On Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021 the United Nations General Assembly once again voted on Cuba’s annually presented resolution titled Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo, imposed by the USA against Cuba.
In remarks given before the vote on the resolution, UN delegates from Azania, Egypt, Togo, Singapore, China, Venezuela, Antigua & Barbuda, Namibia, Bolivia, the Philippines, and more spoke on Cuba’s commitment to internationalism, including its global medical solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as it’s political and military support to anti-colonial struggles throughout the world. Delegates also spoke of the US economic blockade on Cuba as a barrier to the island’s sustainable development and self-determination, a violation of the UN charter and international law, and a blow to the concept of national sovereignty; an illegal act of collective punishment that flies directly in the face of the right of nations to decide who they will trade with and on what terms.
After the conclusion of the remarks, the vote was taken. Of 193 member nations in the UN, 184 voted in favor of the resolution condemning the blockade. Two nations, the US and its client state Israel, voted no. Three other US client states— Ukraine, which had its government overthrown by the US in 2014, Colombia that receives nearly half a billion dollars annually in US military aid, and the United Arab Emirates, a key US partner in the Middle East, abstained from the vote.
Cuba’s resolution calling for the end of the US blockade has come before the United Nations General Assembly for a vote at every meeting of the Assembly since 1992. And at every meeting of the Assembly, the overwhelming majority of the world’s nations (with the usual exception of the US and Israel) have voted to call for an end to the blockade, just as they did this year.
But Cuba’s UN resolution, though accepted by the majority of the UN General Assembly year after year, is unfortunately non-binding. Even with the vast majority of its member nations voting to adopt the resolution, the United Nations has no capacity or authority to compel the US to follow it. The UN simply does not have the power to get the US to end the blockade. Only the sitting US president or an act of Congress can end the US blockade on Cuba.
With the election of Joe Biden as US president, there was some hope that US and Cuba relations would return to the thawing of the Obama era. Biden signaled as much on the campaign trail during the 2020 election, promising to re-evaluate some of the most draconian measures imposed by the Trump administration during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror and heavy restrictions on trade, travel, and remittances. However, once in office, Biden surrogates immediately signaled that a re-evaluation of US-Cuba relations was no longer a priority for the new president.
Since then, we have seen the US State Department under Biden reinforce the Trump administration’s designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and no re-evaluation of travel restrictions or heightened sanctions imposed during the pandemic. The ‘no’ US vote on the UN resolution condemning the blockade, a step back from the Obama administration’s first time in history abstention on the resolution at the General Assembly in 2016, represents one of the clearest signs yet that Cuba should not expect warmer relations from US President Biden.
Although it is non-binding, what the vote on Cuba’s UN resolution does do is show that the US government is incredibly isolated, both domestically and internationally, when it comes to upholding this illegal and genocidal economic blockade. Even close US allies, including European nations who are members of the NATO Bloc like France and Spain, have declined to stand by the US when it comes to its attacks on Cuba with their “yes” votes on the resolution.
What the UN resolution also shows is that not even an international body made up of representatives from the majority of the nations on earth, including close US allies, can compel the US empire to act right. The US is gonna do what it wants to do, even if it has to move alone, or surrounded by puppets, to do it. And what it wants to do is hurt Cuba. And it will get away with it too. For now.
In the short term, it appears that the US under President Biden will continue its attacks on Cuba, following in the footsteps of every US president since the victory of the armed phase of the Cuban revolution. But the movement to end the blockade and US attacks on Cuba will continue too, strengthened by this vote and the support of the majority of peoples and nations in the world who know the truth about Cuba and will fight to defend it.