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Cuba Hails 'Knockout' U.N. Anti-Embargo Vote

SANTIAGO, Cuba - Jubilant Cuban officials on Wednesday hailed the United Nations' 10th consecutive vote to condemn the four-decade-old U.S. trade embargo on the Caribbean island as a crucial victory over its political archenemy.
Cuba Hails 'Knockout' U.N. Anti-Embargo Vote
by Andrew Cawthorne

SANTIAGO, Cuba - Jubilant Cuban officials on Wednesday hailed the United Nations' 10th consecutive vote to condemn the four-decade-old U.S. trade embargo on the Caribbean island as a crucial victory over its political archenemy.
``Everyone agrees that yesterday's vote was a knockout blow,'' Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told Cuban state TV from New York.

``It's a triumph that belongs especially to our people and to our commander-in-chief,'' he said, referring to Fidel Castro.

In its annual vote on the issue, the U.N. General Assembly voted Tuesday 167 to 3 -- identical to last year's record vote -- for an end to the trade sanctions imposed soon after Castro's 1959 revolution.

Israel and the Marshall Islands voted with Washington, and three nations abstained -- Latvia, Micronesia and Nicaragua.

Havana was particularly pleased at maintaining the level of international condemnation of the U.S. sanctions despite the increased international solidarity for its northern neighbor since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

``It's a vote similar to last year but in a totally different context when the world has been told that every country must decide if it is with the United States or against it,'' Perez also told the state's nightly ``Round Table'' show.

``It's very significant that in this atmosphere there has been such a totally majority support for Cuba's position,'' he added.

During the program, a platform for the Castro government's views, commentators scoffed at Israel and the Marshall Islands as subservient to U.S. interests.

'RESOUNDING VICTORY'

Cuba's two daily newspapers -- Granma, and Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), of the Communist Youth movement -- both declared the vote a ''resounding victory'' in front page headlines.

``The United Nations again placed the U.S. blockade under deserved censure,'' wrote Granma. Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), lampooned the United States in a cartoon of Uncle Sam grabbing Israel and the Marshall Islands.

The U.N. vote came a week after the first sale of U.S. goods to Cuba in four decades. In a deal expedited by Washington for humanitarian reasons, Havana bought $20 million in food from U.S. firms to replace stocks used after Hurricane Michelle, which caused widespread destruction on Nov. 4.

Both Cuban and U.S. officials have said the transactions did not represent a breakthrough in political relations or an end to the embargo, but some analysts see them as the start of a process of chipping away at the sanctions.

Senior Cuban officials and state commentators were blistering in their condemnation Wednesday of the embargo, which Havana says has cost the island of 11 million inhabitants $70 billion or 15 years of lost development.

Health Minister Carlos Dotres said the embargo had deprived Cubans of vital medicines, and he also revived Havana's accusations that Washington has carried out a ``chemical war'' against the island alongside the embargo.

``There is a bacteriological war aimed at plants, at harvests, at animals and at people, like the dengue epidemic in 1981,'' he said, referring to an outbreak of the disease that killed 158 Cubans and made more than 350,000 ill.
 
 

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