UN casts record vote against US embargo on Cuba

By Evelyn Leopold
Tuesday, November 8, 2005; 3:45 PM

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Nearly every country in the U.N. General Assembly told the United States on Tuesday to lift its four-decade old economic embargo against Cuba in a record vote of 182 to 4 with 1 abstention.

The vote, held for the 14th consecutive year, was on a resolution calling for Washington to lift the U.S. trade, financial and travel embargo, particularly its provisions on penalizing foreign firms.

Voting "no" were the United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands. Micronesia abstained and El Salvador, Iraq, Nicaragua and Morocco did not vote. Last year the vote was 179 to 4, with several countries not voting at all.

Cuba has been under a U.S. embargo since President Fidel Castro defeated a CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Friends of the United States, including the European Union also voted yes because of the penalties against foreign firms but also criticized Cuba's human rights records.

And in South America and the Caribbean, support for ending the embargo was strong, particularly from Mexico and Jamaica.

The measure is nonbinding and has had no impact on the United States, with the Bush administration having tightened restrictions against Cuba, including penalties against U.S. and foreign firms, visits from Cuban Americans, licensed travel and remittances to families.

In Havana, where one of every seven Cubans have spent their lives under sanctions, Ignacio, a tattooed youth waiting for a bus said, "It is a moral victory, but nothing will change."

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque highlighted regulations tightening the use by Americans of Cuban products abroad, presumably smoking a Cuban cigar or drinking rum.

"In terms of insanity, this draconian prohibition should go into the annals of the Guinness Book of Records," he said.

The United States for the first time downplayed the debate. Its envoy, Ronald Godard, used a procedure allowing him to make a short speech from his seat.

"If the people of Cuba are jobless, hungry or lack medical care, as Castro admits, it is because of his economic mismanagement, not the embargo," Godard said.

He said Cuba's claims of being barred from importing food and medicine is baseless because the United States since 1992 had licensed over $1.1 billion in medical related goods and $5 billion in agricultural commodities in the past five years.

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