Cuba: UN issues 22nd rejection of US embargo

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly voted 188-2 on Oct. 29 to condemn the 53-year-old US economic embargo of Cuba. This was the 22nd year in a row that the General Assembly has passed a resolution rejecting the US policy. Israel and the US were the only countries to oppose the resolution, which was presented by Cuba; last year Palau backed the US, but this year it abstained, along with Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki defended the US position, saying: “We don’t feel that this annual debate in the United Nations does anything to add to or advance a constructive discussion about these issues.” Unlike Security Council resolutions, those passed by the General Assembly have no binding force.

Speaking at the General Assembly, Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez asked what had happened to the “change” that US president Barack Obama had promised during his 2008 electoral campaign. According to the Cuban government, the Obama administration has tightened some sanctions, especially the ones relating to banking, although it has relaxed limitations on travel to the island; more than 350,000 Cuban Americans and 98,000 other US citizens visited last year. The two governments are continuing direct negotiations on immigration, postal service and strategies for responding to natural disasters, but the US government seems uninterested in other measures to normalize relations. (CBS News, Oct. 29; Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Oct. 29, from AP; La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 30, from correspondent)

On Nov. 1 Mexican finance secretary Luis Videgaray announced that Cuba and Mexico had reached an agreement on a $487 million debt the Cuban government contracted more than 15 years ago. Mexico will forgive 70% of the debt and Cuba will commit to repay the rest over the next 10 years to settle the issue, which has caused some friction between the governments. Videgaray said the two countries would sign a formal agreement during Cuban foreign minister’s Rodríguez’s current visit to Mexico. (LJ, Nov. 2)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 3.