Sunday, May 30, 2021

Ambassador Samantha Power's Announces US Abstention at the UN on the Cuba Embargo Resolution

US abstains in UN vote on Cuba embargo for the first time

When the vote — 191-0 with two abstentions — was shown on the electronic board, diplomats from the 193 U.N. member states burst into applause.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power announced the abstention just before the vote saying that the U.S. policy of isolation toward Cuba had “isolated the United States, including here at the United Nations.”

“After 55-plus years of pursuing the path of isolation, we are choosing to take the path of engagement,” she said.

Ambassador Samantha Power

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 26, 2016

“For more than 50 years, the United States had a policy aimed at isolating the government of Cuba. For roughly half of those years, UN Member States have voted overwhelmingly for a General Assembly resolution that condemns the U.S. embargo and calls for it to be ended. The United States has always voted against this resolution. Today the United States will abstain. [Applause.]

Thank you. Let me explain why. In December 2014, President Obama made clear his opposition to the embargo and called on our Congress to take action to lift it. Yet while the Obama Administration agrees that the U.S. embargo on Cuba should be lifted, I have to be clear, we don’t support the shift for the reason stated in this resolution. All actions of the United States with regard to Cuba have been and are fully in conformity with the UN Charter and international law, including applicable trade law and the customary law of the sea. We categorically reject the statements in the resolution that suggest otherwise.

But the resolution voted on today is a perfect example of why the U.S. policy of isolation toward Cuba was not working – or worse, how it was actually undermining the very goals it set out to achieve. Instead of isolating Cuba, as President Obama has repeatedly said, our policy isolated the United States. Including right here at the United Nations.

Under President Obama, we have adopted a new approach: rather than try to close off Cuba from the rest of the world, we want the world of opportunities and ideas open to the people of Cuba. After 50-plus years of pursuing the path of isolation, we have chosen to take the path of engagement. Because, as President Obama said in Havana, we recognize that the future of the island lies in the hands of the Cuban people, of course.

In the nearly two years since President Obama announced the shift in our approach, we have amended the regulations implementing the embargo six times – most recently on October 14 – finding ways to increase engagement between our governments and our people. We have re-established diplomatic relations with the Government of Cuba; re-opened embassies in our respective capitals; resumed regularly scheduled commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba; facilitated people-to-people travel; eased restrictions on American businesses and entrepreneurs who want to do business in Cuba; and stopped limiting how often Cuban Americans can visit their families on the island. President Obama memorably became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928; and, in a much more modest journey here in New York, I made the first visit by a U.S. Ambassador to the UN to Cuba’s mission to the United Nations since the Cuban revolution. Today, we add to that list the first-ever U.S. abstention on the UN General Assembly resolution calling for the embargo to be ended.

Abstaining on this resolution does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government. We do not. We are profoundly concerned by the serious human rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people – including arbitrarily detaining those who criticize the government; threatening, intimidating, and, at times, physically assaulting citizens who take part in peaceful marches and meetings; and severely restricting the access that people on the island have to outside information.

As President Obama made clear when he traveled to Havana, we believe that the Cuban people – like all people – are entitled to basic human rights, such as the right to speak their minds without fear, and the right to assemble, organize, and protest peacefully. Not because these reflect a U.S.-centric conception of rights, but rather because they are universal human rights – enshrined in the UN Charter and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which all of our 193 Member States are supposed to respect and defend. Rights that are essential for the dignity of men, women, and children regardless of where they live or what kind of government they have.

Let me be among the first to acknowledge – as our Cuban counterparts often point out – that the United States has work to do in fulfilling these rights for our own citizens. And we know that at times in our history, U.S. leaders and citizens used the pretext of promoting democracy and human rights in the region to justify actions that have left a deep legacy of mistrust. We recognize that our history, in which there is so much that makes us proud, also gives us ample reason to be humble.

We also recognize the areas in which the Cuban government has made significant progress in advancing the welfare of its people, from significantly reducing its child mortality rate, to ensuring that girls have the same access to primary and secondary school as boys.

