Why Cubans see Biden as no "different from Trump"
BY PORTIA SIEGELBAUM
JUNE 24, 2021 / 10:45 AM / CBS NEWS
Havana — Cuban's don't wake up or go to bed with the words "U.S. economic, commercial and financial embargo" on the tips of their tongues. But if there is a thought lingering in the back of many minds here, just one word — "blockade" — probably covers it. It frequently rolls off tongues as people discuss their daily hardships.
Many Cubans watched on Wednesday as the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution condemning the United States' six-decade embargo on their island. They were most interested to see whether the U.S. would abstain from the vote, as the Obama administration did in 2016, or vote "No" again, as it did under former President Trump.
In the end, the U.S. delegation voted "No," joined only by Israel. 184 nations voted in favor of the resolution condemning the embargo. The same resolution has passed easily every year since it first came up in 1992.
Dr. Dunia Castillo Gonzalez, a hematologist at Havana's Institute of Hematology and Immunology, told CBS News that she was happy the resolution had passed, "but with the desire that they get rid of it [embargo] for real."
Like others, Castillo Gonzalez is disappointed that President Biden hasn't lifted the flurry of additional sanctions imposed by Mr. Trump on Cuba right before he left office.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made Cuba's medical professionals, and people seeking protection from or treatment for the virus, hyper-aware of the negative impact of the blockade.
In a Facebook post, Foreign Ministry official Johanna Tablada pointed out that in 2020, two long-time German providers of laboratory and other medical supplies, Sartorious and Merck, both stopped selling to the island — for fear, she said, of the sanctions the U.S. was applying internationally. This, she said, prevented Cuba from obtaining purification equipment needed as it worked to develop its COVID vaccines.
The country managed without the supplies from Germany, and it is now giving doses of two domestically produced vaccines that have shown good efficacy.
"Cuba maintains and will maintain its achievements despite the many shortages and need of our people provoked by the blockade," said Dr. Osvaldo Mendez Diaz of Havana's Tropical Medicine Institute, IPK, which treated the first COVID-19 cases in the country in March 2020.
He told CBS News that he was encouraged by the public health intervention in Havana, using the Cuban Abdala vaccine, which reduced by nearly 50% the number of confirmed cases in the capital in May, and has continued to drive a significant drop in new cases in more recent weeks.
"In addition to the victory [with the U.N. vote], Cuba is happy that it has achieved effective vaccines against COVID-19 amidst the toughening of the blockade," said the frontline doctor, barely identifiable through all of his PPE.
However, like most Cubans, Mendez Diaz believes the blockade is holding back the country's progress, and that more lives could have been saved, and could be saved going forward, if the U.S. embargo wasn't cutting off Cuba's access to some supplies.
In a statement explaining the vote against the U.N. resolution on Wednesday, American diplomat Rodney Hunter told the gathered body that U.S. "stands with the Cuban people and seeks to support their pursuit of freedom, prosperity, and a future of greater dignity," but he called the ongoing sanctions "a legitimate way to achieve foreign policy, national security, and other national and international objectives."
Hunter said the U.S. recognized "the challenges the Cuban people face," adding: "Every year, we authorize billions of dollars worth of exports to Cuba, including food and other agricultural commodities, medicines, medical devices, telecommunications equipment, consumer goods, and other items to support the Cuban people."
Dr. Niobys Sanchez, an OBGYN at the Gonzalez Coro Obstetrics Hospital in Havana, said she was happy with the U.N. vote, "especially in the current conditions, with the shortages of medical resources. Hopefully at some point the demands of so many countries will be heard and not ignored."
"Everything's difficult," said journalist and first-time mother Laura Prado. "It's a chain of limitations. It's difficult to obtain some medicines that were previously produced here — vitamins for my 4-month-old baby, [and] for me."
Referring to the U.S. sanctions, which have also blocked shipments of Venezuelan petroleum to Cuba, she noted that just as her son is beginning to start on solid foods, "root vegetables don't get to market because there is no fuel. How do you explain that to a baby?"
Prado wasn't surprised by the level of support for Cuba from the international community. But she, too, expressed disappointment in President Biden, and noted the difference with the Obama administration's moves to repair bilateral ties.
"Biden hasn't shown himself to be any different from Trump," she said. "What's needed is action and deeds."
First published on June 24, 2021 / 10:45 AM
US again votes against United Nations resolution to drop economic embargo against Cuba
The Biden administration voted against the UN General Assembly’s annual resolution to end the economic embargo despite the president’s campaign commitment to lift current restrictions on remittances and travel.
Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the UN in New York on Wednesday that Mr Biden’s "pernicious passivity" was due to the Democrat’s electoral ambitions in Florida.
"The electoral platform for the Democratic party around the election promised voters that it would rapidly reverse actions taken by the government of Donald Trump, and in particular that it would eliminate restrictions on travel to Cuba, remittances and the fulfilment of bilateral migratory agreements, including restrictions to the issuance of visas," Mr Rodriguez said.
