Remarks Before the Vote on Cuba in the UN General Assembly
Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, members of the General Assembly.
This is the 27th year of the General Assembly that they have held this vote. Each year, with the exception of one, the United States has voted against this resolution. As this resolution is currently constructed, the United States will oppose it again today.
Cuba and its allies do the same thing every year. They propose a resolution blaming Cuba’s poverty, repression, and lack of freedom on the United States. They falsely blame America for all kinds of evil things, even genocide.
But this resolution changes nothing. It doesn’t help a single Cuban family. It doesn’t feed a single Cuban child. It doesn’t free a single Cuban political prisoner.
Those who support this resolution every year have it wrong. Our reason for the embargo is and has always been Cuba’s denial of freedom and the denial of the most basic human rights for the Cuban people. The United States will continue to stand with the Cuban people until their rights and their freedoms are restored. Period. We won’t back down.
Last year, we were joined by just one nation in voting against this resolution. And that’s fine. We were in very good company. We have no problem standing alone on behalf of the things that we believe in and will proudly do so again today if necessary.
But the most regrettable fact of this resolution each year isn’t that the United States may stand alone in opposing it.
The most regrettable fact of this resolution is that it is a waste of everyone’s time. It’s one more time that countries feel they can poke the United States in the eye. But you’re not hurting the United States when you do this. You are literally hurting the Cuban people by telling the regime that their treatment of their people is acceptable.
For 27 years we’ve had this debate, and nothing has changed in Cuba – at least nothing for the better.
Supporters of the resolution claim that a change in U.S. policy would somehow transform life of the Cuban people. But the Government of Cuba doesn’t agree. It responded to the softening of our Cuba policy under President Obama with more, not less, political repression of its people.
The sorry state of liberty and human rights in Cuba is not lost on anyone in this chamber – even as countries vote to blindly support the resolution every year.
The proof is in the statements by countries during this annual debate. Many of us care deeply about the lack of freedom of expression and assembly in Cuba. The arbitrary arrests and detentions. The status of women and labor.
We’ve listened carefully to our fellow countries’ statements in this debate. We’ve studied your comments from last year. We’ve taken your messages to heart.
We read last year’s statement by the European Union – and we agree with it wholeheartedly. The EU called on Cuba to, “fully grant its citizens internationally recognized civil, political, and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and free access to information.”
Yesterday, multiple countries, speaking both for themselves and for regional groups, expressed concern for the realization in Cuba of the goals of prosperity, human rights, and human dignity contained in the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
Last year, the permanent representative of Gabon, speaking for the Africa Group, expressed this same concern.
The ambassador from Singapore, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, also expressed the desire to end poverty and promote human rights and gender equality in Cuba, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The permanent representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking for the Caribbean Community, echoed this support. As did the ambassador from Cote d’Ivoire, speaking for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. And the Venezuelan ambassador, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
In their national capacities, the permanent representatives of India, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, Chad, and St. Kitts and Nevis all advocated for Cuba to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
And we’ve studied Member States’ expressions of support for freedom and human rights in other countries where, like Cuba, they are denied.
For example, there are striking parallels between the suffering of the Cuban people under the Castro dictatorship and its successors and the suffering of the Iranian people under the dictatorship of the mullahs in Tehran.
Like the Castro regime, the Iranian regime violently represses dissent, imprisons and kills its political opponents, and abuses women and religious and ethnic minorities.
Like the Castro dictatorship, the Tehran government has rigged its economy in favor of its regime and its cronies. And both governments use these stolen funds to finance their aggression abroad.
Each year, the General Assembly adopts a resolution condemning the Iranian regime’s violations of human rights.
Last year, the resolution was adopted with support of 81 Member States.
Eighty-one countries made the decision to use this body’s time and prestige to do what the United Nations does best – what it’s meant to do.
Eighty-one countries put the weight of the international community behind the principles of peace, security, and human rights in Iran.
They didn’t just pay lip service to these principles. They put them in a resolution, and they put it to a vote. They won. But most importantly, the cause of human rights in Iran won.
The time has long passed for the General Assembly to do the same for Cuba and for the same reasons. How can you feel strongly about Iran and not on Cuba?
Countries that are concerned about the arrest of political opponents and journalists, the lack of access of the internet, and the absolute authority of the government to restrict travel both within and from Cuba – these countries should have the opportunity to vote to put themselves and this body on record.
The United Nations does not have the ability or the authority to end the United States’ embargo of Cuba. But the United Nations has the unique ability to send a moral message to the Cuban dictatorship. We should use our megaphone to do something that has the potential to actually improve the lives of the Cuban people.
The United States has proposed a series of amendments to this resolution. These amendments have been taken directly from you. They are the Member States’ expressions of hope for human rights in Cuba. Their content has been supplied by you. Their words are your words.
This year, you will be asked to vote not just on the American embargo. You will be asked to vote on Cuba’s political prisoners. You will be asked to vote on Cuba’s lack of freedom of expression. You will be asked to vote on Cuba’s oppression of workers.
This year, you have the opportunity to do something that will send an unmistakable message to the people of Cuba that the world is not ignoring their suffering.
For decades, the United Nations General Assembly has failed to demonstrate leadership in advocating for a better life for the Cuban people. Today, it can show leadership.
I call on this assembly to vote to affirm the human rights and freedoms of the Cuban people that you extend to so many other countries. I call on Member States to vote “yes” on each and every amendment proposed by the United States.
Vote today to show the world that the United Nations General Assembly stands for human rights and human dignity.
To the people of Cuba, I once again say to you, the United States will continue to stand with you, regardless of what others do. We will stand with you until the day comes that we stand together as a free people in our shared neighborhood.
Remarks Before a Vote in the UN General Assembly on the Application of the Two-Thirds Majority Requirement
Thank you, Madam President. A simple majority is required for the adoption of the U.S. proposed amendments. Cuba’s resolution and our amendments don’t rise to the standard required for a two-thirds majority.
They are solely about economic, human rights, and social issues. I would refer the membership to a decision of this Assembly on June 22 of this year, where the Assembly decided that a resolution on Moldova would be subject to a simple majority of those present and voting.
If that resolution on Russia’s military forces in Moldova was subject to a simple majority, then surely this one, with the related amendments on economic, human rights, and social issues, is also subject to a simple majority.
I urge all Member States to vote against a decision that a two thirds majority is required.
Remarks After the Vote on Cuba in the UN General Assembly
Thank you, Madam President. I’m always taken aback when I hear applause in this chamber in moments like this, because there are no winners here today. There are only losers.
The United Nations has lost. It has rejected the opportunity to speak on behalf of human rights. The UN Charter commits every country here to the promotion of peace, security, and human rights. And that Charter was betrayed today.
Once again, we were reminded why so many people believe that faith in the United Nations is often misplaced. The countries that profess to believe in human rights have lost, too. They have earned a justified measure of doubt that they will act to defend their beliefs.
And most of all, the Cuban people have lost. They’ve been left, once again, to the brutal whims of the Castro dictatorship. They have been abandoned by the United Nations and by most of the world’s governments.
But the Cuban people are not alone today. The United States of America stands with them. The people of Cuba are our neighbors and our friends, and they are fellow children of God. The American people will stand with them until they are restored the rights that God has given us all. Rights that no government can legitimately deny its people.
While today’s votes were not admirable, they were highly illuminating. And that light contributes to the cause of truth, which is the essential basis of freedom and human rights.