But none of this should mean that we stay silent when the rights of Cuban people are violated, as Member States here at the United Nations have too often done. That is why the United States raised these concerns directly with the Cuban government during our historic dialogue on human rights in Havana on October 14, which shows that, while our governments continue to disagree on fundamental questions of human rights, we have found a way to discuss these issues in a respectful and reciprocal manner. We urge other Member States to speak up about these issues as well.

The United States believes that there is a great deal we can do together with Cuba to tackle global challenges. That includes here at the United Nations, where the decades-long enmity between our nations has at best been a distraction – and at worst, an obstacle – to carrying out some of the most important work of this institution and helping the world’s most vulnerable people.

Let me close by giving just one example – a very moving example. In 2014, we were confronted with the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in our planet’s history. The most dire projections estimated that more than a million people could be infected within a few months. Yet while experts made clear that the only way to stop the epidemic was to confront it at its source, the international community was slow to step up. Many were paralyzed.

It was in that context that President Obama decided to deploy more than 3,000 U.S. personnel to the epicenter of the outbreak, where they joined hundreds of Americans working for non-governmental organizations and humanitarian agencies in the hardest hit areas. President Obama also set about rallying other Member States to do their part. One of the very first countries to step forward was Cuba, which sent more than 200 health professionals to the region – an awe-inspiring contribution for a country of just 11 million people.

One of them was a 43-year-old Cuban doctor named Felix Sarria Baez, who was dispatched to an Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone. In the course of treating those infected, Dr. Baez came down with the symptoms of the virus – and he quickly went from being the doctor to being a patient. As his condition deteriorated, he was airlifted to Geneva, where, for two days, he drifted in and out of consciousness. He nearly died, yet miraculously he pulled through, and eventually returned to Havana, where he says he regained his strength by cradling his two-year-old son.

I’d like you to think, just for one moment, about what it took to save the life of Dr. Baez – a man who risked his life to save people from a country on the other side of the world. He was initially treated in the clinic where he worked, which had been built with the help of a U.S.-based NGO. From there, he was transported to a clinic run by doctors from the British ministry of defense. Then he was airlifted to Switzerland aboard a medical transport plan operated by an American charter service. Upon arriving at the hospital in Geneva, he was treated by Swiss doctors with a Canadian-developed experimental treatment.

Look at all the nations that played a part in saving the life of that brave doctor – a doctor who, after recuperating in Havana, actually chose to return to Sierra Leone, so that he could rejoin his colleagues in the field, saving the lives of Sierra Leoneans. Dr. Baez and all his colleagues belonged to Cuba’s Henry Reeve Contingent – which responds to international disasters and epidemics – and takes its name from a young American born in Brooklyn, who at the age of 19 traveled to the Cuba to join the country’s struggle for independence, and gave his life in 1876 fighting alongside Cubans for their freedom.

When Dr. Baez returned to Sierra Leone, he was asked why he had come back after all he had been through. He said, simply, “I needed to come back. Ebola is a challenge that I must fight to the finish here, to keep it from spreading to the rest of the world.”

That – what I’ve just described – is what the United Nations looks like, when it works. And noble efforts like these are precisely why the United States and Cuba must continue to find ways to engage, even as our differences persist. Today, we will take another small step to be able to do that. May there be many, many more – including, we hope, finally ending the U.S. embargo once and for all.

I thank you.”

What will the Biden-Harris Administration do on June 23, 2021, when the UN votes again on the US embargo?  Will they choose Trump or Obama?

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Analysis of the VIII Congress of Cuba's Communist Party


Talking About the Party – Introductory Note
by Walter Lippmann, May 19, 2021

The Cuban Communist Party’s VIII Congress, held in Havana in April 16-19, 2021, found the island confronting perhaps its greatest challenges since the revolutionary government came to power in 1959. Washington’s multi-faceted blockade has been intensified more than ever before, and the Covid-19 pandemic struck a cruel body blow to the island’s tourism economy, its principal source of foreign hard-currency income.

As the island’s sole political party, the PCC has faced a seemingly endless array of problems. Its historic leadership, lead by Raúl Castro, was stepping aside to make room for a new generation raised in and products of, Cuba’s revolutionary system. 

Beginning on the eve of the congress, and concluding after the congress concluded its decisions, Rafael Hernández, shared a series of detailed observations for the online journal OnCuba. He looked at the origins, evolution and development of the PCC, including how it was formed, its evolution and development. These considerations can and will help the attentive reader to better understand the PCC, and some of the challenges it faces as an organization.

