United States Claims Right to Choose Trading Partners; Time Has Come for New Policy Towards Cuba, Says Cuban Vice-President.
The General Assembly this morning again urged States to repeal all laws and measures, the extraterritorial effects of which influence the sovereignty or freedom of trade and navigation of other States, such as the United States legislation known as the Helms-Burton Act.
Concluding its discussion of the need to end the embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba, the Assembly adopted a resolution urging the invalidation of such laws as soon as possible by a vote of 137 in favour to three against (Israel, United States and Uzbekistan), with 25 abstentions. (For details of vote, see Annex.) By adopting that resolution, the Assembly called on States to refrain from promulgating and applying such measures, in conformity with their obligations under the Charter and international law.
Carlos Lage Davila, Vice-President of the Council of State of Cuba, said, while ignoring the repeated calls by the Assembly to end its blockade of Cuba, the United States Congress and Administration had decided to promulgate the Helms-Burton Act. Given that law’s extraterritorial, unilateral and coercive nature, it clearly violated international law. When the Helms-Burton Act was passed there were more than 400 United States products registered in Cuba and more than 300 United States businessmen had visited Cuba. United States companies, as a rule, were more interested in doing business with Cuba than being used as a pretext for continued policies of confrontation.
It was inconceivable that in the United States, he continued, an alienated ultra-right wing, allied with a fascist minority of the Cuban exile community, should dictate foreign policy towards Cuba. He questioned how the United States could build a bridge to the twenty-first century if it was not possible to lay a bridge just 90 miles long, over which peace in the hemisphere might cross.
Reiterating Cuba’s readiness to discuss any issue with the United States, he said it was recognized that during United States presidential elections that country’s foreign policy was not governed by reason or justice. But President William Clinton had been re-elected and the time had come for a new United States policy approach towards Cuba.
The representative of the United States said that only one nation in the Western Hemisphere — Cuba — was ruled by a regime that held to the discredited, dictatorial habits of the past. The United States Government had the right, as did every nation, to choose with whom it would trade; to protect the property rights of its citizens; and to pursue its national interests. The United States Government strongly believed that the embargo provided important leverage to promote peaceful change in Cuba.
The United States policy towards Cuba included the important element of direct support for the Cuban people, he said, with effort aimed at supporting Cuban human rights organizations and other non-governmental organizations working to better the lives of the average Cuban. The United States had licensed nearly $140 million in humanitarian assistance to Cuba over the past four years and it could be assumed that the effort would continue.
The representative of Ireland, explaining the votes which would be cast by European Union members, said while a democratic government must be installed in Cuba, democracy must come about through internal changes. The members of the European Union rejected attempts by the United States to coerce other countries into complying with the commercial measures it had adopted unilaterally against Cuba. Nor would they accept United States efforts to restrict the Union’s economic and commercial relations with any other State. The European Union had initiated proceedings in the World Trade Organization to have the Helms-Burton legislation declared contrary to United States obligations, and the Union had agreed upon legislation to counter the extraterritorial effect of the United States measures.
Following the vote, the representative of Cameroon said that its affirmative vote had not appeared on the board.
Statements were also made by the representatives of China, Mexico, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Colombia, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Jamaica, Viet Nam, Libya, Ghana, Iraq, Myanmar, Malaysia, India, Benin, Russian Federation and Venezuela.
Statements in explanation of vote were made by Argentina, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Zambia, Swaziland, Brazil and Angola.
At the outset of this morning’s meeting, General Assembly President Razali Ismail (Malaysia) announced that he had appointed Jose Luis Barbosa Leao Monteiro (Cape Verde) to serve as Chairman of the Assembly’s informal open-ended working group on an agenda for peace, and Alex Reyn (Belgium) to serve as its Vice-Chair.
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