The United States on Wednesday will abstain for the first time from a U.N. resolution criticizing the U.S.’s economic embargo against Cuba, according to diplomats familiar with the matter. Such a step would effectively pit the Obama administration and Cuba with the world body against the Republican-led Congress, which supports the 55-year-old embargo despite the U.S. resumption of full diplomatic relations with Cuba.
The diplomats said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, will explain the decision shortly before the U.N. General Assembly vote. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the vote publicly.
A U.S. official said Power would point to elements of this year’s resolution that the U.S. does not back, despite its overall support for lifting the embargo, as the reason why the U.S. was abstaining instead of voting for the resolution outright.
The U.S. has always opposed the annual resolution condemning the embargo. But an abstention would be in keeping with the administration’s belief that the embargo should be lifted as part of normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding and unenforceable. But the 24-year-old exercise in which the U.N. overwhelmingly votes to condemn the embargo has given Cuba a global stage to demonstrate U.S.’s isolation on its Cuba policy.
The administration had considered abstaining from the vote last year, but concluded it could not do so because the resolution did not reflect what it considered to be the spirit of engagement between Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro.
The 2015 vote ended up 191-2 to condemn the commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba; it was the highest number of votes ever for the measure. Only Israel joined the United States in opposing the resolution.
Obama and Castro announced on Dec. 17, 2014, that they were restoring diplomatic ties, which were broken in 1961 after Fidel Castro took power and installed a communist government.
On July 20 last year, diplomatic relations were restored and embassies of the two countries were reopened, but serious issues remain, especially the U.S. call for human rights on the Caribbean island and claims for expropriated property.