185 IN favour, 2 against, and 2 in abstention! These were the results this November when the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted for a non-binding resolution which condemned and called for the cessation of the US embargo levied against Cuba. Shockingly, this is the 30th time the General Assembly has voted against the unfair economic sanctions Cuba faces. Despite the views and sentiments of the 185 out of the 193 UNGA member states, the United States maintains its resolve to keep the sanctions in place, and made the following statement via its Political Coordinator, John Kelly: “The United States opposes this resolution, but we stand with the Cuban people and will continue to seek ways to provide meaningful support to them.” This statement is empty and unapologetic, and the stance is in blatant disregard of the human rights gate-keeping the United Nations General Assembly exists for. Upholding this grave economic embargo against Cuba for 60 years and in clear opposition of the views of nearly all the other member states (of the UNGA) is akin to or worse than Russia ignoring the same UNGA calls for the cessation of hostilities against the Ukraine! Are these not lucidly double standards by the US and equal in gravity to economic terrorism on millions of people?
The United States claims to be seeking ways in providing meaningful support to Cubans; their actions, however, tell a starkly different story. A story of unconcern for human rights and a complete dismissal of the joint concerns and counsel of the larger United Nations General Assembly. At the peak of COVID in 2020, the United Nations Human Rights called for the lifting of the financial and economic embargo on Cuba so the country could receive humanitarian assistance (to help fight COVID and save lives). The US is reported (by the same United Nations Human Rights) to have “ ignored repeated calls to waive the sanctions that undermine[d] the capacity of Cuba to save lives.” It would appear that because it benefitted them not, these sanctions were neither lessened nor lifted. What Was Cuba's Crime?
The US embargo on Cuba, enforced in 1960 and infamously known as el bloquero (the blockade), was intended to end the Marxist communist regime headed by Fidel Castro, and to install democracy via US backed President Batista at the time. Till date, none of these things have succeed. This is the longest lasting embargo in recent history; it's policies, which are extra-territorial, have created results that traverse the corridors of economic terrorism. The Human Rights Watch has called for its stoppage, but no avail.
The regrettable fact remains that the United States, a country that prides itself in its progressiveness and sophistication, unashamedly upholds a bullying Cold War policy that directly causes food insecurity, keeps essential medicines from Cuban women, children and elderly men, and stymies the livelihoods of generations of young people in the nation. The embargo stands on such ideals as are found in the Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mallory) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom), which states the following as a strategy of bringing Cuba to heel: “The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. If the above are accepted or cannot be successfully countered, it follows that every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” This rhetoric and strategy at all costs is cruel, undemocratic in nature, and barbarous!
The Failings Of The Other UNGA Nations
It may be noted as commendable that nearly every other member (except for the US and Israel) of the United Nations General Assembly is in opposition of this blockade and publicly rebukes it. But in objective examination, is there truly not more that can be done? Does the United States alone wield so much power and influence that nothing more than a non-binding vote at the UNGA can be exacted against them? The other member states, by proxy, are in truth a part of the continuation of the human rights abuses, food insecurity, and poor healthcare (amongst others) that this blockade causes in Cuba. Doing nothing more than voting and verbally expressing distaste for the affair is not nearly enough and only expounds on the terribly Kafkaesque results that ensue.
Regardless of the advancements of the countries that consist of the UNGA member states, deplorable double standards on the most basic of human rights are still allowed to grow and thrive like a fungus! Between 2021and 2022, over 518 requests have been made by Cuba to several (UNGA) countries for forklifts, tractors, and other agricultural machinery; only 9 were accepted. Banks have been fined for making transfers to Cuba; food and food produce that Cuba purchases from the US must be paid for in advance, by cash, and through European banks!
What use is the UNGA if voting is all that can be done about atrocities levied by one of its own upon a country nigh utterly unable to defend itself against the behemoth and force that makes up the United States of America? Nations should, in this modern world, take pride in being able to do the right thing and to stop wrongdoing wherever it is, even and especially when it emanates from its own caucuses and chambers. The Cuban people (outside of Cuban leadership) should not be subjected to unnecessary dire circumstances and austere futures because of the lack of will of the powers that be. It would be most unfortunate and a desperate failing on the part of modern society, should we come to see 100 years of an unjust and borderline illegal embargo on a country. 100 years is truly where this is headed, unless more than rhetoric and economic gerrymandering is employed!
The author is a Member/Speaker of the World Economic Forum and a Speaker at the African Union, IOM.