The United States strongly supports the desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their own future. It is the Cuban government, however, that continues to deprive them of this aspiration.
As with other Member States, the United States determines its conduct of economic relationships with other countries in accordance with its national interests and principles. Our sanctions policy toward Cuba is just one of the tools in our overall effort to encourage respect for the human rights and basic freedoms to which the United Nations itself is committed. We therefore stand in opposition to this resolution.
The Obama Administration’s priority is to empower Cubans to freely determine their own future. The most effective tool we have for accomplishing this is building connections between the Cuban and American people. These connections give Cubans the support and tools they need to move forward independent of their government. U.S. citizens, engaging in well-defined, purposeful travel, are the best ambassadors for our democratic ideals. The hundreds of thousands of Cuban Americans who have sent remittances and traveled to the island since we eased the way for them early in this Administration are a central part of a strategy to ensure that Cubans have the opportunities which they deserve. The Administration’s travel, remittance and people-to-people policies are helping Cubans by providing alternative sources of information, taking advantage of emerging opportunities for self-employment and private property, and strengthening independent civil society.
In contrast, Cuba’s resolution seeks to identify an external scapegoat for the island’s economic problems, when they are principally caused by the economic policies that the Cuban government has pursued for the past half century. While we note and welcome Cuba’s recent changes to allow greater self-employment and liberalize the real estate market, Cuba still has one of the most restrictive economic systems in the world. Irrespective of U.S. policy, it is unrealistic to expect the Cuban economy to thrive until the Cuban government opens state monopolies to private competition, fully empowers Cuban entrepreneurs, respects intellectual property rights, allows unfettered access to the Internet, and adopts the sound macro-economic policies that have contributed to the economic success of many of Cuba’s neighboring countries in Latin America .
I want to make clear that the United States is in fact a deep and abiding friend of the Cuban people. In 2011, the Cuban people received an estimated $2 billion dollars in remittances, made possible by the Obama Administration’s policies. In 2011, U.S. companies exported $352 million in agricultural products, medical devices, medicine and humanitarian items to Cuba. By the Cuban governments own account, the United States is in fact one of Cuba's principal trading partners. Additionally, in 2011, the United States authorized over $1.2 billion 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. Far from restricting aid to the Cuban people, we are proud to be one of the leading providers of humanitarian assistance, and as we share with the Cuban people the experience of having withstood the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, we extend our condolences to them and others in the region.
We remain committed to policies that support the welfare of the Cuban people, despite the arrest and continued detention of Alan Gross, a 63-year-old American citizen who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for facilitating Internet access for Cuba's small Jewish community. The United States again calls on Cuba to immediately release Mr. Gross.
The United States continues to call on the Cuban government to finally allow Cuban citizens to enjoy the internationally recognized political and economic freedoms to which this body is committed. The international community cannot in good conscience ignore the ease and frequency with which the Cuban regime silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly, and impedes independent journalism. As of September 2012, the number of short-term, politically motivated detentions had already surpassed the nearly 4,000 similar detentions recorded for all of 2011.
This resolution only serves to distract from the real problems facing the Cuban people, and therefore my delegation will oppose it. We encourage this body to support the desires of the Cuban people to determine their own future freely. By doing so, it would truly advance the principles of the United Nations Charter and the purposes for which the United Nations was created.
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