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Cuba Trade Embargo a Bilateral Issue, U.S. Ambassador Says

Debate has no place at United Nations, Ronald Godard tells General Assembly

Posted: November 10, 2005

United Nations -- The failed policies of the Fidel Castro’s government, not the United States trade embargo, are harming the Cuban people, U.S. Ambassador Ronald Godard told the U.N. General Assembly November 8.

The U.S. trade embargo is a bilateral issue and has no place in the General Assembly, Godard said. U.S. and Cuban economic interests "will naturally coincide and become robust when Cuba is free."

Cuba brings the issue to the General Assembly each year in an attempt to blame the United States for Cuba's economic problems, the ambassador said. "As his economic policies harm the Cuban people, Castro tries to blame the United States for the failures of the government he leads."

Denying Castro's claim that the embargo is a blockade, Godard said that "Cuba is free to trade with any other country in the world without interference from the United States." The real reason for its trade problems is Cuba's failure "to pay its bills and billions of dollars of loans in arrears."

In the General Assembly resolution, sponsored by Cuba, frequent mention is made of free trade "yet Castro denies free trade to the Cuban people," Godard said.

"Castro knows that the United States supports Cubans who seek the right to independent trade unions, to open small businesses," he said.

The U.N. Economic Commission on Latin America (ECLAC) concluded that Cuba must promote small business opportunities to revive its suffering economy, Godard added. "But Castro sees even a corner store as a threat to his power, so he continues to block free market reforms."

The General Assembly held its 14th debate on "the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba" November 8. At the end of the daylong session, the assembly voted 182 to 4 (United States, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau) with one abstention to adopt a resolution urging nations to refrain from applying laws, such as the Helms-Burton Act, that involve third countries in economic embargoes.

The 1996 Helms-Burton Act, formally known as the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act, continued the United States embargo against Cuba. It also allows lawsuits in American courts against foreign companies that invest in businesses once owned by Americans or by Cubans now living in the United States and authorizes the banning of executives of such companies from entering the United States.

The impediment to a vibrant Cuba-U.S. bilateral relationship "is the dictatorship in Havana," Godard also said. "The way forward is through a genuine transition to political and economic liberty for the Cuban people."

"The moment the Cuban people are fully free is when the floodgates of travel and commerce should open," the ambassador said. "That will be the moment when the American economy can actually help transform Cuba's failed and bankrupt economic system and give Cubans themselves the economic freedom and opportunity long denied to them by the dictatorship."

Godard's statement to the General Assembly is available on the Web site of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

For additional information on U.S. policy, see Cuba.

Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent





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