UN votes against Cuba embargo; Havana woos Latin America

The United Nations General Assembly voted on Oct. 29 to condemn the US embargo on trade with Cuba that has been in effect since 1962. This is 17th time the group has supported a nonbinding resolution against the embargo. The vote was 185-3 with one abstention, a slight change from last year’s 184-4 vote. The US, Israel and Palau voted against the resolution; the Marshall Islands, which voted with the US in 2007, joined Micronesia in abstaining. Albania, which was absent in 2007, backed this year’s resolution. (Prensa Latina, Cuba, Oct. 29)

Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva arrived in Havana the evening of Oct. 30 for a 24-hour visit after he had attended the Ibero-American Summit. He immediately met with President Raúl Castro, personally inviting the Cuban leader to the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean on Integration and Development, to be held Dec. 16-17 in Salvador de Bahia. Lula’s main official business on the island appeared to be signing a treaty for joint petroleum exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, but the larger goal was clearly to raise Brazil‘s profile as a trading partner with Cuba. With $450 million in trade a year, Brazil is Cuba’s second most important Latin American partner, after Venezuela. This was Lula’s second visit to Cuba in 2008. (La Jornada, Oct. 31)

Improved relations between Cuba and Mexico were evident in the Oct. 19-21 visit of Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque to Mexico City. On Oct. 20 he and Governance Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino signed a memorandum of understanding on immigration policy; the two countries agreed to cooperate in ending the practice by which hundreds of Cubans enter Mexico illegally by sea on their way to the US. On Oct. 21 Roque met with Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and invited him to visit Cuba. Relations between the countries had been minimal starting in 2002 under Calderón’s predecessor, Vicente Fox Quesada, who, like Calderón, is a member of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and a supporter of the US. Trade between Cuba and Mexico is now up by 80% over what it was in the same period in 2007. (LJ, Oct. 20, 21, 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 2

See our last post on Cuba.