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The United States again votes against the UN call to end the embargo on Cuba By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of the Cuban and US flags next to the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, December 15, 2020. REUTERS / Alexandre Meneghini / File photo

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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday continued Washington’s tradition of voting against an annual United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for an end to the U.S. economic embargo. against Cuba.

The resolution was adopted for the 29th time with 184 votes in favor, three abstentions and two votes against: the United States and Israel. The UN vote may carry political weight, but only the US Congress can lift the 50-plus-year embargo.

The United States consistently voted against UN resolutions for 24 years, but abstained for the first time in 2016 under former President Barack Obama as Washington and Havana forged a closer relationship.

Washington then again opposed the resolution under the administration of President Donald Trump. Trump also reversed nearly every step Obama had taken to ease the embargo and improve ties between the United States and its longtime Cold War enemy.

Biden vowed during his campaign to reverse some of Trump’s measures on Cuba that “have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and have done nothing to promote democracy and human rights.” But he has yet to deliver on that promise, and his administration has said that a change in policy toward Cuba is not among its top priorities.

US diplomat Rodney Hunter told the UN General Assembly before the vote that the sanctions were a toolkit in Washington’s broader effort toward Cuba to promote democracy, promote respect for human rights, and help the people. Cuban to exercise fundamental freedoms.

“Therefore, we oppose this resolution,” Hunter said. “We recognize the challenges facing the Cuban people. That is why the United States is an important provider of humanitarian goods for the Cuban people and one of Cuba’s main trading partners.”

Cuba said earlier this month that the decades-old US trade embargo cost it a record total of more than $ 9 billion over the last financial year, hurting its ability to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez told the General Assembly that the sanctions have made it difficult for Cuba to acquire the medical equipment necessary to develop its own COVID-19 vaccines and for other uses, as well as equipment for food production.

“Like the virus, the blockade suffocates and kills, it must stop,” Rodríguez told the General Assembly.

Wednesday’s vote was originally set for October last year, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The General Assembly adopted the resolution as Cuba battles a severe economic recession, marked by widespread shortages of basic goods and when COVID-19 cases hit a record 2,055 on Wednesday.

Critics of the government say the real and underlying problem is the inefficient state economy and market-style reforms that have not been radical enough.

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