Three days ago, on November 13, the United Nations  voted to condemn the United States’ unilateral embargo against Cuba  by a whopping 188-3 vote. Only tiny Palau  (which abstained in the 2011 vote) and Israel  (which actually trades with Cuba) sided with the United States, while tiny Micronesia  and the Marshall Islands  abstained.
So, the U.S. gorilla took a thumping yet again in the annual non-binding resolution that has been held since 1992 and which delivers a unanimous verdict of international condemnation against the embargo that Uncle Sam enacted more than 50 years during the Eisenhower  administration, before President Obama  was born.
Why such a lop-sided vote? Well, not least, the rest of the world considers the U.S. embargo as contrary to the principles of the UN Charter  and a violation of international law.
Most importantly, other countries resent that the embargo—one of the most restrictive that the U.S. government imposes against any nation—includes punitive clauses against other nations that do trade with Cuba, which means pretty much the rest of the world.
As the Center for Democracy in the Americas ’ Cuba Central Newslast  noted: ”Our sanctions exert pressure on countries that trade with Cuba, foreign companies that do business in Cuba, the international financial system, and humanitarian agencies to try and stop the flow of money, commerce, aid, technology, spare parts, and the like to Cuba. In doing so, we are trying to run the foreign policies of every state in the world community and they resent it. That's the point of the U.N. vote; they get to say so.”
So, Uncle Sam pisses off the rest of the world with this five-decades-old anachronistic and bullying policy. To what gain?
Writing for the United States Army War College , Commander Carlos Iglesias last month published a Strategy Research paper —“United States Security Policy Implications of a Post-Fidel Cuba”—which concludes that "...decades-long sanctions against the island have netted few if any national objectives, all the while depleting substantial national soft power. The cost-benefit analysis to U.S. national foreign policy [of maintaining the embargo] will remain exceedingly unfavorable, if not outright counter-productive."
As the Cuba Blast newsletter added succinctly: “U.S. policy is cruel to Cubans. It imposes arbitrary limits on our freedom to travel. It hurts U.S. industries that could do business on the island. It thwarts direct U.S. engagement with Cuba's government on security and environmental issues. And, it's failed to achieve what the Cold Warriors who designed it intended; namely, to replace Cuba's political and economic system with parts designed in Washington and installed in Havana.”
Regarding the freedom to travel, as I’ve outlined before on this blog, the embargo includes—under the Trading With the Enemy Act  from 1917—provisions that prohibit U.S. citizens spending money in Cuba, or in pursuit of travel to Cuba. This in itself constitute a violation of the constitutional right of U.S. citizens to unrestricted travel, as endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court .
In his first term, President Obama expanded the rights of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba through creation of the People-to-People  license category, while lifting all restrictions on travel for Cuban-Americans with family in Cuba.
Now that the president has been reelected to a second term, and with an unprecedented victory winning a majority of the Cuban-American vote in Florida , he’s free to use his executive authority to not only expand the right to travel to Cuba but to also begin dismantling the broader sanctions (U.S. Congress  has the sole authority to actually end the embargo entirely).
It’s hard to imagine any other political move that would earn as much international applause while also serving our national interest.
Well, perhaps even more international kudos would be earned, and out national interests more fully served, if Congress acted to overturn the Helms-Burton Law , enacted in 1996 and which codified the embargo (formerly an executive order) in law and, by trying to punish foreign entities trading with Cuba, stuck Uncle Sam’s middle finger in the eye of the rest of the world.
Now help end the U.S. travel ban  to Cuba.
For complete information on Cuba, including how to travel there, buy my Moon Handbook Cuba —the most comprehensive, information-packed, traveler-friendly, and unbiased guidebook in print.
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana .
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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