World rebukes America’s Cuba policy, but US says Fidel Castro needs to go

The US has spent nearly half a century since the Kennedy administration trying to bring democracy to steadfastly communist Cuba through crippling economic sanctions.

Uttara Choudhury October 29, 2011 10:02:39 IST
World rebukes America’s Cuba policy, but US says Fidel Castro needs to go

New York: The world discovered this week that President Barack Obama is no different than George W Bush when it comes to America’s Cuba policy. The US has spent nearly half a century since the Kennedy administration trying to bring democracy to steadfastly communist Cuba through crippling economic sanctions.

For the twentieth straight year the United Nations General Assembly voted on Wednesday to demand America cease its half-century economic blockade against Cuba. Once again, only Israel supported the US policy that seeks regime change in Cuba through an economic embargo. The final tally was 186-2, with only Israel joining the US as it did last year. The small Pacific nations of Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained.

World rebukes Americas Cuba policy but US says Fidel Castro needs to go

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro. AFP

Before the vote, the American delegation, headed by Ron Godard, a middle-level UN advisor, sat through a series of international lectures proclaiming the embargo to be a “vestige” of Cold War politics.

India’s minister of state for external affairs E Ahamed called the US embargo on Cuba "unfortunate." He said India saw it as a “violation” of global opinion, and an act that “severely undermines multilateralism and the credibility” of the UN.

"On the one hand, we — the global community — make tall promises on Millennium Development Goals, of striving for human dignity and achieving equitable growth, but when it comes to action, we do the exact opposite," Ahamed said during the UN debate.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said recent “efforts” by the Obama administration to selectively ease some US restrictions were no more than “window dressing.” He said the US embargo has cost Havana “more than $975 billion in damages” over the last 50 years.

Rodriguez said America should focus on its own problems: “Why doesn’t President Obama’s administration rather take care of US problems and leave us Cubans alone to solve ours in peace?”

That brought a round of applause from a crowded General Assembly hall.

Despite the international outcry, the US stubbornly ignored the vote and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told US lawmakers on Thursday that the US position on Cuba remains that "Castro needs to go."

Clinton spoke at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee where the major topics were Afghanistan and Pakistan. But when questioned on US policy on Cuba, she said the policy has been the same for more than 50 years and communist leader Fidel Castro should leave office.

"Unfortunately," she added, "he doesn't seem to be going anywhere."

In 2006, aging and frail Fidel Castro, 85 formally handed over power to his younger brother Raul, but he remains an influential figure in Cuba. Although Fidel Castro has stepped aside, Cuba’s old guard remains in charge.

Clinton said the US wants democracy for Cuba. The embargo was written into law in 1992 and 1996, and ending it would require an act of Congress, but the Obama administration has pledged to conduct a review of US policy in the region and has suggested a willingness to "engage with Cuba on issues of mutual concern."

Obama has eased restrictions on travel to Cuba by US citizens, and on money sent back to Cuba from family members living in America.

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