For more than 50 years, the U.S. had a policy aimed at isolating the government of Cuba. For roughly half of those years, U.N. member states have voted overwhelmingly for a General Assembly resolution that condemns the U.S. embargo and calls for it to end. The U.S. has always voted against this resolution, but on Wednesday, the U.S. abstained from voting.
The Obama Administration’s move to abstain from the vote rather than outright opposing it demonstrates the Obama Administration’s new approach to Cuba and Obama’s goals of normalizing trade with Cuba. Ending the embargo would reopen Cuba as a viable market for American growers, who miss out on a substantial portion of market share due to barriers to successful trade with Cuba. Other countries with less restrictive regulations can take advantage of the Cuban market, to the detriment of American growers, the National Assn. of Wheat Growers said.
In December 2014, President Barack Obama made clear his opposition to the embargo and called on Congress to take action to lift it. In the nearly two years since Obama announced the shift in the U.S. approach, the U.S. has amended the regulations implementing the embargo six times – most recently on Oct. 14 – finding ways to increase engagement between the governments and its people.
“We have re-established diplomatic relations with the government of Cuba; reopened embassies in our respective capitals; resumed regularly scheduled commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba; facilitated people-to-people travel; eased restrictions on American businesses and entrepreneurs who want to do business in Cuba, and stopped limiting how often Cuban Americans can visit their families on the island,” U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said in comments before U.N. members.
U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) co-chair Paul Johnson said, “This is yet another step in the right direction, and we applaud the Administration’s efforts over the past year to normalize trade relations with Cuba. It is time to end the embargo and work on a two-way trading relationship which benefits both countries. We are encouraged by these significant actions to clear away outdated obstacles to our nations’ common interests.”
USACC is a coalition of America’s leading agricultural organizations and companies dedicated to normalizing trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Johnson added, “At USACC, we look forward to working towards creating an environment where U.S. agricultural interests can enter strong, bilateral relationships with Cuban partners, to the mutual benefit of U.S farmers, ranchers, agriculture businesses and the people of Cuba.”
Power added that abstaining on this resolution does not mean that the U.S. agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government.
“We are profoundly concerned by the serious human rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people, including arbitrarily detaining those who criticize the government; threatening, intimidating and, at times, physically assaulting citizens who take part in peaceful marches and meetings, and severely restricting the access that people on the island have to outside information,” she said.