United Nations Overwhelmingly Condemns Cuban Embargo

The United Nations overwhelmingly condemned the decades-long Cuban embargo in a mostly symbolic vote Tuesday, marking the first vote since the U.S. shift in policy toward Cuba.

Only the United States and Israel voted in favor of keeping the embargo.

Cuba, as it has for the last 23 years, introduced a resolution at the General Assembly criticizing the embargo and demanding its end.

The United States has lost each vote by increasingly overwhelming and embarrassing margins. Last year's tally was 188-2 in favor of Cuba with only Israel siding with the U.S.

This year, the first vote since the U.S. shift in policy toward Cuba, no countries chose to abstain from voting.

The Associated Press reported last month that the U.S. had considered abstaining from the annual vote this year, which could have cleared the way for the U.N. to condemn the embargo without a fight.

President Barack Obama has been urging Congress to scrap the 54-year-old embargo since December, when he announced that Washington and Havana would normalize diplomatic relations. The two countries re-opened embassies in August, and Obama has chipped away at U.S. restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba, using executive authorities. But the embargo stands.

General Assembly resolutions are unenforceable. But the annual exercise has given Cuba a stage to demonstrate America's isolation on the embargo, and it has underscored the sense internationally that the U.S. restrictions are illegitimate.

Obama supports lifting the embargo, but that decision is ultimately up to Congress.

The vote and the potential outcome were hot topics of discussion at Cafe Versailles in Little Havana early Tuesday morning. Some patrons told NBC 6 that lifting the embargo would only benefit the communist regime, making it even more powerful and of no benefit to the Cuban people.

Others say that the embargo has not worked, and that it is time for change.

"It's been a failure," Jacinto Portilla told NBC 6 as he opened the cafe. "So, why keep it in place?"

South Florida leaders said the UN was wrong in their vote.

"For the UN to once again side with the oppressors of the Cuban people saddens me, but I welcome to fact the U.S. stood side by side with the people of Cuba," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said.

Follow NBC 6's Marissa Bagg on Twitter for LIVE updates from the U.N.

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