"What will those that who voted for president Joseph Biden think of what is happening. Mr President, the human damage caused by the blockade is incalculable. No Cuban family has escaped the effects of this inhumane policy."
The Trump administration added more than 200 sanctions against the Communist-run government, with the State Department designating the country a state sponsor of terrorism just days before the former president left office.
Asked in March about the new administration’s position toward the country, press secretary Jen Psaki said it was carefully reviewing policy decisions made by their predecessors.“A Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities,” Ms Psaki told reporters
It came after a group of 80 Democrats from the House of Representatives wrote Mr Biden to lift Mr Trump’s "cruel sanctions’ and revert to the position of former president Barack Obama
“With the stroke of a pen, you can assist struggling Cuban families and promote a more constructive approach,” the letter said.
Despite pressure from within his own party, the US voted against the UN resolutions to lift the embargo for the 28th time – with the one exception in 2016 when Washington abstained under Obama.
The US’s diplomat at the UN on Wednesday, Rodney Hunter, told the General Assembly that sanctions against Cuba were a "legitimate tool" in achieving its foreign policy objectives and to support the Cuban people.
"Sanctions are one set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba, to advance democracy, to promote respect for Human rights, and help the Cuban people exercise the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights," he said.
"The United States opposes this resolution. We encourage this body to support the Cuban people in their quest to determine their own future," he added.
While the UN resolution passed with 184 votes versus two against (including Israel), it carries no binding consequence at lifting the embargo, which can only be done by the US Congress.
U.S. Opposes U.N. Resolution on Cuba Embargo, Signaling Biden Caution
It was the 29th year that the U.N General Assembly had approved the resolution, an annual event used by critics of the United States to vent their anger over the Cold War embargo.
June 23, 2021,
For the 29th year, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to condemn the Cold War-era American embargo on Cuba, with many diplomats exhorting the Biden administration to resume the reconciliation that was upended by former President Donald J. Trump.
In what was seen as a litmus test of President Biden’s willingness to quickly reverse his predecessor’s tough stance toward Cuba, the United States opposed the resolution. During the last year of the Obama administration, when Mr. Biden was vice president, the United States abstained on the resolution for the first time.
The Biden administration’s no vote appeared to signal, at least for now, that it would move cautiously to undo Mr. Trump’s policy on Cuba, which remains a politically contentious issue in the United States, particularly in Florida, home to many Cubans who fled Fidel Castro and his successors.
The resolution denouncing the six-decade embargo is symbolic only, having no practical effect. But the vote, held since 1992, amounts to a tradition for critics of American policy to vent their anger and express solidarity with Cuba at the United Nations.
In the run-up to the vote on Wednesday, speaker after speaker representing blocs of countries that form the overwhelming majority in the 193-member General Assembly denounced the embargo as a cruel legacy of the Cold War and a humanitarian and financial disaster, reinforcing the isolation the United States has faced on this issue.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez of Cuba, who attended the General Assembly vote, said the United States under the Trump administration had used the coronavirus pandemic “as an ally” in its repression of the country, which he called “a cunning blow.”
Antonio Rodrigue, the ambassador from Haiti, representing a bloc of Caribbean countries, told the assembly that ending the embargo “would improve the prospects for peace, cooperation and development in the region.” Representatives from countries ranging from Azerbaijan to Vietnam expressed similar views.
Ambassador Vasily A. Nebenzia of Russia used the forum to criticize the American use of economic pressure, denouncing what he called “the sanctions war that Washington has unleashed.”
Rejecting the criticism before the vote, Rodney Hunter, the political coordinator at the United States Mission to the United Nations, told other delegates that his country supported the Cuban people and was a significant supplier of aid despite the trade restrictions.
“Sanctions are one set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy, promote respect for human rights, and help the Cuban people exercise the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,”
The General Assembly’s previous vote, in November 2019, was 187 to 3, with the United States joined by Israel and Brazil in voting no, and the remainder abstaining or not voting. The vote held in the assembly’s current session, which began in September 2020, had been postponed because of the pandemic.
The final vote was 184 to 2 — with the United States and Israel opposed, three abstentions and four countries not voting.
The United States always had voted no against the resolution until 2016, when it abstained in a signal of the Obama administration’s move to fully repair U.S. relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of estrangement.
Mr. Trump sought to reverse that direction after he took office, and the United States . He went much further, adding sanctions on Cuba and — in his final weeks in office — putting the country back on the State Department’s list of
The embargo can only be rescinded by Congress.
While a full termination of the embargo seems highly unlikely any time soon, Mr. Biden is still expected to gradually move away from Mr. Trump’s stance on Cuba.
