Trump's UN envoy restores US support for Cuba embargo

US President Donald Trump and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speak during a meeting on United Nations Reform at the United Nations.
US President Donald Trump and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speak during a meeting on United Nations Reform at the United Nations. PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (NYTIMES)- The United States Wednesday (Nov 1) revived its objection to an annual General Assembly resolution deploring the US trade embargo on Cuba, a year after having abstained from the vote for the first time.

The reversal, which left the United States nearly isolated on the issue at the United Nations, reflected the toughened attitude toward Cuba by President Donald Trump, who has distanced his administration from the historic thaw in relations begun by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The vote on the resolution in the 193-member General Assembly was 191-2. The United States and Israel, which often acts in concert with its US ally, were the lone dissenters.

The State Department had signalled Tuesday that the United States intended to vote against the resolution, which calls for a repeal of the embargo imposed in 1962 after the break in relations with Cuba.

"The United States does not fear isolation in this chamber or anywhere else," Trump's UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, said in a statement to fellow diplomats before the vote.

In remarks that evoked the Cold War-era language aimed at the Castro government, Haley said the United States opposed the resolution to demonstrate "continued solidarity with the Cuban people and in the hope that they will one day be free to choose their own destiny." Under Obama, the United States restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, easing five decades of enmity with the island nation of 11 million. But the trade embargo, which can be rescinded only by Congress, has remained in force.

The annual vote on the resolution condemning the embargo has become something of a theatrical ritual at the United Nations and a venue for critics of US policy to vent their anger.

Cuba's foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, who also spoke before the vote, denounced the United States and Haley for what he described as her disrespectful remarks, and said the Trump administration lacked "the slightest moral authority to criticize Cuba." The atmosphere was in sharp contrast to the vote in 2016, when Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, abstained, breaking with precedent and receiving sustained applause.