US abstains from UN vote against Cuba embargo

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The BBC reports that the US has, for the first time, abstained from voting against an annual UN resolution calling for an end to its economic embargo against Cuba. Cuba says the economic embargo continues to hurt ordinary Cubans and must be lifted. At the UN, the vote passed overwhelmingly, with the support of 191 countries. See excerpts:

US Ambassador Samantha Power said the historic decision reflected the new policy of engagement over isolation. Diplomatic ties were restored last year but Republican-controlled Congress opposes lifting the longstanding embargo. The vote passed overwhelmingly, with the support of 191 countries.

Only Israel abstained alongside the US.

The UN General Assembly has voted to approve the resolution every year since 1992, and the US has always strongly opposed it.

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

She added, however, that the abstention did “not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government”, including “serious human rights violations”.

The Cuban government views the abstention by the US as a victory. They have spent decades arguing against the economic embargo (or the “blockade” as they call it), saying it is a cruel and unjust policy designed to hurt ordinary Cubans.

While this vote doesn’t have any weight in actually lifting the measure – that depends on the US Congress – it is important symbolically. It is a final message from President Obama that his administration considers the policy to be outdated and counterproductive.

“Instead of isolating Cuba” said Ambassador Samantha Power shortly before the vote, “our policy isolated the United States. Including right here at the United Nations.”

Still, that view is unlikely to change the minds of the Republican leaders in Congress, such House Speaker Paul Ryan, who have vowed to keep supporting the embargo as long as they’re in office.

The future of the US embargo on Cuba – as well as so much else – now hinges on November’s election. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37784136

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