embargo, as contained in the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act.
In May 1998, the European Union and the United States had agreed on a package of measures including waivers of the Helms-Burton Act, a commitment by the United States Administration not to adopt extraterritorial legislation of that kind in future and an understanding with respect to disciplines for the strengthening of investment protection. The European Union regretted that the United States Administration had not yet fulfilled its own commitments. He called on the United States to do so, since that would represent a key step in resolving the dispute.
The main objective of the European Union in its relations with Cuba was to encourage a process of gradual, peaceful transition to pluralistic democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as to economic recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people. Some progress had been made in recent years, but he continued to be concerned about the economic and political situation in Cuba. He appealed to the Cuban authorities to cooperate fully with international human rights bodies and mechanisms.
The European Union noted with concern the findings of United Nations agencies and programmes in situ, and deplored the adverse and often dramatic effects of the United States economic embargo on Cuba’s population, in particular, on women and children. Members of the Union would unanimously vote in favour of the draft resolution.
JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said his delegation opposed “the ill-advised draft resolution”. The decision to maintain a trade embargo against the Government of Cuba was strictly a matter of bilateral trade policy, and not a matter for consideration by the Assembly. The contention implicit in the draft that the United States forbade others to trade with Cuba was wrong. Sovereign States themselves decided with which other States they would trade. Because of the repressive policies and actions of the Castro Government itself, the United States chose not to trade with the Cuban Government.
His country's embargo was one element of promoting democracy in Cuba, he said. While maintaining the bilateral trade embargo, the Clinton Administration had moved to expand dramatically people-to-people contacts with the Cuban population in Cuba. In October, a bill had been signed into law to allow the sale of food to Cuba. The American people had been extremely generous in providing humanitarian assistance to Cuba. Nearly $1 billion in cash and $350 million in humanitarian donations had passed to Cubans. The goal of that policy was to foster a transition to a democratic government in Cuba, to protect human rights, to help develop a thriving civil society and to provide for the economic prosperity that the Cuban Government's disastrous economic policies were denying the Cuban people.
“The focus of the international community should be on the continuous human rights crisis in Cuba rather than on bilateral aspects of the United States efforts to facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba”, he said. The draft served only to distract the attention of the international community and, worse, “may encourage the Cuban authorities to persist in their tragically misguided policies”.
In a recorded vote, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution (document A/55/L.7) by 167 votes in favour, to 3 voting against (Israel, Marshall Islands and the United States), with 4 abstentions (El Salvador, Morocco, Nicaragua and Latvia).
LUIZ TUPY CALDAS DE MOURA (Brazil) spoke for the Member countries of the Southern Common Market (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil) and associated States (Bolivia and Chile), and said disputes between States must be dealt with by peaceful means. Coercive measures, such as sanctions or embargoes, must be exceptions to the rule. He felt the application of extraterritorial laws were contrary to the promotion of dialogue and the predominance of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
The General Assembly had rejected the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba in a series of international forums; so had the OAS, the Rio Group, the Iberoamerican Summit and the Latin American Economic System. Moreover, the embargo was at variance with the juridical obligations of the WTO.
He said the countries for which he spoke joined the almost unanimous voice of the international community in rejecting unilateral measures. Beyond the legal aspect of the measures, Brazil did not believe that they contributed to the reintegration of Cuba into the Inter-American system.
ARNE BIRGER HONNINGSTAD (Norway) said there was a clear distinction between unilateral measures and sanctions adopted by consensus of the international community. Therefore, Norway had voted in favour of the draft resolution. However, this did not mean that Norway would not like to see some changes in the human rights situation in Cuba. But the embargo imposed by the United States was not the appropriate response.
TAKAYUKI KITAGAWA (Japan) said he shared the concern over the extraterritorial application of jurisdiction arising from the Helms-Burton Act. For that reason, he had voted in favour of the draft. While Japan supported the draft, he questioned whether the Assembly was the most suitable form to address the complex issue. Both countries should seek a solution through bilateral dialogue, and he called upon them to strengthen efforts towards that end.
He said political activities and the freedom of assembly, association and expression continued to be restricted in Cuba, and fundamental progress toward democratization or ensuring respect for individual rights was hardly seen. He hoped the current situation would be improved.
MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) said his Government was opposed to extraterritorial measures against the Cuban people because of the hardship imposed on them. With that said, the Cuban Government must, nevertheless, deal with the causes of the embargo.
DAVID STUART (Australia) said he had voted in favour of the resolution. While his country shared concerns about the state of human rights and political freedoms in Cuba, it did not consider that isolating Cuba through economic sanctions was an effective means of achieving reform.
He said Australia had consistently expressed its opposition, as a matter of principle, to the promulgation and application of laws and measures whose extraterritorial effects affected the sovereignty of other States. It was concerned about the unilateral extraterritorial aspects of the Helms-Burton Act, which codified and broadened the embargo by targeting foreign investors in Cuba.
The draft resolution on the need to end the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United states against Cuba (document A/55/L.7) was adopted by the Assembly by a recorded vote of 167 in favour to 3 against, with 4 abstentions:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Against: Israel, Marshall Islands, United States.
Abstain: El Salvador, Latvia, Morocco, Nicaragua.
Absent: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Palau, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan.
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