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By Ambassador James B. Cunningham
Deputy United States Representative to the U N Statement in the General Assembly in Explanation of Vote on the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo Against Cuba / November 27, 2001
The United States cannot support this resolution. Our trade embargo against the Government of Cuba is a matter of bilateral trade policy and not an issue that the General Assembly should consider. We do not forbid other nations from trading with Cuba - that is their decision. We choose, because of the repressive policies and actions of the Cuban Government, not to trade with the Cuban government. We have every right to do so.
Our bilateral economic trade embargo represents one element of our policy aimed at promoting democracy in Cuba. While maintaining the bilateral trade embargo, the U.S. has moved over the past few years to dramatically support the Cuban people. U.S. food sales are now legal to Cuba and the Cuban government is, as we speak, negotiating with U .S. companies the purchases of millions of dollars worth of food. The Cuban government reversed its policy of refusing to buy our food after turning down our post-Hurricane Michelle offer of disaster assistance.
The U.S. has been extremely generous in providing humanitarian assistance to Cuba. Last year over $800 million in direct cash remittances and $350 million in humanitarian donations were passed from Americans to Cubans; this is a significant figure in a country with an estimated yearly GDP of $12 billion. The goal of our policy is to foster a transition to a democratic form of government, to protect human rights, to help develop a civil society and to provide for the economic prosperity that the Cuban government's retrograde economic policies are denying the Cuban people.
Cuba maintains that the human rights of the Cuban people - or, rather, the lack thereof - are a concern for them alone. The U.S. strongly disagrees. Our fundamental premise, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is that human rights violations in any one state are of concern to the entire international community. This observation is particularly relevant given the continued harassment of independent voices in Cuba and the continued imprisonment of people such as Felix Bonne and Dr. Elias Biscet, who were locked up simply for expressing their opposition to the regime.
The focus of the international community, as manifested in the United Nations, should be on the continuing human rights crisis in Cuba rather than on bilateral aspects of the United States' efforts to facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy on that island. Cuba, long out of step with the trend of democratization in the world, illustrated by the recently adopted Inter-American Democratic Charter, has proven itself even more out of step with its recent hideous remarks on the U.S. reaction to the September 11 terrorist attacks. This country is an anachronism in the democratic Western Hemisphere, a throwback to a crueler and less free time. The draft resolution distracts the attention of the international community and, worse, is used by the Cuban government to justify its continued oppressive policies.