Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Ronald D. Godard, U.S. Senior Area Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs, at the UN General Assembly Meeting on the Cuba Embargo

Ambassador Ronald D. Godard, U.S. Senior Area Advisor
New York, NY
October 29, 2013




AS DELIVERED

Mr. President,

The United States strongly supports the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future. It’s the Cuban government that continues to deprive the Cuban people of this aspiration.

As do all Member States, the United States conducts its 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 civil and human rights consistent with the Universal Declaration, to which the United Nations itself is committed. We therefore stand in opposition to this resolution, and we call on all other nations who support the Cuban people to oppose this resolution.

Mr. President,

The United States places the highest priority on building and strengthening 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, remain the best ambassadors for our democratic ideals. The hundreds of thousands of Americans who have sent remittances and traveled to the island, under categories of purposeful travel promoted by President Obama, are a central part of a strategy to ensure that Cubans have the opportunities they deserve. The revised travel, remittance, information exchange, humanitarian, 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 and excuse the Cuban government for the island’s economic problems. However, the Cuban government has now publicly recognized that these problems are caused by the very economic policies it has pursued for the past half century. While we note and welcome recent changes, such as those that allow greater self-employment and liberalization of the real estate market, Cuba still has one of the most restricted 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 its 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 success of many of Cuba’s neighboring countries in Latin America.

Mr. President,

I want to make clear that the United States is in fact a deep and abiding friend of the Cuban people. In 2012, the Cuban people received more than $2 billion in remittances and other private support from the United States. This was made possible by U.S. policy choices. In 2012, the United States was Cuba’s largest supplier of food and agricultural products and exported almost $465 million in agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, and humanitarian items to Cuba. By the Cuban government’s own account, the United States is one of Cuba's principal trading partners. Far from restricting aid to the Cuban people, we are proud that the American people and U.S. companies are among the leading providers of humanitarian assistance to Cuba. All of this trade and assistance is conducted in conformity with our sanctions program, which is carefully calibrated to allow and encourage the provision of support to the Cuban people.

Mr. President,

We remain committed to policies that support the welfare and human rights of individuals in Cuba, including the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media as set forth in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To help further the enjoyment of this right, we support Cubans in their aspirations for access to the Internet, a goal the Cuban government itself now also claims to support. The Cuban government has failed, however, to offer widespread access to the Internet through its high speed cable with Venezuela or to pursue other available avenues for increasing Cubans’ access to the Internet. Instead, it continues to impose isolation on the Cuban people while disingenuously blaming the embargo.

Moreover, the Cuban government continues to detain Alan Gross, an American citizen who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for facilitating Internet access for Cuba's small Jewish community. The United States calls on Cuba to release Mr. Gross, and to tear down the wall of censorship it has erected around the Cuban people.

The United States continues to call on the Cuban government to finally allow Cuban citizens to enjoy the 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, impedes independent journalism and despite positive reforms continues to prevent some Cubans from leaving or returning to the island. The Cuban government continues its tactics of politically motivated detentions, harassment, and police violence against Cuban citizens, such as the Ladies in White, who peacefully seek freedom for political prisoners and advocate on behalf of positive political and social change.

Mr. President,

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 freely determine their own future. By doing this, it would truly advance the principles of the United Nations Charter and the purposes for which the United Nations was created.

Thank you Mr. President.

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PRN: 2013/203