The United Nations General Assembly recently and regrettably voted overwhelmingly to urge the United States to end its decades-long trade embargo against Cuba. The vote was 187 in favor of the non-binding resolution; the United States and Israel voted against it; Ukraine abstained.
The embargo was first imposed in the 1960s to encourage Cuba to transition to democratic governance and respect for human rights. As the most recent human rights report by the U.S. State Department notes, however, “Cuba remains a one-party system in which the Communist Party is the only legal political party.” Additionally, the State Department reported that human rights abuses by the Cuban government are serious, numerous, and uninvestigated.
After the vote by the General Assembly, U.S. Senior Advisor to the United Nations for Western Hemisphere Affairs Paul Folmsbee observed, “Sanctions are one set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“The United States stands resolutely with the Cuban people,” he said. “Approximately 1,000 political prisoners remain behind bars in Cuba – more than at any point in Cuba’s recent history. Nearly 700 of those detentions owe to the historic July 11, 2021, protests during which members of civil society including human rights defenders, as well as minors of age, exercise their freedom of expression and right of peaceful assembly. We share the Cuban people’s dream of democracy in Cuba and join international partners in calling for the Cuban government to immediately release all those unjustly detained.”
Ambassador Folmsbee noted that Cuba has not responded to requests to send independent experts to Cuba, who would help advance respect for human rights. Some of the requests, he said, have been pending for 10 years.
“We recognize the challenges the Cuban people face,” said Ambassador Folmsbee. “That is why U.S. sanctions include exemptions authorizations relating to the exports of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods to Cuba. The United States remains a significant source of humanitarian goods to the Cuban people and one of Cuba’s principal trading partners.”
“The United States opposes this resolution,” declared Ambassador Folmsbee. “We encourage this body to urge the Cuban government to adhere to its human rights obligations and listen to the Cuban people and their aspirations to determine their own future.”