A series of mysterious sonic attacks on US diplomatic personnel (and more than a few spies) working at Washington’s Havana embassy have provided ample justification for the White House to reverse the US-Cuba detente negotiated by the Obama administration. And in a gesture that - though it has no implications for policy - is considered symbolically important, the State Department said Thursday the US will defend America’s decades-old economic embargo on Cuba by voting against a UN resolution condemning it, the Associated Press reported.
The news comes after at least 24 embassy personnel were targeted by mysterious sonic attacks in Cuba, inspiring the administration last month to withdraw most of its employees from the island nation. While the US hasn’t determined the source of the attacks, the administration kicked out most of the diplomats at Cuba’s embassy in Washington and has accused the Cuban government of not doing enough to keep US citizens safe - though Cuban leader Raul Castro has vehemently condemned the attacks.
Every year, the UN votes on a resolution condemning the embargo, and for years the US has predictably voted "no." But last year, the US abstained for the first time, as Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved forward with the historic warming of relations between the former Cold War foes.
A "no" vote from U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Wednesday will mark a return to formal support for the embargo, which Obama had unsuccessfully urged Congress to end. Although the Obama administration eased travel and commerce restrictions on Cuba and reauthorized direct commercial flights between the countries, the formal embargo remains in place.
Back in June, Trump said he was going to “cancel” Obama’s detente with Cuba, but - aside from kicking out the diplomats and suspending visa processing - his anti-Cuba rhetoric has mostly been posturing.
"The Trump administration policy gives greater emphasis to advancing human rights and democracy in Cuba, while maintaining engagement that advances U.S. interests," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding and unenforceable. But the annual exercise has given Cuba a global stage to push back against the hated embargo.
To be sure, the half-century-old US commercial, economic and financial embargo on Cuba is extremely unpopular with other governments, the AP said. Typically, the annual vote to condemn it has received overwhelming support. Voting "no" means the US will once again be pitted against almost every other nation.
In 2015, the last year that the US voted "no," close ally Israel was the only country to join in opposition, leading to a 191-2 vote to condemn the embargo - the highest number of votes ever for the measure.
The United States lost its only other ally in the vote, Palau, in 2013, when the Pacific island nation abstained rather than joining the US in voting "no."
In late 2014, Obama and Castro announced plans to restore relations, and the following year embassies were re-opened in Washington and Havana. Ties had been cut in 1961 after the communists, led by Fidel Castro, seized power.