UNITED NATIONS: India, along with 183 countries voted in favour of a General Assembly resolution that demanded ending the US economic blockade against Cuba, with New Delhi underlining that the continued existence of this embargo undermines multilateralism and the credibility of the UN itself.
The US and Israel were the only nations voting against the resolution, which has been overwhelmingly approved by the international community every year since 1992 when the General Assembly began voting on the issue each year.
The resolution, approved for the 29th year in a row on Wednesday, demands ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.
Last year, the resolution was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Colombia, Ukraine and Brazil abstained on the resolution which once again urges States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible in accordance with their legal regime.
"The international community needs to intensify its efforts to promote an environment free from sanctions and embargoes. India hopes that the embargo will be withdrawn at the earliest. India supports the draft resolution moved by Cuba," Counsellor Mayank Singh in India's Permanent Mission to the UN said at the UNGA session.
"There can be little doubt that the continued existence of this embargo, in contravention of the overwhelming world opinion as expressed by this Assembly, undermines multilateralism and the credibility of the United Nations itself," he said.
Singh also said that as the world's largest democracy with an abiding faith in multilateralism, India stands in solidarity with the General Assembly in its "unambiguous rejection of domestic laws having an extraterritorial impact.
"Such embargoes have the effect of impeding the full achievement of economic and social development by the population of the affected country, in particular women and children," Singh said.
"They also hinder the full enjoyment of human rights, including the right to development, food, medical care and social services, among other things," he said.
Singh noted that successive reports of the Secretary-General have established that the embargo, particularly through its extraterritorial effects, has adversely affected the Cuban people and the developmental efforts of the country, with particularly devastating effects owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acknowledging the notable socio-economic and developmental achievements of the Cuban people, India said that in 2015, while launching the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders had strongly urged all states to refrain from any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
"The continued embargo would severely impact Cuba's ability to implement the comprehensive 2030 Agenda. Cuba's expertise in healthcare, achieved despite such conditions, enabled it to respond quickly and effectively, in a substantial manner, to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic," Singh said.
Like the virus, the blockade asphyxiates and kills, it must stop: Cuban foreign minister
According to a UN News article, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said that the blockade was a "massive, flagrant and unacceptable violation of the human rights of the Cuban people."
The article quoted him as saying that the embargo is about "an economic war of extraterritorial scope against a small country already affected in the recent period by the economic crisis derived from the pandemic".
He estimated 2020 losses to be USD 9.1 million.
He added that the sanctions have made it harder for his country to acquire the medical equipment needed to develop COVID-19 vaccines as well as equipment for food production.
"Like the virus, the blockade asphyxiates and kills, it must stop," the Cuban foreign minister said.
Sanctions are one set of tools in our broader effort to advance democracy in Cuba: US
Political Coordinator in the US Mission to the UN Rodney Hunter said that Washington stands with the Cuban people and seeks to support their pursuit of freedom, prosperity, and a future of greater dignity but added that Cubans, like all people, deserve the right to freedom of expression, assembly, and culture.
"No government should silence its critics through violations of their human rights.
We celebrate the diverse backgrounds and ideas of Cuban artists, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, and environmental activists -just a few of the many people in Cuba with a strong voice and a desire to be heard," he said.
Hunter said that as with the other member states, the United States determines its conduct of economic relationships with other countries in accordance with its national interests.
"Sanctions are a legitimate way to achieve foreign policy, national security, and other national and international objectives, and the US is not alone in this view or in this practice," he said.
"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.
We, therefore, oppose this resolution," he added.
The embargo against Cuba was imposed in 1960 following the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the nationalisation of properties belonging to US citizens and corporations.