The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly urged the United States to end its 44-year trade embargo against Cuba.
This is the 14th consecutive year the General Assembly has passed a resolution criticizing Washington's embargo against Cuban leader Fidel Castro's government.
The margin of approval - 182 in favor, four against, with one abstention - was the widest since Cuba began introducing the measure in 1992. Those voting with the United States were Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands. Micronesia abstained, and five other countries did not vote.
The list of 20 nations addressing the Assembly in support of the resolution included many vocal critics of U.S. policy. Among them were Sudan, Venezuela, Iran, China, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, South Africa, Belarus, Syria and India. After the vote, representatives of North Korea and Zimbabwe also rose to condemn U.S. policy.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque spoke for the Havana government. Addressing the assembly through an interpreter, he referred to the embargo as a blockade, and charged that it had been tightened during President Bush's administration.
"Never before as in the last 18 months has the blockade been enforced with so much viciousness and brutality, never before have we seen such cruel and relentless persecution by a U.S. administration against the economy and the right of Cubans to a decent life," he said.
Representing the United States in the Assembly was Ambassador Ronald Godard, a senior adviser at the U.S. mission to the United Nations. In his address, he rejected Cuba's characterization of the embargo as a blockade.
"Castro claims that the embargo is a blockade," he said. "He knows this is a lie. Cuba is free to trade with any other country in the world without interference from the United States. Castro knows that the real reason behind Cuba's trade problems is the failure of his country to pay its bills, and billions of dollars in loans in arrears."
Ambassador Godard argued that the trade embargo is a bilateral issue, and should not be brought before the General Assembly. He charged that the root of Cuba's problem is not the embargo, but Fidel Castro.
"If the people of Cuba are jobless, hungry or lack medical care, as Castro admits, it is because of his economic mismanagement, not the embargo," he said.
Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton did not attend the gathering. Speaking to reporters, he ridiculed the proceedings.
"This is a complete exercise in irrelevancy," he said. "A General Assembly that has not yet seriously attempted to reform the U.N. Human Rights Commission or engage in the revolution of management reform that Secretary Rice talked about, to adopt this exercise in Cuban propaganda really tells you something.
The resolution passed Tuesday has no legal effect, and has not been observed in the past. But the votes are considered a barometer of international opinion.
The United States imposed the trade embargo after Fidel Castro defeated the CIA-backed assault on the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
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