The United Nations on Tuesday began debate over a resolution declaring the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.
The debate is broadcast live on the web on UN Channel 3.The UN General Assembly has long held that the embargo harms the health, education and economic well-being of Cubans.
Some trade groups, including some agricultural interests, have called for an end to the boycott but many in the U.S. government remain unconvinced that Cuba has earned its way into the world community.
“Cuba is a source country for adults and some children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; prostitution of children reportedly occurs in Cuba as prostitution is not criminalized for anyone above 16 years old,” the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency reported last month. “The scope of trafficking within Cuba is particularly difficult to gauge due to the closed nature of the government and sparse non-governmental or independent reporting.
“Cuba does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, the CIA report continued.”The government did not publicize information about government measures to address human trafficking through prosecution, protection, or prevention efforts during the reporting period (2011).”
Cuba and UN officials counter that the embargo harms children.
“The Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology’s pediatric oncology unit has been unable to use expandable prostheses to replace bone segments in cancer surgery; consequently, it has been unable to provide conservative or functional treatment to children and adolescents with bone cancer since these prostheses are sold by United States companies,” the Cuban government said in a statement for today’s debate.
“The same is true of the most recent generation of orally administered antibiotics for infants,” Cuba continued. “Some substitutes have been acquired, but they are incomplete and late; this makes it impossible to provide full treatment in a timely manner.”
UNICEF reported the embargo’s impact is that “medication, equipment and other items are scarce” for treating children with cancer and the boycott results in an “increase in freight costs and prices, as well as fewer options for the procurement of medications, reagents, spare parts for medical equipment, instrument sets and other supplies.”
Most longtime U.S. allies are diplomatically holding their tongues, but Australia said it “has consistently supported General Assembly resolutions calling for an end to the trade embargo against Cuba. Australia has no trade or economic legislation or measures which restricts or discourages trade or investment to or from Cuba.”
(Michael McGuire is a former honorary national vice president of the World Federalist Association and a former member of the board of directors of its San Francisco chapter. Join him on Twitter.)