Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Ronald Godard at the UN General Assembly Meeting on the Cuba Embargo, October 25, 2011
Ambassador Ronald Godard
New York, NY
For yet another year, this Assembly is taking up a resolution designed to confuse and obscure. But let there be no confusion about this: the United States, like most Member States, reaffirms its strong commitment to supporting the right, and the heartfelt desire, of the Cuban people to freely determine their future. And let there be no obscuring that the Cuban regime has deprived them of this right for more than half a century.
At the same time, the United States strongly asserts its sovereign right, on the same basis as other Member States, to determine its bilateral policies, including its economic relationships with other countries, in accordance with its own national interests and values. This includes our economic relationships with other countries. The U.S. economic relationship with Cuba is a bilateral issue, and is not appropriately a concern of this Assembly. The embargo represents just one aspect of U.S. policy toward Cuba, whose overarching goal is to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms - principles to which this organization is also dedicated.
This annual exercise attempts, to no good end, to obscure some fundamental truths. The Cuban government's own policies - not any action of the U.S. government - are the greatest obstacle to Cuba's economic development. These policies concentrate political and economic decisions in the hands of the few, stifling economic growth. They ignore the basic principle, so effectively demonstrated in many countries, that policies that allow individual freedom unleash the creativity of people, foster innovation and entrepreneurship, and are the best means to achieve sustainable economic development.
This exercise conceals the fact that the United States is a leading source of food and humanitarian aid to Cuba. The United States does not restrict humanitarian aid to Cuba. Cubans receive food, medicine, other forms of assistance, and remittances from the United States. In 2010, the United States government authorized $3.5 billion in total sales to Cuba of U.S. goods. In agricultural products alone, the United States exported $361.7 million in goods to Cuba in 2010, including poultry, soy bean products, corn, wheat, feed products, pork, and other items. Indeed, as the Cuban government itself has repeatedly indicated, the United States has for years been one of Cuba's principal trading partners. In total, the United States in 2010 also authorized $861million in private humanitarian assistance in the form of gift parcels filled with food and other basic necessities, as well as non-agricultural and medical donations. These figures alone are sufficient to rebut the spurious allegations of genocide against the Cuban people in previous resolutions recalled in the current draft, and to demonstrate that this calumny greatly misuses this important term and insults the true victims of genocide.
This resolution, and much of the stale rhetoric surrounding it, ignores some basic facts. As President Obama made clear last month, the United States is "open to a new relationship with Cuba" if the Cuban government starts taking proper steps to open up its own country and provide the space and the respect for human rights that will allow the Cuban people to determine their own destiny. The Cuban government also needs to release unconditionally and immediate the 62-year-old American citizen Alan Gross, whom it sentenced to 15 years in prison for the crime of trying to connect Cuba's Jewish communities to the Internet.
The President in January 2011 implemented several significant changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba aimed at increasing people-to-people contact; supporting civil society in Cuba; enhancing the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and helping promote their independence from Cuban authorities. These changes build upon the President's previous actions in April 2009, and demonstrate the strong commitment of the United States to the Cuban people, contrary to the picture painted in this resolution.
The United States looks forward to a still greater broadening of contacts and exchange with Cuba, and it is prepared to do its part to this end. But improving the situation requires efforts by the Cuban government as well. It must ensure that the Cuban people enjoy the internationally recognized political and economic freedoms to which this body is committed, and on which it has insisted with regard to other countries.
Because this resolution does not reflect present realities, my delegation will vote against it. We strongly believe that this body, instead of engaging in such meaningless exercises, should dedicate itself to supporting the efforts of the Cuban people to freely determine their own future. Only by this course can this body truly advance the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.