The author of these articles, Rafael Hernández, is the director of the Cuban journal TEMAS (Themes). He is a political scientist, a graduate of El Colegio de Mexico, and UNAM. He has published more than a dozen books and 200 essays on Cuba-US relations and Cuban politics and society. A few of them in US academic publishing houses. The series was original published in OnCuba, a Miami-based publication, but wasn’t translated there. Links to the Spanish original of each of the five articles can e found at the bottom of each one.

Speaking About the Party, Part I
Reducing the socialist revolution to the protagonism of a party or an ideology does not help to understand its complexities and problems.

Speaking About the Party, Part II
Dialogue between different generations will just be a good wish as long as the Party and the rest of the institutions it guides do not achieve an environment conducive to respect and trust, to discussion, criticism and ensuring a truly participatory and democratic style in decision making.

Speaking About the Party, Part III 
Diversity and representation

Speaking About the Party, Part IV
On the VIII Congress that has just concluded.

Speaking About the Party, Part V and final
Is this Party capable of conducting reforms as a continuous process of correction and adjustment, and at the same time, self-reform?

Outgoing PCC First Secretary Raul Castro presented a sobering look at the challenges faced by the country. It’s very long, but is essential reading to understand the thinking of leadership. At the end of the congress, Miguel Diaz-Canel, replacing Raúl as head of the party and state, presented an assessment of the PCC’s tasks and perspectives. Here they are:

Central Report to the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba

Full text of the presentation by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, April 16, 2021

Díaz-Canel: “Among revolutionaries, we Communists go to the fore”

Full text of speech by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic of Cuba during the 8th Party Congress, April 19, 2021, Year 63 of the Revolution

Finally, let me add that I’m very grateful to Rafael Hernández for assistance with this translation.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Four Point Letter to Biden-Harris on Policy Change


May 5, 2021 


The Honorable Joe Biden and Kamala Harris  

President and Vice President of the United States  

The White House  

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW  

Washington, DC 20500  

Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris: 

We are leaders and activists from a diverse set of organizations representing farmers, agroecologists, environmentalists, academics, civil society and climate justice movements. Our work is at the intersection of agrifood sustainability and climate justice, themes that are increasingly central to the debates about how to address climate change. We applaud your administration’s commitment to placing climate change at the center of both domestic and foreign policy, and your recognition of the multiple intersecting issues common to climate change, health, food, agriculture and human rights and justice issues. Your decisions to rejoin the Paris Agreement, the recent BIPOC farmer relief package, and the newly established White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council are each welcome and critical actions. 

Today we write to urge you to address the issue of US-Cuba relations and to do so through a similarly intersectional perspective. Recently your White House spokesperson said that “human rights will be a core pillar of US policy” towards Cuba. Food, agriculture and the climate crisis all qualify as human rights issues. Therefore, a policy position guided by human rights needs to address how US sanctions towards Cuba severely limit the rights of Cuban citizens to food security, climate justice and dignity. 

We, the undersigned organizations, urge you and your administration to move quickly and comprehensively to make good on your campaign promise “to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families”. The four key policy recommendations outlined below can be made swiftly, and are necessary to address the global climate crisis. 

1. Take executive action that returns the regulations governing trade and travel to Cuba to their status as of January 20th, 2017. Through this executive action several restrictions imposed by the previous administration could be undone, including removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List and restoring the waiver on Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.  These measures would benefit both the United States and the Cuban people. In addition, these changes would allow US NGOs, universities and other organizations to more easily carry out important collaboration and cooperation under general license provisions, many of which are currently stalled. In recent years new learning alliances, exchanges and concrete projects have been established between civil society organizations in both countries with the objective of mutually learning, researching, building capacity and in some cases providing financial and material support to advance food security, sustainability and climate resilience. Cuba has developed forward-looking, integrated policies and practices for climate mitigation-adaptation, increased resilience of socio-ecological systems, and “re-localized” food systems governance and economies. However, current sanctions severely limit implementation of these policies and practices and in turn impacts Cuba’s right to food. Furthermore, by isolating them we are isolating ourselves from the opportunity to mutually learn and solve these urgent crises. 

