On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke before the U.N. General Assembly prior to a vote on Cuba. The U.N. was set to vote, as it has every year for nearly three decades, to condemn the United States for its embargo on Cuba.
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.
Haley then noted that in 2017, the United States was joined by "just one nation" in rejecting the annual U.N. resolution. That nation was Israel, which Haley described as "very good company."
The United States doesn’t have an issue "standing alone on behalf of the things that we believe in," Haley stated. "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.
Haley added that over the last 27 years, Cuba hasn’t changed for "the better." While those who support the resolution seem to believe that a new approach from the United States will help Cuban citizens, "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."
The ambassador then spoke of all the nations that have "expressed concern for the realization in Cuba of the goals of prosperity, human rights, and human dignity," and who have condemned Iran for similar abuses. Yet when it comes to Cuba, these nations retreat.
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. 81 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. 81 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.
Haley spoke of amendments that were to be added to the resolution based on the concerns expressed by U.N. members:
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.
In an effort to "show the world that the United Nations General Assembly stands for human rights and human dignity," Haley asked that members nations vote "yes" on all of the amendments. None of the amendments passed.
She concluded with a message to the Cuban people:
...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.
Following the vote, in which only the United States and Israel stood against the resolution, Haley stated: "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."
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.
Haley concluded with another word to the Cuban people:
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.
Haley’s response to the vote can be seen at the 51:05 mark on the video below:
Nikki Haley will leave her position as Ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year.