PETER JAMES SPIELMANN
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to condemn the U.S. commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba for the 22nd year in a row.
The symbolic vote Tuesday was 188-2, with three abstentions. The United States and Israel voted against it. General Assembly resolutions are unenforceable.
The embargo was enacted in 1960 following Cuba's nationalization of properties belonging to U.S. citizens and corporations. Sanctions were strengthened to a near-total embargo in 1962.
Speaking before the General Assembly, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez railed against the embargo, saying "The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion."
"Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower," Rodriguez said. "The human damages caused by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba are incalculable."
"Seventy-six percent of Cubans have lived under its devastating effects since the day they are born," he added.
Ronald D. Godard, a senior U.S. adviser for Western Hemisphere affairs, defended the embargo as "one of the tools in our overall efforts to encourage respect for the civil and human rights" of Cubans.
He said that while the United States is encouraged by recent Cuban economic liberalization on real estate and allowing self-employment, it is too little to justify loosening sanctions.
"Cuba's resolution seeks to identify an external scapegoat, and excuse the Cuban government for the island's economic problems," he said.
At the U.S. State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said "We don't feel that this annual debate in the United Nations does anything to add to or advance a constructive discussion about these issues," she said. "And it also obscures the fact that the United States is a leading supplier of food and humanitarian aid and -- humanitarian relief to Cuba, and that's something we remain committed to."
The abstaining nations in the General Assembly were Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau, which last year voted against the resolution.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.