2. Immediately end the application of any sanctions and restrictions against food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance and international cooperation to Cuba, including restrictions on financial and banking transactions. It is an affront to the human rights of Cuban citizens and at odds with our values as US citizens that the US blocked the arrival of humanitarian assistance to Cuba during a global pandemic. Some of the severe material scarcities in Cuba are a direct result of US sanctions, and especially of the tightened restrictions imposed by the previous administration. These sanctions have resulted in critical impacts on human rights and ending them will go a long way to improving the lives of Cuban citizens. Any action must include lifting prohibitions on allowances of credit for the purchase of food. Since July 2020, significant economic reforms in Cuba have opened new opportunities for engagement with the non-state sector. This includes more flexibility for non-state actors to import and export, which could mean new opportunities for international cooperation to support what Cuba is already doing well towards building climate resilience. It is an opportunity for a US engagement based on fair, rights-based approaches whereby trade agreements and cooperation do not undermine local economies or ecologies on either side. 

3. Restore a fully functioning US embassy and consular services in Cuba and re-launch the bilateral working groups. Environmental, civil society and scientific cooperation depends not just on US citizens traveling to Cuba, but on the ability of Cuban scientists, experts and farmers to travel to the United States to share their important work at conferences and workshops and to participate in working meetings. Resuming consular services will allow for these important exchanges to occur. Fully staffing the embassy will also facilitate a re-invigoration of the several existing bilateral agreements on environment, climate and agriculture issues and the related bilateral working groups, which were established under the Obama Administration and which formally remain in force. These include two MOUs signed between the USDA and the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture. The bilateral working groups brought important progress on key issues and are a means to build bridges between technical experts and government officials on issues of mutual interest. Those focused on climate change and agriculture should be in close consultation with those of us in the NGO and academic sector who have been engaging with Cuba for a long time and who work closely with counterparts in Cuba from civil society and the growing non state sector (including farmers, cooperatives and restaurant owners) who play an essential role in building sustainable and climate resilient local economies. 

4. For a truly bold action, we urge you to explore how to use your executive authority to its maximum extent, by not renewing the annual determination to impose sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act, thereby putting an end to all the existing sanctions contained in the Cuban Asset Control Regulations. 

Draconian sanctions against Cuba have always been counterproductive. This is even more evident now. We are facing a moment when ideology and politics must be put aside in order to urgently come together as a unified global community to confront the common global threats of COVID-19 and the climate crisis. We can only do this together through coordination, cooperation and 

solidarity. We must share lessons learned and mistakes made in order to move forward together.  The US has much to share, but much to learn as well. Cuba has so much to contribute to the fight domestically and internationally and should not be hindered by the cruel and inhumane effects of a decades long embargo. Instituting the above recommendations are a first step towards realizing a new type of trade relationship with a neighboring nation state. It would be a bold human-nature-rights centered approach to trade and bilateral relations that responds to the need to repair our relationship with each other and with the ecosystems that sustain our economies and societies. 

We commit ourselves to support you in these actions, and to educate and encourage Members of Congress to support U.S. engagement with Cuba and bring an end to the embargo. 


ActionAid USA 

Washington, DC 


Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative 

Burlington, VT 


Agroecology Commons 

Oakland, CA 


Agroecology Research-Action Collective 

Multiple Locations 


Bear Swamp Farm 

Wolcott, VT 


Black Belt Justice Center 

Washington, DC 


Caribbean Agroecology Institute/Cuba-US Agroecology Network 

Burlington, VT 


Central Florida Jobs with Justice 

Orlando, FL 


Centro Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Agroecológicas (CELIA) 

Berkeley, CA 

Code Pink 

Washington, DC 


Community Agroecology Network 

Santa Cruz, CA 


Cornell Cooperative Extension 

New York, NY 


Essex Farm 

Essex, NY 


Glynwood Center for Food and Farming 

Cold Spring, NY 


Family Farm Defenders 

Madison, WI 


Grassroots Global Justice Alliance 

Washington, DC 


HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance 

Oakland, CA 


High Meadows Farm 

Putney, VT 


Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy 

Minneapolis, MN 


Ironbound Community Corporation 

Newark, NJ 


Los Jardines Institute 

Albuquerque, NM 


Naima Farms 

St Paul, MN 


Naked Acre Farm 

Hyde Park, VT 


National Family Farm Coalition 

Washington, DC 


National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association 

Washington, DC 


New School Tishman Environment and Design Center Environmental Justice Fellowship 

