Margarita Alarcon : 50 Years of Cuban Embargo is Enough
'Four Riders' and the Cuban embargo: Fifty
years should be enough
By Margarita Alacon
The Rag Blog
November 6, 2010
In 1992, a little over 19 years ago during one typical
hot summer season in New York City as the calm was
smothering midtown and Murray Hill and the lethargic
heat made it almost impossible to lift even an Italian
Ice, four guys jokingly referred to as the Four Riders
of the Apocalypse conceived of a work plan to fill up
those slow muggy afternoons.
(The "Four Riders" were my father, the ambassador, and
the three men below him in order of rank, while they
were all at the UN during Cuba's tenure in the Security
Council as a non-permanent member, 1990-1992.)
There really wasn't much to do in those days; the first
Gulf War was "over," the sanctions were in place,
Saddam Hussein was still president, and the Iraqi
people were suffering the after-effects of war and
would do so till this very day; the Israeli Palestinian
conflict was still going to be an issue one way or
another; Puerto Rico was not going to be an independent
island (at least not yet); North Korea and Iran had not
yet made a peep over nukes.
Life was pretty slow in the UN. Well, for most, it was
There were those who called them crazy -- almost
harebrained -- given the extreme circumstances and what
they were up against. To others it was remarkable how
this particular topic had never been put forth.
Finally by the end of the summer, right as autumn was
turning the Central Park leaves from green to the
bright hues of auburn and yellow, they presented their
plan to the largest world audience around, the United
Nations. So it was that Resolution 59/11 of the United
Nations General Assembly was adopted during the fall of
the year 1992.
The way UN resolutions work is pretty simple. A nation
-- or a group of nations -- get together and present a
draft resolution which is then voted upon by the entire
body of the General Assembly in order to become a topic
of each year's GA agenda. If it receives enough votes,
it continues on the agenda.
Not very complicated, pretty straight forward, really
not rocket science. As far as the rules and the
regulations of the UN charter are concerned, member
states have rights and responsibilities. One of the
responsibilities is to adhere to the democratic voting
process of the organization, its Charter, and its
Security Council -- whichever the case may be.
The United States of America is a founding member of
both the General Assembly and the Security Council and
has used both privileges on many occasions.
For almost two decades now, in what appeared to be a
slow rise at first and has now become unwavering, the
General Assembly has been voting in favor of resolution
59/11. Each year, gaining votes in favor, and losing
abstentions with the same two nations voting against.
This year, the vote on resolution 59/11 on October 26th
was once again described by the media as "an
overwhelming majority" in favor of the resolution. Of
the 192 member states that make up the entire body of
the United Nations, 187 voted in favor of the
resolution, Two -- Israel and the United States --
voted against it. And here is the punch line for
geography buffs: the Marshall Islands, Palau, and
Micronesia decided to abstain.
Resolution 59/11 is entitled "Necessity of ending the
economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by
the United States of America against Cuba." This is
basically a fancier and nicer way of stating the
following: put an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
This is a legislated issue within the United States and
thus does not fall automatically in the hands of the
president. It isn't President Obama's embargo.
Technically it belongs to Congress. Under law the only
way the U.S. embargo against Cuba can be lifted is if
two-thirds of the United States Congress (both houses)
vote to do so. This has been a given since President
William Clinton signed the Helms Burton Bill into law
in 1996 serving at the pleasure of the Cuban American
National Foundation and a few legislators.
It's not President Barack Obama's Embargo; it belongs
to Congress and to the voters in the United States.
The irony is that Cuba is a Third World nation which
has never had -- and has never expressed -- any intent
of harming the people of the United State. Though
unable to acquire practically anything on the open
world market, this island has managed to achieve a 78-
year life expectancy rate and an infant mortality rate
at birth that would be the envy of any First World
This is even more interesting if you take into account
that the embargo has been around as long as the Cuban
Revolution, so the "punishment" was not inflicted
because of anything Cuba did or did not do to the
United States or anyone else, but rather as a response
to its sheer existence: radical social change 90 miles
off the coasts of Florida.
So, I must ask the readers of The Rag Blog to urge the
current President to advise his Congress (and yours) to
lift this unjust, insane, ludicrous, and
internationally condemned policy that is leading
Those Four Riders of the Apocalypse didn't spend their
summer months writing in vain. Don't let this president
become the eleventh administrative head responsible for
yet another year of unjust punishment of Cuba -- for
its simple desire for independence and sovereignty,
something the forefathers of your own great nation also
achieved through that "evil" word: revolution.
[Margarita Alarcon Perea was born in Havana, Cuba, and
raised in New York City. She studied at Karl Marx Stadt
in East Germany and Havana, and is a graduate of Havana
University in linguistics. She has taught English
translation and North American Twentieth Century
Literature, and worked in the Cuban music industry. She
is currently a news analyst for Cubadebate in Havana
and contributes to The Huffington Post. Margarita's
father is Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban
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