On November 1, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly again overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning the U.S. embargo (blockade) of Cuba. The vote this year was 189 to 2 (the two negative votes were registered by the U.S. and Israel while Moldova and Ukraine did not vote).
Also on November 1, the General Assembly overwhelmingly rejected all of eight amendments that were proposed by the U.S. with only Israel and Ukraine (plus the Marshall Islands on one of them) joining the U.S. in their support while 113 voted against them with 65 abstaining. . However, some delegations said they were not opposed to the content of the amendments, but voted against them because the resolution on the embargo was not their appropriate venue.
Cuba’s Report on Prior U.N. Resolution.
The debate on the resolution was preceded by Cuba’s report, dated June 2018, that was called for by the previous U.N. General Assembly resolution on the subject.
The report commenced by saying, “The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States of America against Cuba for almost six decades is the most unfair, severe and extended system of unilateral sanctions ever applied against any country. From April of 2017 until March of 2018, the period with which this report deals, the blockade policy has intensified and it continues to be applied with all rigor.” (P. 48)
This report then alleged, “In the period considered by this report, the blockade has caused losses to Cuba for around $ 4.3 billion” and the “accumulated harm because of the blockade being applied for almost six decades reaches the figure of . . . . $134.5 billion” (at today’s prices). (Pp. 48-49)
The Actual Resolution
The actual resolution, “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” (A/RES/73/8) had two principal operative paragraphs.
It reiterated “its call upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures [like the U.S. embargo against Cuba] . . . in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law, which, inter alia, reaffirm the freedom of trade and navigation.” (¶ 2). It also urged “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.” (¶ 3).
The resolution’s preamble reaffirmed “the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention and non-interference in their internal affairs and freedom of international trade and navigation, which are also enshrined in many international legal instruments” and recited the previous General Assembly resolutions against the embargo. It then recalled “the measures adopted by the Executive of the United States [President Obama] in 2015 and 2016 to modify several aspects of the application of the embargo, which contrast with the measures announced on 16 June 2017 [by President Trump] to reinforce its implementation.”
The U.S. Proposed Amendments.
Prior to the Session, the U.S. proposed the following eight amendments to the Cuban resolution:
- The first called for the Cuban government to “grant its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and free access to information.”
- The second manifested “serious concern that in Cuba the serious lack of access to information and freedom of expression, the total absence of judicial independence, and arbitrary arrest and detention, are undermining collective efforts to implement Goal 16 of Sustainable Development.”
- The third expressed “concern that in Cuba the absence of women in the most powerful decision-making bodies . . . seriously undermines the collective efforts to implement Goal 5 of Sustainable Development.”
- The fourth asserted concern over a Cuban “trade union monopoly . . ., the prohibition of the right to strike and restrictions on collective bargaining and agreements . . . [which] seriously undermine collective efforts to implement Goal 8 Sustainable Development.”
- The fifth urged Cuba to “create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and propitious environment in which an independent, diverse and pluralist civil society can operate without undue obstacles and insecurity.”
- The sixth urged Cuba “to put an end to the widespread and serious restrictions, . . . on the right to freedom of expression, opinion, association and peaceful assembly . . . .”
- The seventh urged Cuba to “free arbitrarily detained persons for the legitimate exercise of their human rights, consider rescinding unduly harsh sentences for exercising such fundamental freedoms . . . .”
- The eighth called for Cuba “to initiate an integral process of accountability in response to all cases of serious human rights violations. . . .”
The above mentions of Sustainable Development Goals are references to the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda that were adopted by U.N. Member States in September 2015.
On October 30, the Cuba Foreign Minister said the U.S. amendments “are aimed at “creating a pretext to tighten the blockade, and attempt to present the illusion that there is international support for the policy. . . . The U.S. delegation to the UN seeks to disturb, consume time, create confusion and hinder the adoption of the resolution calling for the end of the blockade against Cuba.
The Foreign Minister added that these amendments “manipulate the issue of human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.” But Cuba is “confident that the amendments will be rejected, and that the resolution will receive overwhelming majority support, as has happened in the past.”
The Debate on the Resolution and Amendments
According to an U.N. Press Release, on the morning of October 31, representatives of many countries “overwhelmingly called on the [U.S.]to end its economic,commercial and financial embargo against Cuba . . . amid demands for the cessation of unilateral coercive measures.” They said,”the nearly six‑decades‑long blockade imposed on the Caribbean island by Washington impedes its right to development and its ability to participate fully in the global economy. They stressed that the [U.S.] must heed the Assembly’s repeated calls to lift its restrictive policies.”
Some speakers added “concern over recent policy shifts in Washington that are undoing progress made in 2015 and 2016 to normalize bilateral ties with Cuba. The current [U.S.] Administration is pursuing efforts to strengthen the blockade, they warned.”
The Associated Press added that 135 countries spoke in favor of Cuba’s resolution and against the U.S. embargo and its proposed amendments.
The debate continued the next day and, according to another U.N. press release, Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez said “the human damage caused by the United States‑led blockade against his country qualifies as an ‘act of genocide’ and creates obstacles for cultural, academic and scientific engagement throughout the island.”
He said the quantifiable damages caused by “the blockade amount to $933.678 billion and that over the past year losses in Cuba add up to $4.3 billion. Still, Cuba has managed to achieve economic progress and offer extensive international cooperation. ‘The blockade continues to be the main obstacle to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals,’ . . . [and] violates the right of Cubans to self‑determination. ‘It is an act of oppression and an act of war.’”