Mr. Trump’s hard-line approach to Cuba’s communist leadership led to an array of restrictions on tourism, visas, remittances, investments and commerce, which have worsened an already poor economy. The pandemic compounded the problems, in large part by bringing tourism, a major source of foreign currency, to a grinding halt.
Cuba has sought to combat the virus crisis largely on its own, with some noticeable measures of success. The Cuban health authorities said on Monday that their country’s three-shot Abdala vaccine against the coronavirus had shown a high rate of success in late-stage clinical trials.
Rick Gladstone is an editor and writer on the International Desk, based in New York. He has worked at The Times since 1997, starting as an editor in the Business section.
A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 10 of the New York edition with the headline: In U.N. Vote On Embargo, U.S. Refuses To Back Off
US votes against UN resolution condemning US embargo on Cuba
By Edith M. Lederer | AP
June 23, 2021 at 3:28 p.m. EDT
UNITED NATIONS — The United States voted against a U.N. resolution Wednesday that overwhelmingly condemned the American economic embargo of Cuba for the 29th year, maintaining the Trump administration’s opposition and refusing to return to the Obama administration’s 2016 abstention.
The vote in the 193-member General Assembly was 184 countries supporting the condemnation, the United States and Israel opposing it, and Brazil, Colombia and Ukraine abstaining. Four countries did not vote -- Central African Republic, Myanmar, Moldova and Somalia.
Before the vote, the U.S. Mission’s political coordinator, Rodney Hunter, told the assembly that the Biden administration voted “no” because the United States believes sanctions are key to advancing democracy and human rights which “remain at the core of our policy efforts toward Cuba.”
“Sanctions are a legitimate way to achieve foreign policy, national security, and other national and international objectives,” Hunter said, “and are one set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy, promote respect for human rights, and help the Cuban people exercise the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
“We therefore oppose this resolution,” he said.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez accused the Biden administration of following Trump administration policies that tightened economic, commercial and financial sanctions and restricted travel by U.S. citizens in a blow to its tourism sector, which caused the country record losses estimated at around $5 billion.
“All these measures remain in force today and are being fully implemented,” he said. “And paradoxically, they are shaping up the behavior of the current U.S. administration particularly during the months when Cuba has experienced the highest COVID-19 infection rate, the highest number of fatalities and a much worse economic impact.”
Rodriguez said the restrictions remain despite the Democratic Party platform that “promised voters to swiftly reverse the actions taken by the administration of Donald Trump, particularly the elimination of restrictions on travel to Cuba, financial remittances and the implementation of the bilateral migration accords, including the granting of visas.”
He said “a large majority” of Americans support lifting the embargo, restoring freedom to travel and establishing normal relations.
“There are some who put the blame of this pernicious inertia on the electoral ambitions associated to Florida or the balances, in no way transparent, of the political and legislative elites,” Rodriguez said.
The General Assembly’s last vote in November 2019, during its 74th session, was 187-3 with the U.S., Israel and Brazil voting “no,” and Colombia and Ukraine abstaining. The assembly’s 75th session began in September 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the vote on the Cuba resolution was postponed from last fall to Wednesday.
General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding and are unenforceable, but they reflect world opinion and the vote has given Cuba an annual stage to demonstrate the isolation of the U.S. on the embargo.
It was imposed in 1960 following the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the nationalization of properties belonging to U.S. citizens and corporations. Two years later it was strengthened.
Former Cuban President Raul Castro and then-President Barack Obama officially restored relations in July 2016, and that year the U.S. abstained on the resolution calling for an end to the embargo for the first time. But Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, sharply criticized Cuba’s human rights record, and in 2017 the U.S. again voted against the resolution.
Hunter, the U.S. diplomat, said the United States recognizes “the challenges the Cuban people face.”
“That is why the United States is a significant supplier of humanitarian goods to Cuba and one of Cuban’s principal trading partners,” he said. “Every year we authorize billions of dollars worth of exports to Cuba, including food and other agricultural commodities, medicines, medical devices, telecommunications equipment, consumer goods, and other items to support the Cuban people.”
Cuba’s Rodriguez sharply disagreed. He said the damage to Cubans from the embargo is “incalculable” and accused the United States of “a massive, flagrant and systematic violation” of their human rights, arguing that under the 1948 Geneva Convention this qualifies “as an act of genocide.”
In the health area, the foreign minister said, “there’s a lingering impossibility to access equipment, technologies, devices, therapies and the best-suited pharmaceuticals” from U.S. companies. And the embargo, which Cubans call a “blockade,” has deprived the country’s industries of funds and restricted food imports from the U.S. to specific volumes that create shortages, rising prices, and long lines day after day in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“Cuba demands to be left in peace, to live without a blockade, and calls for an end to the persecution of our commercial and financial relations with the rest of the world,” Rodriguez said. “We call for an end to manipulation, discrimination and the obstacles to relations between Cubans living in the United States and their relatives in Cuba and the country where they were born.”