Opinion / Chen Weihua

Loneliest day for the only superpower

By Chen Weihua (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-31 07:57

Loneliest day for the only superpowerThere has been at least one day in each of the past 23 years when the United States has been the most isolated country in the world. Those were the days when the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn its decades-long economic embargo on Cuba.

On Tuesday, the UN General Assembly again voted overwhelmingly, for the 23rd time, condemning US policies and actions vis-à-vis Cuba. In the 193-nation assembly, 188 countries voted for the resolution. The two countries that voted against were the same as in previous years, the US and Israel. Pacific island nations Palau, Marshall Islands and Micronesia abstained.

It was a day when the US truly found itself losing the moral high ground that it has so skillfully claimed even when committing colossal blunders. Most US allies, from Europe to Asia, have long chosen to oppose it on the Cuba issue. Most Latin American countries have vociferously protested against the US policy of excluding Cuba from regional meetings. Many US foreign policy experts, too, have chided their country's Cuba policy as becoming increasingly ridiculous. Their hope that US President Barack Obama would change the Cuba policy has turned into frustration.

The majority of Americans are not on the side of their government either. A poll by the Atlantic Council in February showed that 56 percent of Americans, including those in the politically critical state of Florida, favor a more direct US engagement with Cuba or even normalization of relations. This shows that the US policy toward Cuba is against the bidding of not just the Cuban people and the international community, but also its own citizens.

Having visited Cuba three times, I have seen how the country has been gradually reforming its economy by allowing more private businesses, setting up a special economic zone and attracting international tourists. While describing Cuba's colorful culture, architecture and people to Americans, I have sometimes seen jealousy in their eyes. As American citizens, they don't have the freedom to travel to Cuba. Americans caught trying to visit Cuba could end up spending 10 years in jail and paying $250,000 in fine.

In fact, when I visited Key West in Florida last week, I hoped to see Cuba from the shores of the US. For Americans, the distance of 94 miles (151 kilometer) is like the opposite ends of the planet.

Before my trips to the Caribbean nation, I was warned not to bring back anything, especially rum and cigars, from Cuba to the US. So while mojito is wildly popular in restaurants and bars across the US, the American government seems scared that its citizens, once they taste the real Cuban cocktail, will put greater pressure on it to change its Cuba policy, a leftover from the Cold War.

The Cold War may have ended more than two decades ago, but American politicians still live by it. For example, with no evidence whatsoever, the US State Department still has Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. That Cuba played a major role in facilitating the Colombian peace talks with the military organization FARC is something the US officials are blind and deaf to.

At the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Cuba was saluted for its exemplary role in assisting West African nations to fight the deadly Ebola virus. The day was certainly the loneliest for the US, but no mainstream US media outlet was interested in reporting the country's embarrassment at the General Assembly.

Many observers say Obama is likely to become a lame-duck president during his remaining two years, especially with the upcoming midterm election looking to go in favor of Republicans. If Obama wants to prove his critics wrong, he should bring more changes to Americas by becoming the US president who ends the more than half century blockade of Cuba.

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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