(CNSNews.com) – By large majorities, member-states of the United Nations on Thursday one by one voted down eight draft amendments proposed by the United States, highlighting human rights abuses by Cuba’s communist rulers.
Having done so the General Assembly, by a vote of 189-2, condemned once again the United States’ embargo against the Cuban regime. Except for Israel, every U.N. member-state voted in favor. No countries abstained, although Ukraine and Moldova did not vote.
Speaking moments after delegates cheered the final vote, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said she was always taken aback when hearing applause in the chamber in such moments – “because there are no winners here today.”
“There are only losers: The United Nations has lost. It has rejected the opportunity to speak on behalf of human rights. The U.N. Charter commits every country here to the promotion of peace, security, and human rights. And that Charter was betrayed today.”
“Once again, we were reminded why so many people believe that faith in the United Nations is often misplaced,” Haley continued.
“The countries that profess to believe in human rights have lost, too. They have earned a justified measure of doubt that they will act to defend their beliefs.”
But most of all, Haley said, it was the people of Cuba who have lost.
“They’ve been left, once again, to the brutal whims of the Castro dictatorship. They have been abandoned by the United Nations and by most of the world’s governments.”
This year’s annual vote on the embargo came after the assembly first considered eight proposed U.S. amendments, each one focusing on an area of human rights concern in Cuba – from freedom of expression to women’s rights, from oppression of workers to political prisoners.
Earlier in the day, Haley had pointed out that the language used in each amendment was taken directly from other member-states’ previous statements regarding Cuba, and appealed to all member-states to vote in favor of them.
“For decades, the United Nations General Assembly has failed to demonstrate leadership in advocating for a better life for the Cuban people,” she said. “Today, it can show leadership.”
In the event, the only countries to vote with the U.S. in favor of the eight amendments were Israel and Ukraine (all eight times), and the Marshall Islands (once). Either 114 or 115 member-states voted against each amendment, and either 65 or 66 countries abstained each time.
The U.S. also lost a tenth vote during Thursday’s session: Cuba argued that the amendments and final resolution required a two-thirds’ majority vote to pass. Haley objected, noting that a simple majority customarily suffices with votes on economic, human rights, and social issues. The assembly then took a vote on the issue, and by a margin of 126-9, with 52 abstentions, approved the Cuban proposal.
‘Poke the United States in the eye’
The U.S. embargo was first imposed in 1962, three years after Fidel Castro seized power.
This was the 27th consecutive year that the General Assembly has voted to condemn the embargo. The first vote, in 1992, passed by 59-3, with 71 abstentions, and over the ensuing decades the numbers in favor have steadily climbed, while abstentions have fallen, eventually hitting zero in 2015.
Israel alone has stood with the U.S. every year, while the Marshall Islands has done so eight times, Palau seven times, Uzbekistan three times, and Albania and Paraguay once each.
In 2016, the Obama administration accompanied its outreach to Havana with a decision to abstain from voting, for the first time, on a U.N. resolution condemning the U.S.
Speaking before Thursday’s vote, Haley said annual passage of the resolution has done nothing to help a single Cuban, and has been a complete waste of time.
“It’s one more time that countries feel they can poke the United States in the eye. But you’re not hurting the United States when you do this. You are literally hurting the Cuban people by telling the regime that their treatment of their people is acceptable.”
As it has done in previous years Havana sent its foreign minister to New York for what is a U.N. highlight of the year for the regime.
Introducing the resolution, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez charged that the damage caused by the embargo amounted to an “act of genocide” against the Cuban people.
“It is an act of oppression and an act of war,” he said, putting the financial damage caused by the embargo at $4.3 billion over the past year, and at $933.678 billion since it was first put into place.
Rodríguez said the U.S.-proposed amendments were an attempt to “create confusion and fatigue” in the General Assembly.
Representatives of several countries – including such U.S. allies as Canada, Australia and Austria (speaking on behalf of the European Union) – said in their statements that the embargo resolution was not the appropriate platform for the amendments proposed by the U.S., which is why they chose not to vote for them.
The eight amendments dealt with:
--freedom of expression, absence of judicial independence, and arbitrary arrests and detentions
--the absence of women from the most powerful decision-making bodies in Cuba
--the prohibition on the right to strike and restrictions on collective bargaining for workers
--the need for “civil, political, and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and free access to information”
--the need for “a safe and enabling environment in which an independent, diverse, and pluralistic civil society can operate free from undue hindrance and insecurity”
--the need to end restrictions on freedom of expression, opinion, associations and peaceful assembly
--the need to release people arbitrarily detained for exercising human rights
--the need for a “comprehensive accountability process” in response to serious rights violations, and an end impunity for such violations.