Economic, Commercial Embargo Imposed by United States Against Cuba Harmful, Violates UN Charter, Speakers Underline in General Assembly
Organ Also Concludes Discussion on International Criminal Court, Adopting Report
The United States must lift its economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba and remove the Caribbean nation from its list of State sponsors of terrorism — policies which have had devastating effects on the Cuban people and created severe obstacles for countries looking to engage in trade and investment with Havana, speakers told the General Assembly today.
As the 193-member organ kicked off its annual debate on the “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”, it had before it the Report of the Secretary-General (document A/78/84). The Assembly is scheduled to vote on a resolution on the matter on 2 November.
During today’s debate, an overwhelming number of Member States underscored the multitude of detrimental and harmful long-lasting consequences the embargo was having on Cuba. Many cited the Secretary-General’s report that said that years of the blockade has had an impact on Cuba’s overall human development. They recalled that for over 30 years, the Assembly has disproportionately urged the United States to lift the blockade and allow Cuba to join the international community on equal economic and financial footing.
Six decades of the embargo has cost Cuba trillions of dollars, Singapore’s representative, who spoke on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said. From 1 March 2022 to 28 February 2023, the blockade cost Cuba an estimated $4.87 billion in losses. It is unfortunate that 80 per cent of Cuba’s current population has only known Cuba under the blockade. The policy is particularly jarring at a time when the world has already fallen behind on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The representative of Mauritania, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), expressed alarm at how the embargo’s impact grew exponentially after Cuba was added to the list of countries allegedly sponsoring terrorism. Banking and financial operations have become extremely difficult for Cuba due to this. The embargo even impacts Cuba’s ability to obtain basic medicine and food.
The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), recalled how things were looking up in 2015 when steps were taken by Cuba and the United States to normalize diplomatic relations. She rejected the application of laws and measures that are contrary to international law, such as the Helms-Burton Act and the increasing persecution of Cuba’s international financial transactions. “We are also opposed to the unjust inclusion of Cuba on the list of State sponsors of terrorism,” she continued.
Echoing the sentiment of several others, the representative of El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said that the embargo has made it difficult for public health authorities to acquire medical supplies and equipment, including those necessary to make Cuban vaccines against COVID‑19. As a result of the embargo, Cuba cannot acquire the ideal medicines to treat childhood cancer. It is unfortunate that the multidimensional global crisis, which impacted the energy, food and economic sectors, plus the effect of the pandemic, were not enough to bring movement towards better relations between the United States and Cuba.
“All we know about Cuba is friendship and solidarity; we know nothing about terrorism,” Uganda’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said. Urging Havana’s immediate removal from the United States Department of State’s list of alleged sponsors of terrorism, he said this unfair categorization has made it extremely difficult for Cuba to engage in international banking operations. This in turn affects all other critical sectors, from nutrition to health.
Saint Lucia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), called the embargo contrary to the letter and spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and an abandonment of the ethos of multilateralism. It is also an impediment to regional cooperation. She remarked on Cuba’s provision of medical personnel and medicines to support other nations, including some of those hit hardest by COVID‑19, and went on to spotlight the partnership as an enduring model of what South-South cooperation can accomplish.
Eritrea’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, said that Member States have consistently and overwhelmingly demanded the end of the blockade against Cuba. Cuba’s people have the right to build their own future. Every day the blockade continues to exist is a shame on the moral authority of the United Nations. The full application of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act in May 2019 made it possible to file lawsuits in United States courts against international companies operating with properties nationalized by Cuba.
The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Cuba is denied access to markets, international aid and technology transfers, which creates serious obstacles to its socioeconomic development. The embargo is the main impediment to broader access to the Internet, people-to-people contacts and the development of cultural, sport and scientific relations. This embargo runs counter to Cuba’s continued efforts to realize sustainable development.
Zambia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that his continent has consistently been concerned about Cuba’s dilemma. As a responsible member of the international community, Cuba has made numerous positive contributions over the decades to Africa and many other States. The adoption of the annual draft resolution on ending Cuba’s blockade by the United States has represented a call to all countries for 30 years. He pledged that the African Group would continue to reaffirm its full support for that draft resolution.
