(CNSNews.com) – The U.N. General Assembly on Thursday voted by an overwhelming margin to condemn the U.S. embargo of Cuba, in an annual ritual that sees delegate after delegate criticize Washington’s policies towards the communist-ruled island, and then applaud their lopsided vote.
Only two countries – Israel and Brazil – joined the U.S. in voting against the politically-charged resolution this year. It passed by 187-3, with Ukraine and Colombia abstaining.
The Maduro regime, Havana’s close ally, sent its foreign minister to New York for the occasion. As Jorge Arreaza began to speak, the U.S. delegation walked out.
The Trump administration and more than 50 other governments do not recognize the regime as Venezuela’s legitimate government.
Speaking for more than 15 minutes, Arreaza accused the U.S. of “imperial arrogance,” and described sanctions as “economic suffocation” used as by some countries as “a weapon of mass destruction to impose their political preferences on sovereign countries.”
The envoys of Iran and Syria’s Assad regime were among those who used the opportunity to attack U.S. sanctions against their countries as well, with Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari railing against measures targeting Cuba, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia and “Palestine.”
When the vote result was announced, the chamber erupted into applause.
The resolution has been voted on every year since 1992. In 2016, the Obama administration controversially abstained rather than vote against it, a stance reversed by its successor the following year.
Last year, then Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley took a different approach, proposing eight separate amendments to the draft text, each of them focusing on a different area of human rights concern in Cuba.
She did so to force countries to vote on each issue – they included women’s rights, freedom of expression, and political prisoners – before the final vote on the resolution itself. The U.S. lost all eight votes, by large margins. Then the condemnatory resolution was adopted by 189-2, with only Israel siding with the U.S.
This year, Haley’s successor, Ambassador Kelly Craft, also focused on Cuba’s human rights record, and challenged the implication that the U.S. embargo in some way compels the regime in Havana to abuse its people’s rights.
When the resolution comes around every year, she said, “this body entertains the claim that the Cuban regime has no other choice than to abuse its own people in response to the embargo. This claim has been made both explicitly and implicitly in just the past 24 hours.”
“So today, I want to pose a simple question: Does the United States policy force the Cuban regime to violate the human rights of its own people?”
Craft then examined four separate articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and said in each case the regime violates them by choice, not because it is forced to do so by the existence of the embargo.
“Our embargo does not force the Cuban regime to arrest independent journalists and human rights defenders without cause. This is a choice, freely made,” she said.
“Our embargo does not force the Cuban regime to monitor or muzzle the voices of those demanding a better life for themselves and their families. This is a choice, freely made.”
Craft accused the regime of failing to accept responsibility for those choices.
Returning to her question, she said, “I now answer that the United States is not responsible for the Cuban regime’s endless abuses of its people; that we do not accept responsibility for these abuses; and we never will.”
“We will vote ‘no’ on the resolution,” Craft said. “Members of the Assembly, it is our first responsibility as leaders to defend those without a voice, today most especially the people of Cuba. Shame be upon us if we refuse to raise our voices in defense of theirs.”
Outside the chamber after the vote, Craft voiced her frustration, saying that “the ugliest part of today, with this annual affair in the General Assembly, is that people can peddle this fiction that the Cuban regime is powerless.”
“I mean, just like that,” she continued, snapping her fingers, “they’ve got a choice, that they could end the hunger, they could most certainly help the people there that are sick, by allowing their physicians to heal the people in their own country, and to allow for freedom of expression.”
“The U.S. will not take responsibility for the human rights abuses caused by the Cuban regime,” Craft added.