In what is now an authentic ritual, the UN General Assembly on Wednesday condemned the United States embargo against Cuba with the support of an overwhelming majority of countries. The battle for “the lifting of the blockade”, six decades after its establishment by John F. Kennedy (in 1962), has long been one of the axes of Cuban foreign policy, and there is consensus in the international community that EE The US must put an end once to its strategy of pressure and sanctions, especially in these times of pandemic.
Since 1992, every year Cuba has voted the document “Necessity to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” to the UN, in which it summarizes the damage caused to its country by the sanctions and receives the almost unanimous support of the members of the organization. In the resolution approved today, Havana assures that between April 2019 and December 2020 the damages caused by the embargo exceed 9.1 billion dollars (7.6 billion euros), with the health sector being one of the most affected, in in the midst of a serious crisis exacerbated by the covid-19 epidemic. On this occasion, the result at the UN was 184 votes in favor, two against (the United States and Israel) and three abstentions. The EU bloc unanimously supported the resolution.
Historically, the United States and Israel have always voted against it, except in 2016, when Barack Obama ruled and decided that Washington would abstain. Obama had just reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba, broken in 1961, and had implemented a policy of “constructive engagement” with the ultimate purpose of normalizing relations with the island after accepting that the embargo had failed in its purpose of bringing about change. regime. In that year of 2016, the Cuban government received 191 votes in favor and 2 abstentions, (Washington and Tel Aviv), and although Obama tried to convince the US Congress of the need to put an end to that policy, he did not succeed. Donald Trump arrived immediately and the story is known: amendment to the entirety, and 240 new sanctions in four years, including restrictions on flights, travel by Americans, remittances, increased financial persecution and activation of the Helms-Burton Act to discourage foreign investment.
The arrival of Biden to the White House opened a window of optimism, both for the Cuban government and for those within the United States who defended that the time had come to change with Cuba. Recently, prominent American academic William LeoGrande said: “An effective policy toward Cuba requires a realistic mindset that recognizes, once and for all, Washington’s inability to impose its will on Cuba. Policy makers must abandon the illusion that sanctions will bring victory, and go to work with a regime that we may not like, but that is not going to disappear anytime soon. “
Biden, who as Obama’s vice president supported the purpose of normalization with Cuba, pledged during the electoral campaign to dismantle the Trumpist sanctions and review his policy towards the island. But six months later, nothing. The Biden administration has not lifted a single measure and has already said on two occasions that Cuba “is not a priority”, although it has assured that the policy towards Cuba “is still under review”, which allows those in favor of the rapprochement to see a little light at the end of the tunnel.
A diplomat pointed out that, for the United States, the embargo policy is “a drag”, since its failure is more than proven, it contributes in a certain way to “isolate” it diplomatically. It is not only that every year the General Assembly condemns the embargo in an overwhelming way, it is also that on the day of the vote the US ambassador to the UN has to endure a string of interventions from countries of all kinds, including their allies, leaving them in evidence.
On October 26, 2016, when Samantha Powers, Obama’s ambassador to the UN, told plenary: “The United States has always voted against this resolution. Today the United States will abstain ”, in the room exploded in a long applause. This Wednesday, the US ambassador to the organization justified his negative vote and the maintenance of his policy due to the democratic deficits and the human rights situation on the island, the usual argument to maintain it. The Portuguese ambassador, on behalf of the EU, also expressed concern about issues of civil rights and freedoms, although he said that Brussels frontally condemns the embargo and believes that pressure is not the way to solve the problems, as the main damage the population suffers it.
In a recent work, Leogrande objects to the North American logic of maintaining pressure as a way of seeking progress on the issue of human rights, stating that, in the past, when there have been moments of more tension with Washington, nothing has progressed. “The lesson for the Biden government in its review of policy towards Cuba is twofold. First, the intensification of coercion not only fails to advance human rights in Cuba, it also worsens the situation. Second, a policy of compromise that improves bilateral relations in general creates an atmosphere in which advances in human rights are more likely, not guaranteed, but more likely, ”he said. For LeoGrande, a policy of compromise would allow “Washington to resume the bilateral dialogue with Havana on human rights that President Obama initiated and President Trump abandoned. It will also make it possible for the United States to coordinate with our European allies, who have permanent consultation with Cuba on these issues. “
Although the Cuban government received the vote as “a great victory”, nothing seems to indicate, at the moment, that the embargo policy will change with the Biden Administration.
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