The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, with the speeches by the U.S. ambassador and Cuba’s Foreign Minister reflecting what little has changed despite an expected shift under the Obama administration.

The nonbinding resolution has become an annual ritual for 18 years, with the tally this time of 187 in support, three opposed and two abstaining. The vote underlines the utter lack of support for the 50-year-old American attempt to isolate Cuba. (Israel and Palau joined the United States, while the Marshall Islands and Micronesia abstained.)

Policies intact

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla noted that while President Barack Obama has taken steps to ease strained relations, many Bush-era policies remain intact, including barring the export of medical equipment and pursuing fines against companies who do business with Havana.

The United States has lifted some restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting relatives or sending money, and opened the path for food and telecommunications companies to trade. But in September Mr. Obama extended the trade embargo for another year

“The economic blockade has not met, nor will it meet, its purpose of bending the patriotic determination of the Cuban people,” said Mr. Rodriguez. “But it generates shortages,” he added. “It is, no doubt, the fundamental obstacle that hinders the economic development of our country.” Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said the resolution ignored the oppression that she called the real cause of the suffering of Cubans.

Analysts noted that Mr. Obama has not gone nearly as far as some of his Democratic predecessors in changing the restrictions on Cuba.

Under President Bill Clinton there were extensive academic and artistic exchanges, while President Jimmy Carter lifted the travel ban entirely. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

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