Here’s yet another story which largely slipped through the cracks in the final days until the election. Every year the United Nations holds a symbolic vote on ending the Cuban embargo. The US has stood almost alone in this perennial song and dance for many years, voting in favor of keeping up the embargo and isolating the Castro regime because of their legendary human rights abuses. But yesterday, thanks to Barack Obama and UN Ambassador Samantha Power, that changed. The United States abstained. (CNN)
It’s been a fall ritual in New York for a quarter century. Holiday shopping, the city’s marathon, and the US voting against the rest of the world at the UN over Washington’s Cuba embargo.
On Wednesday, however, the US took the small but significant step of changing its vote to an abstention on the annual UN General Assembly resolution calling for an end to the US economic embargo of the island nation.
For 25 years, the US has been on the losing end of the lopsided, if legally non-binding, vote. Traditionally, only a handful of smaller nations side with the US. This time, the US and Israel alone abstained, while the 191 other UN member countries voted for the resolution.
Power was quick to note on social media that this wasn’t a full throated endorsement of the Castro brothers and that there were still significant issues with their record on human rights, but it represented a softening of the official American position on the subject. We were joined in this action only by Israel. Everyone else voted to lift the embargo entirely.
That’s not binding, obviously. The UN is just sending its usual message of tolerance toward socialism and a willingness to turn a blind eye toward human rights abuses. But Congress has yet to agree to fully lift the embargo, so we’re once again seeing the breakdown in message and communications between the White House and the People’s House. While any effort to disrupt the power of the communist party in Cuba and improve the lives of their citizens is better than nothing, there are virtually no signs that the recent rapprochement is moving the needle in terms of freedom and living conditions. Raul Castro has also put nothing on the table in terms of a willingness to engage in some give and take with us. That could be achieved easily by something as simple as extraditing some of the American criminals hiding out down there or stopping the arrest of political prisoners on the island. Neither of those things are happening.
So in the end, this vote in the UN meant essentially nothing. Barack Obama got to send a message, but until Congress is willing to listen we shouldn’t expect much more in terms of change. And before Congress offers an even larger carrot with no stick attached, Castro needs to be willing to bend a little. Good luck with that.