This decision to abstain instead of voting no on the UN resolution reflects President Obama's opposition to the embargo. This is part of his broader effort to normalize relations with Cuba.
Starting in 2014, Obama, using his executive authority as president, began relaxing some of the regulations involved in the embargo, includingallowing some "authorized travel" to Cuba by Americans, as well as "certain authorized commerce and financial transactions; and the flow of information to, from, and within Cuba." And last July, the US officially restored diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Those changes are having an immediate effect, particularly on corporate America, which has long been eager to return to what is seen a lucrative tourist market. Tourism and travel companies such as Airbnb, Carnival Cruise Line, JetBlue Airways, and Starwood Hotels have taken advantageof the relaxed restrictions to expand into Cuba, hoping to cash in on what they expect will eventually become a booming new tourist hot spot.
But this policy puts President Obama at direct odds with congressional Republicans, who overwhelmingly support the Cuba embargo. They also object to Obama using his executive authority to relax the embargo's restrictions, as they see this as Obama essentially abusing his executive power to get around Congress.