The representative of China, aligning with the Group of 77, said that despite the objective of the SDGs, the United States and a few Western countries have engaged in “unilateralism, protectionism and bullying”. The imposition of unilateral measures against Cuba violates the Charter, seriously undermines the international consensus for the 2030 Agenda, damages Cubans’ right to survival and undermines peace. It “must be stopped immediately”, he said.
Echoing that sentiment, the representative of the Russian Federation called for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the blockade against Cuba and expressed his delegation’s resolute protest against violations by the United States of the fundamental principles of international law and the Charter. Actions by the United States to impose unilateral, illegal sanctions are openly neocolonial in nature and based on systematic attempts to persecute and suppress undesirable regimes around the world. The Cuba embargo is the true antithesis of sustainable development.
In the afternoon, the Assembly resumed its discussion on the International Criminal Court, adopting by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 6 against (Belarus, Mali, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Togo), with 31 abstentions, the resolution titled “Report of the International Criminal Court” (document A/78/L.6), which calls on States parties to the Rome Statute that have not yet done so to adopt national legislation to implement obligations emanating from the Statute and cooperate with the Court. (See Press Release GA/12549.) By other terms, the Assembly called upon States that are not yet parties to the Rome Statute to consider ratifying, accepting or acceding to it without delay. The Assembly also underlined, bearing in mind that the Court is complementary to national jurisdictions, that States need to adopt appropriate measures for those crimes they are required under international law to investigate and prosecute.
In the discussion prior to the adoption, several speakers shared their viewpoints on the Court, with Venezuela’s representative reaffirming his Government’s commitment to fight impunity. He also called for urgent and concrete measures to be taken by the Court so that Israel, the occupying Power, is held accountable for the atrocious crimes it has committed for years with impunity in the Occupied Palestine Territories.
El Salvador’s delegate said that the principle of complementarity to national jurisdictions lets the Court intervene when States are unable or unwilling to prosecute those responsible for serious crimes. Complementarity is essential to ensure that there are no spaces for impunity.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that the trajectory of the Court’s degradation is very similar to that of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, famous for its anti-Serbian bent and for whitewashing war criminals. “Over the time that the ICC has been doing its useless work, we have a pathetic handful of decisions,” she said. “Many cases simply fell apart at the investigation stage, and billions of dollars were spent on these less-than-impressive results.” She urged all States to vote against the text.
An observer for the State of Palestine said that in three weeks, Israel has killed 3,600 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip — more than all the children killed in all conflict areas in a year. There is no way to describe what Israel is doing as anything less than war crimes. Impunity leads to the recurrence of crimes, he added, pointing out that in 75 years not a single Israeli leader, commander or soldier has been held accountable for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people. “We joined the ICC almost 10 years ago and still wait for justice to be delivered,” he said, calling on the Prosecutor to uphold his mandate and all States to help ensure accountability.
Several speakers spoke in explanation of vote after the text’s adoption, with Brazil’s delegate emphasizing that the difficulty in achieving consensus highlights the many pressing challenges of the Court. Noting that Brazil abstained from the vote, he said that addressing concerns related to partiality, selectivity and double standards is critical.
The representative of Israel said his delegation decided to abstain from the vote as well. As a democratic State based on the rule of law, Israel remains committed to ensuring that the perpetrators of mass atrocities are held accountable. Israel has launched an investigation into the barbaric crimes committed by Hamas against Israelis, starting on 7 October, and will seek to hold those responsible to account.
Syria’s representative said his delegation voted against the resolution because of the unprecedented politicization of the Court. The Court has betrayed victims of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and mostly targets African States. Yet, the most heinous crimes in Africa have been perpetrated by the West. He asked why the Court is not acting as the attacks on Gaza continue.
At the closing of the meeting, Israel’s delegate, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that he regretted that once again the Palestinian delegate had used the valuable time of the forum by sharing misleading statements and inflated numbers. Hamas started this war, and Israel has the moral and legal right to protect its citizens. Hamas will be held accountable for its actions. One side is democratic and does everything to minimize civilian casualties, and the other is a genocidal terrorist organization that looks to maximize civilian casualties on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.