Newark, NJ 


Northeast Organic Farming Association-Vermont 

Richmond, VT 


Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance 

Gloucester, MA 


Oxfam America 

Boston, MA 


Pesticide Action Network North America 

Berkeley, CA 


Platform for Innovation and Dialogue with Cuba 

Washington, DC 


Soul Fire Farm Institute 

Petersberg, NY 


Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network (SAAFON) 

Durham, NC 


Sowing Peace Farm 

Putney, VT 


t.e.j.a.s. Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services 

Houston, TX 


Union of Concerned Scientists 

Washington, DC 


United Today, Stronger Tomorrow 

Oakland, CA 



For further information, contact the organizer: 

Margarita Fernandez <> 



Sunday, May 2, 2021

Financial Times Editorial Urging Biden to Act



The perils of leaving Cuba out in the cold

Departure of the Castro brothers is no guarantee of rapprochement with the US

It should be a historic opportunity for detente: for the first time in over 60 years, Cuba is no longer run by a Castro. Fidel’s younger brother Raúl handed over the reins of power last month, weeks before his 90th birthday, and departed the politburo along with the remaining gerontocrats from the 1959 revolution which brought them to power.

The passing of the Marxist torch to the next generation follows major economic reforms. Amid dire food shortages and a chronic lack of hard currency, the Cuban government has finally moved on long-delayed plans to scrap a cumbersome dual currency system and devalue the Cuban peso dramatically. A list of permitted private businesses was expanded significantly.

With a new US president in the White House, who promised during his campaign to reverse some of Donald Trump’s harsher measures, hopes had risen of early American humanitarian gestures to ease restrictions on remittances and flights as a prelude to a move back towards the brief thaw of the Obama era, when full diplomatic relations were restored.

For now, those remain just hopes. Washington has made no moves and the White House said last month that Cuba was not a priority amid a myriad of other domestic and foreign policy challenges. 

Cuba has not made Biden’s task easier. There has been no discernible glasnost in the island’s politics from Miguel Díaz-Canel, Castro’s anointed successor, to accompany the perestroika of the economic reforms. The Communist party’s grip on Cuban life remains tight. Dissenters continue to be harassed and imprisoned. One of Díaz-Canel’s favourite recent Twitter hashtags was #SomosContinuidad (we are continuity).

In Washington, the chair of the powerful Senate foreign relations committee remains in the hands of Cuban-Americans, having passed in the newly elected Congress from the Republican Marco Rubio to the Democrat Robert Menendez. Biden’s party fears another drubbing in next year’s midterm elections in Florida at the hands of the anti-communist Latinos who cost him two congressional seats last year. It is easy to see the attractions of doing nothing.

Yet American presidents ignore the small Caribbean island just over 100 miles from their coast at their peril. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 was the closest the world has come to nuclear war. Jimmy Carter was caught off-guard by the Mariel boatlift of 1980, when Fidel Castro opened an escape valve for dissenters and allowed 125,000 Cubans to leave for the US in the space of five months (some turned out to be convicted criminals and former inmates of mental institutions). Bill Clinton’s attempts at secret diplomacy with Cuba were doomed when Havana shot down two US civilian aircraft piloted by Cuban-American exiles in 1996, triggering a crisis. This year, the numbers of Cubans attempting to flee across the Florida straits is rising again, even before the peak summer season.

The failures of the six-decades-old US embargo on Cuba to achieve political change are obvious. Republican arguments that the Obama rapprochement failed are bogus: the initiative never had time to produce results. The coronavirus pandemic and the tighter Trump-era restrictions have worsened the humanitarian crisis.

It is time for Joe Biden to face down the Cuban-American lobby and ease restrictions on remittances and direct flights now. This would help improve the lives of ordinary Cubans and create a better atmosphere in which to reopen substantive dialogue with Havana.