Cuba blocks Swedish alcohol demands

Swedish attempts to get the international community to adopt a tough strategy to curb alcohol abuse have been blocked by Cuba at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

The Swedes wanted the WHO to develop a global action plan to reduce alcohol abuse. The proposal would have required unanimity at the meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.

“We tried to compromise with the countries that protested. We made changes and removed certain phrases. But Cuba wouldn’t move an inch. They always came up with new objections,” said Karin Nilsson-Kelly, an official at the Swedish Social Department, to Svenska Dagbladet.

Cuba and other Caribbean countries are concerned that further restrictions on alcohol will hit production of rum, which is Cuba’s fifth most important source of income.

Oscar Léon González, an official at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, told Svenska Dagbladet that the Swedish proposal would lead to just another piece of United Nations paper to which nobody would pay any attention. He added that the alcohol problem was mainly a problem for developed countries. Poorer countries had bigger health issues to think about, he said.

“Many people can’t understand why Sweden is pushing the alcohol question so hard when people are dying of Aids, tuberculosis and malaria in their countries,” he said.