(CNSNews.com) – In what Cuban state media called “a landslide victory” over the United States, the United Nations General Assembly voted Tuesday by the largest margin yet – 191 to 2 – to condemn Washington’s 55-year-old embargo on the communist-ruled island, with Israel alone siding with its ally.
Delegates applauded, with some taking to their feet as the giant voting screens featuring the names of member-states showed a sea of green “yes” lights, dwarfing two red “no” lights.
The non-binding resolution has become an annual ritual in New York since 1992, with hugely lopsided votes the order of the day, although previous years have seen several small Pacific island nations vote with the U.S. and Israel, or abstain.
“As usual, the United States and Israel voted nay but this time isolation was complete, when Marshal Islands, Micronesia and Palau, that abstained last year, voted in favor of Cuban proposal,” Cuba’s official Agencia Cubana de Noticias reported.
The Castro regime sent Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez to address the General Assembly Tuesday, and he denounced the embargo as a “flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of all Cubans.”
This year’s resolution differed from previous ones only in that it included language welcoming the re-establishment of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations and recognizing President Obama’s “expressed will” to work to end the embargo.
But for the U.S. delegation, that was not sufficient. U.S. envoy Ronald Godard expressed regret at Cuba’s decision to bring the resolution to a vote despite the historic shifts underway between the two countries.
“The text falls short of reflecting the significant steps that have been taken and the spirit of engagement President Obama has championed,” Godard said. “If Cuba thinks this exercise will help move things forward in the direction both governments have indicated they wish, it is mistaken.”
Obama has called on Congress to lift the embargo, and the Associated Press reported last month that the administration was considering an unprecedented abstention rather than voting against the measure this year. But an official said recently it had concluded it could not do so as the draft text did not “fully reflect” the changes in the relationship.
Cuba ‘will never negotiate its socialist system’
When Obama last May removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror, Republican lawmakers accused him of rewarding Havana but getting nothing in return. Some argue that any move to lift the embargo must be conditioned on human rights and democratization progress.
But in his address, Rodriguez warned against any attempt by the U.S. to link the embargo with conditions in Cuba.
“Any attempt to condition the lifting or modification of the blockade to the introduction of internal changes in Cuba will be in no way acceptable nor productive,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
“Cuba is ready to accept the opportunities and face the challenges of a new era in the relations between both countries, but it will never negotiate its socialist system or its internal affairs, nor will it allow any blemish on its independence …”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a leading critic in Congress of the Castro regime, criticized the U.N. for lining up to support Havana while ignoring the plight of Cuba’s people.
“Instead of voting against U.S. efforts to sanction oppressors, the international community should be condemning the communist regime and calling for changes to the dictatorship that has not allowed free and fair elections or the exercise of basic human rights since its illegal power grab,” she said.
GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has pledged as president to reverse Obama’s restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba and condition any further lessening of sanctions on meaningful political and human rights reform, among other steps.
Other Republican presidential aspirants who have taken a strong stance against the Cuba rapprochement include Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, like Rubio a Cuban-American, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina told radio host Hugh Hewitt in July she would close the freshly-reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana, on the grounds Obama had not sought congressional approval for the move.
GOP race frontrunner Donald Trump has taken a different approach, coming out in support of Obama’s opening, while saying the U.S. “should have made a better deal.”