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U.N. body calls for an end to Cuban embargo

The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly urged the United States Tuesday to end its 44-year-old trade embargo against Cuba.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly urged the United States Tuesday to end its 44-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, a call U.S. Ambassador John Bolton dismissed as "a complete exercise in irrelevancy."

It was the 14th straight year that the 191-member world body approved a resolution calling for the U.S. economic and commercial embargo against Cuba to be repealed "as soon as possible."

The vote was 182 to 4, with 1 abstention, a higher "yes" vote than last year's vote of 179-4 with one abstention.

Many delegates in the General Assembly hall burst into applause when the result was flashed on an electronic screen.

The United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands voted against the resolution, while Micronesia abstained.

Four countries did not indicate any position at all — El Salvador, Iraq, Morocco and Nicaragua.

The resolution is not legally binding and Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque noted that the U.S. government has ignored it for the last 13 years.

But he said that didn't diminish "the legal, political, moral and ethical importance of this vote."

‘A complete exercise in irrelevancy’
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who chose to attend a Security Council meeting to vote on an Iraq resolution rather than the General Assembly vote on Cuba, told reporters "this is a complete exercise in irrelevancy."

The fact that "this exercise in Cuban propaganda" was adopted by a General Assembly that has not yet seriously attempted to reform the U.N. Human Rights Commission or engage in the management reforms supported by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "tells you something," he said.

Cuba launched a broad public relations campaign drawing attention to its complaints against the embargo, and speaker after speaker in the General Assembly debate opposed the U.S. sanctions imposed after Fidel Castro defeated the CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

The embargo, aimed at toppling Castro's socialist system, has been steadily tightened under President Bush's two terms.

Perez Roque said "most likely" Bush will tighten the blockade even further.

"Never before, as in the last 18 months, was the blockade enforced with so much viciousness and brutality. Never before had we seen so cruel and relentless a persecution by a U.S. administration against the economy and the right of the Cubans to a dignified and decent life," the Cuban minister said.

"The blockade is an economic war enforced with incomparable zeal at a global scale," he said. "Now Cuba has two obstacles to overcome: the helpless imperial haughtiness of President Bush, which has taken him farther than anyone else in this madness, and the ever-increasing globalization of the world economy."

But Perez Roque stressed that "the U.S. government is delusional with the idea that it can overthrow the Cuban revolution."

Jamaica's U.N. Ambassador Stafford Neil, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, which includes 132 mainly developing countries and China, said its members oppose "unilateral coercive measures against developing countries."

The Group of 77 recognizes "that the embargo has caused huge material losses and economic damage to the people of Cuba" and has repeatedly demanded that the United States lift it, he said.

"The United States and Cuba are two countries whose destinies are linked by history and geography which should require that the embargo and coercive measures should be replaced by dialogue and cooperation," Neil said.

The Group of 77 calls on the United States "to heed the voice of the international community to bring an end to the embargo and to move towards a process of normalization of relations through peaceful negotiations with Cuba ...," he said.