Cuba confident UN vote will condemn US trade embargo but doesnt expect policy change

It’s that time of year again, when the rest of the world votes against the US embargo against Cuba. It will be interesting to see if a new American President will help at all towards removing the embargo or at the very least, loosen it up a bit, or will they cave to the pressure of the CANF?

HAVANA: Cuba is confident that most of the world will condemn the U.S. trade embargo against the island in a U.N. vote on Wednesday, but it doesn’t expect any change as long as U.S. President George W. Bush remains in power.

Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said the United States has repeatedly ignored the resolution in previous years and, in the current political climate, is likely to do so again.

“We don’t have even a millimeter of hope that the blockade will be reduced or weakened in Bush’s remaining two years,” he told The Associated Press before flying to U.N. headquarters in New York via Canada on Monday. “To the contrary, we are prepared for persecution against Cuba to increase.”

The U.N. General Assembly has condemned the U.S. trade and travel sanctions against communist Cuba for 14 straight years, urging the United States to end the policy. Last year’s U.N. resolution was approved by a 182-4 vote, with Micronesia abstaining and only the United States, Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau opposed.

“We are very hopeful that the international community will give forceful support to the battle of the Cuban people” once again, Perez Roque said.

The minister acknowledged that the vote is mainly symbolic since it hasn’t lead to a change in U.S. policy, but said it nonetheless has “great political value.”

It also serves to show that the United States is isolated in its policies, he said.

“The U.S. blockade is a symbol without equal of tyranny, arrogance, and lack of scruples,” he said.

The embargo severely affects Cuba’s economy, foreign trade, and health, education and cultural sectors. The island’s government says it has lost US$86 billion (€67 billion) in trade since the first U.S. sanctions were imposed in 1960, a year after the Cuban revolution thrust Fidel Castro into power.

The worst moment in the embargo’s long history, however, is right now, Perez Roque said.

“This vote coincides with the moment in which the blockade is being applied in the most ferocious and strict way, with more fury and hatred than ever,” he said.

The Bush administration has steadily tightened the embargo. This cost the island more than US$4 billion (€3 billion) over the last year, said Perez Roque, who cited tighter scrutiny of nickel exports and Cuban use of dollars in international transactions as well as decreased travel to Cuba by Americans, particularly Cuban-Americans, afraid of sanctions.

U.S. officials defend the embargo — which allows the sale of some U.S. food and medicine to Cuba — saying unfettered trade and travel to the island would prop up Castro’s communist government. They say Cuba’s imprisonment of dissidents and restrictions on economic and political freedoms justify the policy, aimed at pushing Castro and his associates out.

Critics say the embargo, launched during the Cold War, is outdated and has not worked, given that Castro’s government remains in power and the nation is still communist. They also point out that the United States trades with other communist countries such as China and Vietnam.

Perez Roque said that a spotlight will shine on the U.S. government’s “cruel” policies on Wednesday at the U.N. vote.

“On one side, there’s the empire, militarily and economically powerful but void of any noble ideas,” he said of the United States. “On that side will be the government that violates international laws … and believes in pre-emptive war.

“On the other side will be Cuba and the countries that support Cuba, those of us who believe in a multilateral world … and all people’s right to peace.”

Democrats and free-trade Republicans in the U.S. Congress also have pushed for easing the sanctions, but they have yet to make headway against an administration determined to keep up the pressure.

Perez Roque said a victory by Democrats in Tuesday’s U.S. elections could help, but doesn’t envision major change regarding Cuba until Americans choose a new leader in 2008.


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