Today, after 24 years of defending the U.S. embargo on Cuba during debate at the United Nations General Assembly, the United States shifted its position. Rather than vote against a General Assembly resolution condemning the embargo, U.S. ambassador Samantha Powers abstained, reflecting the larger shift in U.S. policy that President Barack Obama has undertaken.
The UN General Assembly has voted to condemn the U.S. embargo every one of the last 24 years, and more and more countries have joined the anti-embargo vote. Allies in Latin America abandoned the U.S. position years ago, joining the anti-embargo majority. The United States has been increasingly isolated in its position, and with the now two-year-old policy of engagement, has appeared to be at odds with itself in the UN vote.
WOLA’s Program Director Geoff Thale says:
“This is remarkable and the final sign of President Obama’s clear shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba. Almost two years ago, the administration began the process of normalization and since then President has repeatedly called on the U.S. Congress to end the embargo. The decision to abstain, rather than to continue to defend the embargo, reflects the spirit of this new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations and sends a clear message from the administration. It will do much to improve the image of the United States on this issue.
The U.S. position on Cuba has made us an outlier for some time and put us at odds with key allies and with most of the world. An end to the U.S. embargo is what the world wants, it’s what the Obama administration wants and it’s what the U.S. people want. A July 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that 72 percent of Americans support ending the embargo, including 59 percent of Republicans. Recent polls show that this support to change U.S. policy is only increasing, especially among Cuban Americans.
A policy of engagement is clearly better for Cubans, better for Americans and better for hemispheric relations. This vote shows that the U.S. executive branch believes that and sets a tone that will be difficult to roll back for whoever steps into office next.
Of course, the embargo itself remains in place. Only Congress can end it. President Obama has urged the Congress to do so and this vote reinforces that message.”