The U.S. had considered taking a less emphatic stance on the resolution in light of the new opening of diplomatic relations between the two countries. U.S. officials said they decided to cast a "no" ballot because the text did not fully reflect the spirit of the recent opening between the two former enemies.
Only Israel joined the U.S. in opposing the resolution, with 191 voting for it.
The resolution, introduced by Cuba, demanded an end to the embargo -- which it refers to as "blockade." The resolution also calls on all U.N. members to refrain from interfering in other countries' internal affairs as well as the freedom of international trade and navigation.
U.S. delegate Ronald Godard told the U.N. that "we find it unfortunate that despite our bilateral progress, Cuba introduced a resolution nearly identical to those in years past."
The resolution is not enforceable, but the yearly exercise has become a symbolic ritual framing the embargo as illegitimate and demonstrating Washington's isolation on the issue. Last year, the vote count was 188-2, with Israel once again the only country to stand by the U.S.
After opposing the resolution for 23 years, U.S. officials had sought compromise amendments to this year's text -- the first since the historic shift in U.S. policy toward the island nation -- that would allow the Obama administration to abstain.
Such a move would have been unprecedented, pitting the administration and the international community against Republicans in Congress who have refused to scrap the embargo. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to repeal it since he announced in December that Washington and Cuba would restore diplomatic ties. In the meantime, he has eased restrictions on travel and trade to Cuba. In August, the two countries re-opened embassies.
A unanimous resolution could have put further pressure on Congress to scrap the embargo. But U.S. officials said efforts to discuss revisions with the Cubans and others fell flat and that the final text did not represent the renewed engagement between the two countries, though the Cuban government did acknowledge Obama's overtures in renewing the relationship.
The statement read out by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla concerning the vote also struck a harsh tone.
"The blockade is a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of all Cubans; it is contrary to International Law; it has been described as a crime of genocide," the statement declared.
A large standing ovation followed the vote in the hall.