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2.15pm update

UN vote condemns US sanctions on Cuba

Staff and agencies
Wednesday November 28, 2001

The United Nations yesterday held its 10th annual vote on the strict US sanctions against its southern neighbour, Cuba, and for the 10th consecutive year the world overwhelmingly urged the US to turn its policy around.

With a vote of 167 to 3, the UN general assembly called on the US to end its 40-year embargo against the impoverished island. Only the US, Israel and the Marshall Islands voted in favour of keeping the embargo. Latvia, Micronesia and Nicaragua abstained.

This year, Cuba's foreign minister, Felipe Perez Roque, offered to compensate 6,000 US companies and citizens who suffered financially when businesses were nationalised during the 1959 communist revolution. However, he said, any financial compensation would have to take into account the damage done to the Cuban economy by the US blockade.

Cuba has been under a US trade embargo since the country's only post-revolution president, Fidel Castro, defeated the CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. As well as the imposed trade sanctions, Americans are barred from travelling to Cuba except with a government waiver.

Mr Perez said that "as a positive signal in the right direction" the US government should lift travel restrictions. He said that Cuba in turn would "get ready to receive ... no less than 2m Americans, who I am sure will flood the country to get to know it because they have been prevented from doing so."

He added: "Cuba today is a much better destination than Florida because there are not even sharks in Cuba."

Mr Perez commended this month's US offer of assistance after Hurricane Michelle and the decision to allow Cuba to buy food and medicines and pay in dollars - an exception to the sanctions.

But he said: "The blockade only achieves the objective of putting the United States into isolation from the rest of the world."

Mr Perez called the embargo the biggest obstacle to Cuba's development and said the US must decide whether it will have a coherent policy toward Cuba or remain hostage "to a minority" of Cuban exiles in Miami.

The US deputy ambassador to the UN, James Cunningham, said the trade embargo against Cuba is a matter of bilateral trade policy and not an issue for UN consideration. The focus of the UN "should be on the continuing human rights crisis in Cuba rather than on the bilateral aspects of the United States efforts to facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy on that island," he said.

Special reports
George Bush's America
War in Afghanistan

Related articles
Cuba after Castro: Observer special
Banned in the USA
16.08.1999: Misguided weapons

Useful links
CubaNet news site
CIA Cuba factfile
Cuba Solidarity project
UN news centre
US Cuban sanctions policy and guidelines

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