“Mr. Rodríguez said there is a ‘ferocious intensification’ of the extraterritorial implementation of the blockade, particularly the persecution of Cuba’s financial transactions. The embargo goes against the [U.N.] Charter and international law.”
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said that the resolution “does not help a single Cuban family”and was “one more time that countries ‘feel like they can poke the United States in the eye’ . . . [while] the sorry state of liberty and human rights in Cuba is not lost on anyone.”
“She went on to say that the [U.N.]does not have the ability or the authority to end the [U.S.] embargo on Cuba. It does, however, have the power to send a moral message to Cuba’s regime [and] that the [U.S.’] proposed amendments are ‘your words’ . . .[i.e.] the words expressed by delegations on Cuba’s oppression and lack of freedoms.”
“Throughout the morning, speakers regretted that after 27 years of near‑unanimous support for the yearly resolution in the General Assembly, there is still no indication that Washington, D.C. will lift the embargo.”
Reactions to the Resolution 
After the passage of the resolution and rejection of the U.S. amendments, Ambassador Haley said to the General Assembly, “I’m always taken aback when I hear applause in this chamber in moments like this, because there are no winners here today. There are only losers.The [U.N.] has lost. It has rejected the opportunity to speak on behalf of human rights. The UN Charter commits every country here to the promotion of peace, security, and human rights. And that Charter was betrayed today.”
“Once again, we were reminded why so many people believe that faith in the [U.N.] is often misplaced. The countries that profess to believe in human rights have lost, too. They have earned a justified measure of doubt that they will act to defend their beliefs. And most of all, the Cuban people have lost. They’ve been left, once again, to the brutal whims of the Castro dictatorship. They have been abandoned by the United Nations and by most of the world’s governments.”
“But the Cuban people are not alone today. The [U.S.] stands with them. The people of Cuba are our neighbors and our friends, and they are fellow children of God. The American people will stand with them until they are restored the rights that God has given us all. Rights that no government can legitimately deny its people.”
“While today’s votes were not admirable, they were highly illuminating. And that light contributes to the cause of truth, which is the essential basis of freedom and human rights”.
The previous day (October 31), the U.S. Embassy in Cuba accused the Cuban regime of using the embargo as a justification for its failed economic model and demanded that it stop blocking the development and progress of Cubans, It also said that in 2017 the U.S. exported food, agricultural products, medicines, medical devices, fertilizers, parts of civil aircraft, telecommunications equipment and other products to Cuba and that Cuba was free to trade with any other country.”
As an U.S. citizen-advocate for ending the embargo as soon as possible, I am not pleased with the U.S. opposition to this resolution and to the very hostile tone of Ambassador Haley’s remarks.
Moreover, too many in the U.S. believe the Cuban damages claim from the embargo is just a crazy Cuban dream, but I disagree. Given the amount of the claim, Cuba will not someday tell the U.S. to forget it, nor will the U.S. write a check for Cuba in that amount. A prior post, therefore, suggested that the two countries agree to submit this claim and any other damage claims by both countries for resolution by an independent international arbitration panel such as those provided by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in the Netherlands.
 U.N. Press Release, Amid Demands for Ending Unilateral Coercive Measures, Speakers in General Assembly Urge United States to Repeal Embargo Against Cuba (Oct. 31, 2018); Assoc. Press, The Latest: UN General Assembly Condemns US Embargo of Cuba, N.Y. Times (Nov. 1, 2018); U.N. Press Release, General Assembly Adopts Annual Resolution Calling for End to Embargo on Cuba, Soundly Rejects Amendments by United States (Nov. 1, 2018); Assoc. Press, The Latest: UN General Assembly Condemns US Embargo of Cuba, N.Y. Times (Nov. 1, 2018); Reuters, U.N. Urges End to U.S. Embargo on Cuba, U.S. Raised Rights Concerns, N.Y. Times (Nov. 1, 2018); Whitefield, U.S. highlights Cuba’s problematic human rights record but U.N. still supports lifting embargo, Miami Herald (Nov. 1, 2018).
 Cuba Foreign Ministry, Report by Cuba on resolution 72/4 of the United Nations General Assembly (June 2018).
 U.N. Gen. Assembly, A/RES/73/8, Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (Nov. 1, 2018).
 The eight US amendments to the resolution on the embargo that the UN will vote, Diario de Cuba (Oct. 26, 2018); Bruno Rodriguez: “We are certain the amendments will be rejected,” Granma (Oct. 30, 3018). The Foreign Minister made essentially the same points at another press conference on October 24. (Cuban Foreign Minister denounces U.S. maneuver to undermine international support for an end to the blockade, Granma (Oct. 25, 2018).
 U.N. Press Release, Amid Demands for Ending Unilateral Coercive Measures, Speakers in General Assembly Urge United States to Repeal Embargo Against Cuba (Oct. 31, 2018); Assoc. Press, Cuba Gets Support Before the UN Votes on Embargo, US Amendments, Wash. Post (Nov. 1, 2018); Cuba is not alone: Nations of the world highlight the absurdity of the U.S. blockade against Cuba in the UN, Granma (Oct. 31, 2018).
 U.S. Mission to U.N., Remarks at a UN General Assembly Meeting on Cuba (Nov. 1, 2018); USA: The Government of Cuba ‘uses the embargo as an excuse for its failed economic model, Diario de Cuba (Nov. 1, 2018).