By Tamara Hansen
On October 26, 2016 the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held its 25th annual vote on the U.S. Blockade on Cuba. For the twenty-fifth year in a row the world emphatically condemned this unjust American policy towards Cuba. However, this year for the first time, not a single country voted to keep the blockade. The United States abstained, along with its most staunch ally Israel. The vote was 191 countries in favor of ending the blockade, with 2 countries abstaining and 0 votes against; no countries were absent for the vote. That was indeed a historical break through and victory for Cuba.
U.S. Imperialist Bully against Cuba
The blockade on Cuba was officially imposed by U.S. President Kennedy in 1962. This policy was meant to create economic hardship for the people and the government of Cuba, after the Cubans had the audacity to kick out the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, A U.S. Poppet, with their popular revolution in 1959. The U.S. government was unhappy that the new revolutionary government of Cuba, led by Fidel Castro, was promising land to landless tenant farmers, education, health and jobs. None of these gains for the Cuban people were in the interest of the U.S. government and its corporations. Kennedy and the U.S. hoped that the blockade on Cuba (or embargo, as they call it) would starve the people and their government into submission.
Resistance, Dignity and Progress
Of course, many years passed and while the blockade has indeed harmed Cuba’s economy, it never succeeded in its goal of overthrowing the Cuban revolution. The blockade became a much bigger obstacle for Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Socialist Block, when Cuba lost its most important trading partners. The U.S. government’s response was to tighten the blockade with several new measures throughout the 1990s, effectively doubling-down on their failed policy. Cuba declared this period of economic challenges, the “Special Period”, it was a time of deep economic woes in Cuba, with the average Cuban losing about 20 lbs; due to lack of food, needing to walk and bike everywhere and other difficulties. Yet the people of Cuba did not abandon their revolution, which had delivered on its promises of jobs, universal healthcare, education and dignity. Throughout the Special Period, Cubans continued fighting against the blockade – in the streets, popular culture, international events and especially the resolution they brought every year to the United Nations General Assembly asking the world to stand with them against the U.S. imperialist bully. In 1992, when the first resolution was brought to the UNGA, Cuba won the vote, but not as decisively as this year. The results in 1992 were: 59 votes in favor of ending the blockade, 3 against, 71 abstentions and 46 countries were absent for the vote.
Reestablishment of Diplomatic Relation
Things began changing in a major way on December 17, 2014 when U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced the reestablishment of formal diplomatic ties between their two countries. Obama even made statements to the press saying he wanted to end the blockade on Cuba, however the power to do so rests not only in his hands, but also that of the U.S. Congress. However, when it came time for the 2015 UNGA vote on the blockade, the Obama administration voted against ending the blockade. This year, an election year in the U.S., and Obama’s last UNGA as president there was a change. The U.S. government decided to abstain.
Unfortunately Obama still has not used all of the executive powers at his disposal as U.S. president to remove many aspects of the blockade, and the U.S. government continues to prosecute those it sees breaking the laws of the blockade on Cuba. The reason for the abstention is not really because the U.S. understands that its policy has been morally bankrupt and against the right of Cuba to self-determination. Instead, their decision to abstain is based on the fact that the U.S. policy of blockading Cuba has exposed America’s hypocrisy, and bullying tactics to the world. In her remarks leading up to the vote on October 26, 2016, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers, explained, “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.”
U.S. Hypocracy Exposed
Powers then went on to attack what they call human rights abuses in Cuba, from political prisoners to freedom of speech. However Powers then also had to add, “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.” How the tables have turned, with the biggest bully in the world, having to choke down some humble pie on the world stage. Obviously the Obama administration feels exposed. They can no longer hide, everyone is watching what is happening in the United States: from police repression of the peaceful Indigenous movement against the North Dakota Access Pipeline to the police murder and the Black Live Matter movement to the November presidential election featuring two most detested candidates in recent history running at the head of their two major parties.
Cuba fights back!
So for 25 years Cuba has been winning the vote at the United Nations with a larger and larger margin each year. Convincing more countries to stand up against U.S. bullying and to take a stance with Cuba to end this unjust economic policy. In the following special section in Fire This Time Volume 10 Issue 11, you will learn more about the impacts of the Blockade on Cuba as well as the struggle to end the U.S. Blockade on Cuba: in Canada, in Cuba and around the world!
The United States’ own words demonstrate that international pressure does matter. Let’s continue our struggle to stop this imperialist bully in its tracks. Let’s stand with the people of Cuba and demand an immediate end to ALL aspects of the U.S. government’s criminal blockade on Cuba! United, we will win!
Follow Tamara on Twitter:@THans01
Reprinted from Fire This Time Newspaper: firethistime.net