Several Latin American presidents used the bully pulpit of this week’s United Nations General Assembly to call for the United States to end the trade embargo on Cuba.
“Resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States of America is a clear-cut token that there is no such a thing as endless animosity or insurmountable impasse,” Brazilian President Michel Temer said while addressing the General Assembly.
Members of the United Nations General Assembly have largely opposed the embargo for years. But this year’s push comes as more countries have increased pressure on the United States to update its Cuba policies in light of warming ties between the two nations and President Barack Obama’s own desire to end the embargo.
Change is so overdue, President of Uruguay Tabare Vazquez said, that the General Assembly should no longer be discussing the “unfairly” imposed embargo.
If the Colombian government can reach a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia after 50 years of bloody conflict, the United States and Cuba should be able to resolve their differences enough to lift the embargo, said Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The presidents of Panama and Argentina also brought up Cuba during their addresses to the General Assembly and, without mentioning the embargo, appealed for the countries to take greater steps toward normalized relations.
Last month, Mexico and Panama joined seven other Latin American governments who called for ending the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans who reach American soil to remain in the United States, even if they arrived without legal documentation.
Those who signed, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru, were caught up in the drama of record-breaking Cuban migration in the past fiscal year. More than 46,500 Cubans were admitted to the United States without visas during the first 10 months of the 2016 fiscal year, according to the Pew Research Center. That figure compares with more than 43,000 in 2015 and just over 24,000 in 2014.
Some migrants fear the special treatment provided to Cubans will soon end now that Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro have taken steps to normalize relations.
For the 25th year, Cuba has called for the United Nations to issue a resolution against the “blockade” as the Cuba refers to the embargo. The United Nations has passed a similar resolution 24 times.
“There's no Cuban family that doesn't suffer the effects of the blockade,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said at a press conference this month calling for the resolution. “...The application of the blockade is the principal cause of our economic problems, the principal obstacle to our development.”