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United States abstains in vote against embargo
Latinamerica Press
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Fort the first time, the United States did not vote against resolution condemning the commercial blockade against the island nation.

Fort the first time in 25 years, the United Nations resolution that condemns the embargo against Cuba did not have any votes against it. The text, introduced by Cuba, received 191 votes in favor with two members, the United States and its principal ally Israel, abstaining.

Resolution 70/5 titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” approved on October 26 in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly, welcomes the renewal of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States, and recognizes “the expressed will of the President of the United States of America to work for the elimination of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.”

The text also calls upon all States to abstain from promulgating measures such as the blockade, which go against the Charter of the United Nations, or to invalidate them if these measures are in place. The text also states the concern for the extraterritorial effects brought on by the embargo “that affect the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation.”

The representative of the United States before the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power, explained that “the resolution voted on today is a perfect example why the US 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 [Barack] Obama has repeatedly said, our policy isolated the United States, including right here at the United Nations.”

When presenting the resolution, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, acknowledged the advancements made in bilateral relations “mainly in diplomatic affairs, dialogue and cooperation on issues of common interest as are reflected by the high-level visits, including that of President Barack Obama, and the dozen signed agreements on issues that can bring benefits to both countries and the hemisphere.”

“However,” he added, “the reality is that the blockade remains in force and continues to cause serious damage and hardship to the Cuban people and continues to hamper the functioning of the economy and its relations with other countries. The executive measures adopted by the US Government, although positive, remain insufficient.”

The embargo was imposed by the United States in October 1960 with the purpose of isolating and weakening the Cuban revolutionary government and causing its collapse. According to official Cuban calculations, the embargo has cost the island itself US$125 billion.

Irregular migration
Despite Obama’s good intentions, the embargo can only be lifted by the US Congress that now has a Republican majority and is in favor of maintaining it.

Since the renewal of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, from the dialogue announced in December 2014 by Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, there have been a series of measures put into place that have facilitated remittances, travel, commerce, telecommunication and financial services, with significant positive effects on the Cuban economy.

Another issue pending to be resolved is the Cuban Adjustment Act that for half-a-century has facilitated the admission of Cubans into the United States as refugees to live and work there legally. The opening of relations between both countries alarmed thousands of people who feared that this mechanism in place since 1966, that has allowed hundreds of thousands of Cuban citizens to enter US territory claiming the condition of refugees who flee from communism and who can apply for permanent residency after one year and one month after their arrival, is eliminated.

In fiscal year 2014-2015 alone, more than 43,000 Cubans entered the United States under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

For the Cuban government, the Cuban Adjustment Act and programs such as Parole, meant to attract Cuban doctors, continue to be the main stimulus for irregular migration from Cuba to the United States.

A crisis exploded in Costa Rica in November 2015 after the arrival of thousands of Cubans who were headed for the United States. The Nicaraguan government, a Cuban ally, denied entry of the Cubans into their territory, followed by the announcement from Ecuador reestablishing the requirement of visas for Cuban citizens. This left a growing number of Cubans stranded in Paso Canoas, in the border between Costa Rica and Panama.

A successful operation that took place between January and March 2016 made it possible for some 8,000 Cubans to leave Costa Rica in buses and commercial flights; a solution that the Costa Rican government insistently warned was for one time only and would not be repeated. However, the crisis worsened in April with the arrival of hundreds of Cubans who demanded the same treatment.

In the beginning of October, the governments of Costa Rica and Panama signed an agreement to control the flow of Cubans, as well as other immigrants in irregular situation. This year, Panamanian authorities have provided humanitarian assistance to some 9,000 immigrants, while Costa Rica has given assistance to some 8,000 Cubans and approximately 11,000 Haitians. —Latinamerica Press.

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