Every year since 1992, the Cuban government has submitted a resolution to the UN General Assembly on the need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba. In the first year, 59 governments voted in favor of the resolution, with 71 abstaining and 46 absent; only the United States, Israel and Rumania voted against the resolution. Each year from 1993 to 2006, the delegations in increasing numbers moved from abstention or absence, such that one can observe a pattern of steadily increasing numbers of votes in favor of the resolution, with the following numbers each year in chronological order: 88, 101, 117, 137, 143, 157, 155, 167, 167, 173, 179, 179, 182, and 186. From 2007 to 2014, the vote in favor fluctuated between 184 and 188. In 2015, the vote in favor increased to 191, with no abstentions, and with only the United States and Israel voting against. From 1992 to 2015, no more than four nations voted against the resolution in any given year, and only the United States and Israel voted against the resolution every year. Only six nations voted against the resolution one or more times: Rumania (1992), Albania (1993), Paraguay (1993), Uzbekistan (1995, 1996, 1997), Marshall Islands (2001 through 2007), and Palau (2006 through 2009 and 2012).
The vote on October 26, 2016 was unanimous: 191 votes in favor; two abstentions (United States and Israel); and no votes against. It was a historic moment, for marked the first time that the United States did not vote against the resolution.
In explaining the decision of the US delegation to abstain, the US Ambassador to the United Nations observed that the original intention of the US policy was to isolate Cuba, but as the vote demonstrates, it is the United States that has become isolated. She also commented that the cooperation between Cuban and US doctors in combatting the Ebola epidemic in Africa shows that cooperation among nations, rather than confrontation, is the better guide for international relations.
Following the vote, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez addressed the General Assembly. He thanked the US Ambassador for her words and for the decision to abstain, but he insisted that words must be joined to action, and the US blockade of Cuba must be put to an end in practice. He emotionally expressed his pride in the people of Cuba, for their resistance and for their support of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel and Raúl. He aggressively defended to right of Cuba to be sovereign and independent, and to develop its political-economic system in accordance with its values and its history. He proclaimed that Cuba will never return to capitalism, and that it sees its future as a road of developing a prosperous and sustainable socialism. He concluded his address by thanking the nations, organizations, and peoples of the world for their unanimous condemnation of the US blockade against Cuba, and he thanked the people of the United States for their increasing consciousness and rejection of this violation of international law by the government of the United States.
In the days leading up to the October 26 vote, Cuban mass organizations and civil society were engaging in a variety of activities in protest of the blockade and in support of the Cuban resolution before the General Assembly. Student organizations were especially active in all the provinces of the country. That people who have suffered from the material consequences of the blockade would be opposed to it is hardly surprising. But one could imagine a different scenario, taking into account what often occurs in many nations of the world, where the government is repressive and/or indifferent to the needs of the people. In any nation confronting an economic blockade by a superpower (and historic trading partner) for more than fifty years, it would be possible for the people to be demanding that their government make the changes that are ordered by the global power, so that the blockade and consequent suffering of the people would end. But it has not been so in Cuba. There has been and continues to be overwhelming popular support in Cuba for the firm insistence by the Cuban government on its sovereignty, regardless of the consequences. The support by the Cuban people of the Cuban government’s policy with respect to the US blockade is yet one more sign of the commitment of the people to the Cuban Revolution, and of their trust and confidence in its leadership. As the Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba said on the historic day, the persistent sacrifice of the Cuban people in defense of its revolution and the sovereignty of the nation is truly remarkable.
The October 26 vote by the General Assembly changes no law or policy. It is merely a protest. But what an incredible protest it is, organized by the Cuban revolutionary government. Twenty-four years ago, when the protest began, Cuba was in the midst of an economic freefall caused by the collapse of the socialist bloc, and the United States was deepening and expanding the blockade. At that historic moment, the Cuban government, in addition to refusing to adopt the structural adjustments demanded of the world by the global powers, made the commitment to seek the support of the governments and peoples of the world in demanding an end to the immoral and illegal blockade, then in its thirtieth year. The protest has been persistent, involving constant work with delegations to get and keep them on board. And most importantly, it has been accompanied by thorough oral and written explanations, which: (1) have documented in detail the various consequences of the blockade for the people of Cuba and for the people of other countries, including the United States; (2) have presented arguments showing that the blockade violates international law, and that it is inconsistent with moral principles that have been enshrined in documents emitted by international organizations, including the United Nations and numerous organizations in which the majority of the nations of the world are members; and (3) have connected the blockade to larger issues of global social justice, including the imperialism of the global powers, the denial of the right of true sovereignty to the majority of nations of the world, and the need to develop a more just, democratic and sustainable world-system.
This protest of the US blockade, organized by the Cuban revolutionary government, is of such length, scope and power that it cannot possibly be ignored, even by an arrogant superpower.
The blockade will end. And Cuba will have survived it, battered by its consequences, but with its sovereignty intact, and its revolution looking to the future.