UN urges end to U.S. Cuba embargo for 20th year

UNITED NATIONS, (Reuters) – The U.N. General  Assembly called yesterday for the 20th straight year on the  United States to lift its trade embargo against Cuba, as the  communist-run island dismissed as fraudulent U.S. moves to ease  some restrictions.

As in past years, the vote in the annual ritual was  overwhelming, with 186 nations — including most of  Washington’s closest allies — supporting the resolution on the  embargo, a result virtually unchanged from last year.

Only Israel, heavily dependent on U.S. backing in the  Middle East, supported the United States in opposing the  non-binding resolution, while the tiny Pacific states of the  Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau abstained.

In January, President Barack Obama further loosened curbs  on U.S. travel and remittances to Cuba. He said last month he  was ready to change Cuba policy but was still waiting for  signals from Havana such as the release of political prisoners  and guarantees of basic human rights.

But Obama has not lifted the 49-year-old trade embargo and  analysts see no chance of him doing so as he faces a  re-election campaign next year. Many staunchly anti-communist  Cuban exiles live in the electorally key state of Florida.

Presenting the resolution, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno  Rodriguez said Washington had not relaxed its Cuba policy,  which he said had caused, over the years, $975 billion of  economic damage to his Caribbean nation.

“Despite the false image of flexibility that the current  U.S. administration intends to portray, the blockade and the  sanctions remain intact, they are fully implemented and their  extraterritorial character has been intensified in recent  years,” he said.

Obama’s stance “is the same worn-out, repetitive position  anchored in the past,” he added.

Rodriguez, whose speech was greeted with prolonged applause  by the assembly, also signaled there would be no concessions by  Havana. “What the U.S. government wants to see changed will not  change,” he declared.

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