UN condemns US embargo of Cuba

In a censure of the United States, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for an end to the blockade against Cuba. Cuba’s foreign minister called the embargo "a massive violation of human rights."

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution Thursday condemning the US economic embargo of Cuba.

Germany was among the 189 countries that voted for a document submitted by Havana calling for an end to the blockade. Only the US and Israel voted "no." Ukraine and Moldova did not vote.

Debate on US amendments

Before the vote, there was debate on eight amendments proposed by the United States. They criticized Cuba’s human rights record, called on Cuba to fully grant its citizens "internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms."

In separate votes on the proposed amendments, the United States, Ukraine and Israel were the only countries to back the changes.

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US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stressed that "our reason for the embargo is and has always been Cuba's denial of freedom and the denial of the most basic human rights for the Cuban people."

She urged the General Assembly to "send a moral message to the Cuban dictatorship" to improve the lives of the Cuban people.

Rodriguez said the United States lacked the moral authority to criticize other nations

Citing what he called a "cruel policy" of detaining migrants at the US-Mexican border, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said President Donald Trump's administration had the "lowest moral authority" to criticize human rights.

Rodriguez also called the embargo "a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of Cuban men and women" and denounced what he called the politicized US amendments.

Haley called the vote on the US blockade, which has taken place annually since 1992, a "waste of time for all."

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US-Cuba relations under Trump

It was the 27th condemnation of the 1962 embargo against Cuba by the Assembly.

Resolutions adopted by the 193-member world body are unenforceable but reflect the opinion of the international community.

The US economic embargo of Cuba was imposed in 1960 following the revolution led by Fidel Castro — Cuba's prime minister at the time — and the nationalization of properties belonging to US citizens and corporations.

Read more: New leader in Cuba: What's in store after the Castros?

ev/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa, epd)

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

The brothel of the USA

Before the revolution, for many Americans Cuba was synonymous with gambling, night clubs and other subversive pleasures. Here, Americans are enjoying a dinner at the Havana Yacht Club. "Cuba was the brothel of the USA," political analyst Karl E. Meyer said later. But for its citizens, Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship mainly meant stagnation, unemployment and poverty.

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

Last stop Moscow

A guerilla army of several hundred men was enough to help Fidel Castro (in the jeep, center) topple the regime. On January 1 1959, Batista fled, and the rebels took over Havana. The USA immediately imposed sanctions, which were tightened in the following years. Cuba's leadership developed ties with the Soviet Union.

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

Debacle in camoflage

In 1961, a troop of soldiers made up of exiled Cubans, with the help of the US intelligence service the CIA, attempted to overthrow the regime. The attempt was a fiasco: Cuba's revolutionary army managed to stop the Bay of Pigs Invasion within three days, having captured more than 1000 prisoners.

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

A close shave

The shattered relationship between the US and Cuba meant the Soviet Union had a base just 90 miles (144km) from the US at their disposal. The Kremlin wanted to station missiles there – and in 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis led the world to the brink of a nuclear war. The USA used a naval blockade to force the removal of the missiles.

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

Unique in Latin America

The Soviet Union invested in the new relationship, massively supporting the island for decades – for instance with crude oil, which Cuba re-exported to acquire foreign currency. This way, Cuba was able to establish exemplary health and education systems.

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

The exodus of the Marielitos

In 1980, Fidel Castro allowed volunteers to leave for the USA from Cuba's Mariel harbor. Around 125,000 Cubans arrived in Florida. Among them were people who had been released from jails and psychiatric wards by the Cuban government shortly before. The crime rate in Miami increased dramatically.

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

Struggling economy

Over decades, the US embargo severely restricted the Cuban economy. In addition to this, there was no economic diversification: sugar cane - being harvested in this photo - remained the main export of the island after the revolution. Cuba was completely dependent on help from the Soviet Union - just how dependent became apparent after 1990.

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

The Special Period in Time of Peace

With the collapse of the Soviet Union came the collapse of the Cuban economy. Without help from the East, the Cubans had nothing. In 1990, Castro announced the "Período especial." The lack of petrol and replacement parts for cars meant ox carts came back into daily use. Since the end of the 1990s, Venezuela has supplied Cuba with discounted oil.

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

Changing sanctions

Since 1993, the United Nations General Assembly has been calling for the US to end its embargo policy. The US has continually changed the levels of restrictions. In 1996, for example, the embargo restrictions were tightened; in 1999 they were eased again. In 2004, President George W. Bush - seen here on a poster in Havana - increased the sanctions.

The USA and Cuba - a troubled history

A new chapter?

Now the USA and Cuba seem to be starting a new chapter. A US embassy should be reopened in Havana, travel and trade restrictions are to be relaxed. Cuba's president Raul Castro (seen here on the TV screen) announced the changes at the same time as US President Barack Obama.


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