U.S. abstains from U.N. vote on Cuba sanctions

Oct 27, 2016, 1:53 AM EDT
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power
(Source: United States Mission Geneva/flickr)

For the first time in last 24 years, the U.S. abstained from voting against an annual U.N. resolution, urging Washington to lift its economic embargo on Cuba. The historic move, which U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said signaled a policy shift from “isolation to engagement,” comes as the two nations cozy up diplomatically over the recent months.

Following the vote that passed overwhelmingly with the backing of 191 countries, Power explained that despite abstention, the U.S. continues to be skeptical about some of the Cuban government’s policies, including human rights violations, writes the BBC.

Abstention from vote reflects that President Barack Obama considers the Cuba policy to be “outdated and counterproductive.” Power’s decision sparked prompt response from Republican politicians, with Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeting that sanctions on Cuba were “the law of the United States, which should always be defended and upheld.”

In an effort to end decades of hostility and to normalize U.S.-Cuba ties, Obama has eased trade and travel restrictions on Cuba while pushing Havana to carry out political and economic reforms over the last two years, notes Reuters. The complete embargo on Cuba can only be lifted after U.S. Congress approves the move.