UN has no power to end US embargo on Cuba, says envoy

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says the General Assembly does not have the power to end the US embargo against Cuba.

However, her speech did not stop the global community before the UN General Assembly on Wednesday to vote 191 against two demanding the US to lift its unilateral but extraterritorially pursued economic, financial and commercial blockade against Cuba.

Havana argues the US blockade is the greatest obstacle to the island’s development and well-being of its people because the “extraterritorial nature of the policy also affects third countries and institutions, imposing barriers to economic, commercial and financial relations between Cuba, the United States and the rest of the world.”

Before the vote, Ambassador Haley said the US did not fear isolation in the UN General Assembly chamber or anywhere else adding that “Our principles are not up for a vote. They are enshrined in our Constitution.”

She said those principles also happened to be enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and that “as long as we are members of the United Nations, we will stand for respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms that the Member States of this body have pledged to protect, even if we have to stand alone.”

“The resolution before us aims to end the United States’ “economic, commercial, and financial embargo” against Cuba. But let’s be honest about what we really see going on here. This assembly does not have the power to end the US embargo. It is based in US law, which only the United States Congress can change. No, what the General Assembly is doing today – what it does every year at this time – is political theatre,” Ambassador Haley said.

“The Cuban regime is sending the warped message to the world that the sad state of its economy, the oppression of its people, and the export of its destructive ideology is not its fault. In the spirit of sending messages, I would like to direct the rest of my comments towards the Cuban people. The American people strongly support your dreams to live in a country where you can speak freely, where you can have uncensored access to the internet, where you can provide for your families, and where you can determine your leadership. We know that many of you have been made hopeful by the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. That status is not changing. Our friendship and good will toward the Cuban people remain as strong as ever. What you probably don’t know is that your government responded to this gesture of good will, not by joining in the spirit in which it was offered, but by expanding its politically motivated detentions, harassment, and violence against those who advocate for political and economic freedom in Cuba. What you cannot know because your government won’t let you know is that there were credible reports of almost 10,000 politically motivated detentions in Cuba in 2016 alone. That’s a massive increase in detentions over recent years. We had hoped our outreach to your government would be met with greater freedom for you. Your government silences its critics. It disrupts peaceful assemblies. It censors independent journalists and rigs the economy so the government alone profits. Your government has exported its bankrupt, destructive ideology to Venezuela. It has taught the [President Nicolas] Maduro regime how to silence journalists, crack down on the political opposition, and impoverish its people. Now, millions of Venezuelans join you in being denied their basic rights.”

According to the report before the UNGA, the damages caused by the implementation of the US blockade against Cuba throughout almost six decades have been estimated at US $822,280,000,000 taking into account the devaluation of the US dollar vis-à-vis the price of gold in the world market. Havana said at current prices, the quantifiable damages caused by the blockade have been estimated at more than US $130,178,600,000.The report states that between April 2016 and March 2017, the damages caused by the blockade to Cuba have been estimated at US $4,305,400,000.

But Ambassador Haley said the US would not be distracted by the report and that the UNGA was just wasting time considering the resolution.

“For over 55 years, the Cuban regime has used this debate in the United Nations General Assembly as a shiny object to distract the world’s attention from the destruction it has inflicted on its own people and on others in the Western Hemisphere,” continued Ambassador Haley. “As we speak here today, your government [Cuban citizens] is busy choosing the successor to the Castro dictatorship. It is attempting to fool you into believing you have a voice by holding local and regional so-called elections. But the process you are engaged in is not freedom. The results were determined before the first vote was cast. When the United States abstained on this resolution last year, its decision was explained by saying, “We recognize that the future of the island lies in the hands of the Cuban people.” There is a casual cruelty to that remark for which I am profoundly sorry. Regrettably, as of today, the future of Cuba is not in your hands. It remains in the hands of your dictators. The United States opposes this resolution today in continued solidarity with the Cuban people and in the hope that they will one day be free to choose their own destiny. We might stand alone today. But when the day of freedom comes for the Cuban people – and it will come – we will rejoice with them as only a free people can.”

Cuba is holding general elections and President Raul Castro has said he will step down next year in February at the end of his two-term tenure in office.

Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez said Ambassador Haley’s remarks reflected those of an empire responsible for many of the wars currently raging throughout the world and which threatened international security and violated the UN Charter. He said the US committed flagrant human rights violations within its own borders against its citizens and Washington had no authority to criticize “a small, noble, hard working and solidarity-oriented nation such as Cuba.”

Rodriguez said US President Donald Trump’s policy against Cuba was outdated and an antiquated relic of the past. He said the history of the US had been one of lies and aggression and that it had recently been revealed that years ago the US government mobilized some 200,000 American soldiers to invade Cuba.

Rodriguez said President Trump “cannot pressure Cuba despite his continued campaign of hate and division, and dismissal of calls by US citizens to lift the blockade.”

He said Cuba would never surrender or bow to foreign pressure and would defend its sovereignty at all costs.

While the rest of UN member States supported the resolution demanding the lifting of the embargo, the US and its Ally Israel voted against. Last year, the US and Israel abstained due to then US president Barack Obama’s thawing of relations with Cuba.

But Ambassador Haley said, “One year ago, the United States abstained when voting on the same resolution. The reason given was that the continuation of the embargo was not isolating Cuba but was in fact isolating the United States. It is true that we had been left nearly alone in opposition to this annual resolution. No doubt there will be some here who do not understand how we can take such opposite positions, separated by just 12 months. They will wonder how we could passively accept this resolution last year and energetically oppose it this year. To those who are confused as to where the United States stands, let me be clear: as is their right under our constitution, the American people have spoken. They have chosen a new president, and he has chosen a new ambassador to the United Nations.”

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