The United States of America, like most Member States, is firmly committed to supporting the desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their country’s future.
The United States of America, like all Member States, has the sovereign right to conduct its economic relationship with another country. The U.S. economic relationship with Cuba is a bilateral issue and part of a broader set of relations meant to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Respect for these rights and freedoms are part of this organization’s core values. We should not lose sight of that in a debate mired in rhetorical arguments of the past and focused on tactical differences—a debate that does nothing to help the Cuban people.
My delegation regrets that the delegation from Cuba continues, year after year, to inappropriately and incorrectly label U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba as an act of genocide. Such an egregious misuse of the term diminishes the real suffering of victims of genocide elsewhere in the world. Additionally, those who charge the United States sanctions as being the cause of deprivation among the Cuban people should be reminded that the United States holds no restriction on humanitarian aid to Cuba and remains Cuba’s largest provider of food.
The United States sold $533 million in agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, and wood to Cuba in 2009. In agricultural products alone, the United States exported $526 million in goods to Cuba. Once again, in 2009, Cuba reported that the United States was its fifth largest trading partner. The United States in 2009 also authorized $237 million in private humanitarian assistance in the form of gift parcels filled with food and other basic necessities, non-agricultural humanitarian donations, and medical donations.
It is equally important to note that the United States has demonstrated that we are prepared to engage the government of Cuba on issues that affect the security and well-being of both our peoples. In April 2009, President Obama stated “the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba,” but “there is a longer journey that must be traveled to overcome the decades of mistrust.” Over the past twenty one months, the United States has begun to make progress on the vision that the President has outlined. We lifted restrictions on family visits and remittances and expanded the amounts of humanitarian items that the American people can donate to individuals in Cuba. The United States has enhanced the ability of U.S. telecommunication companies to pursue agreements to provide service to Cuba and has made it easier for U.S. agricultural producers to pursue contracts with Cuban buyers. Furthermore we have resumed bilateral discussions on migration, we have initiated talks to re-establish direct mail service between the United States and Cuba, and we have increased artistic and cultural exchanges between our countries, consistent with our long-standing support for freedom of expression. In the wake of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, the United States coordinated with Cuba to address the medical needs of Haitians as part of the international relief efforts there.
President Obama has stated publicly that the release of political prisoners and economic reforms are positive for the Cuban people. The United States hopes to see the fulfillment of these promises soon as well as a broader opening by the Cuban government to signal its willingness to engage constructively with its own people. However, it is the view of the United States that a new era in U.S.-Cuban relations cannot be fully realized until the Cuban people enjoy the internationally-recognized political and economic freedoms that this body has done so much to defend in other countries around the world.
My delegation will vote against this resolution. Indeed, the United States believes that it is high time for this body to focus its energies on supporting the Cuban people in their quest to freely decide their own future and move beyond the rhetorical posturing that this resolution represents.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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