The UN General Assembly conducted its annual debate on the U.S. embargo, and once again overwhelmingly condemned it, as it has every year for the past nineteen years. WOLA lauds this nearly universal statement from the international community and believes it is an important message for the Obama administration.
“The U.S. embargo on Cuba took a beating today,” said Geoff Thale, program director of the Washington Office on Latin America. “None of our allies in Europe, or Latin America, voted with the United States on this one,” said Thale. “Embargo supporters will mock this vote, calling it an ‘annual ritual.’ But it matters to our international image, and our diplomacy, when we continue to pursue a policy that even our closest allies publicly condemn.”
Very few governments have ever voted to support the embargo. In nineteen years, no more than three countries have voted with the United States on this issue. Increasingly, governments that once abstained from voting have joined the chorus of condemnation. In 1992, fifty nine governments voted for the resolution to condemn the embargo, three voted against the resolution, and the rest abstained. Last year, one hundred eighty seven governments voted for the resolution, three voted against, and almost no one abstained. This year the vote count was the worst to date, 187-2, with only Israel voting with the United States. “Our friends and allies used to be quiet on this,” said Thale. “Now they’re speaking up. Our policy looks increasingly isolated, and increasingly short-sighted, particularly given all the recent developments in Cuba.”
Last year, President Obama told CNN en Español, “What we're looking for is some signal that there are going to be changes in how Cuba operates that assures that political prisoners are released, that people can speak their minds freely … and do the things that people throughout the hemisphere can do and take for granted." This year, the Cuban government has released political prisoners and announced a series of economic changes including state sector lay-offs and the expansion of private sector employment. The Obama Administration has taken some small steps to reduce the hostility between the two governments, but made no major policy changes to date. Reportedly, the White House is considering actions to ease travel and trade restrictions after the November elections.