Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 20th 2014 Contents The new Cuban ambassador to
T&T, Guillermo Vazquez
Moreno, wants to see a greater
partnership in business and
economic areas between the
"In July this year, there will be a Cuban
delegation visiting T&T for the Trade and
Investment Convention (TIC). Then around
October and November, there is a trade fair
in Cuba where a delegation from T&T will
"A few weeks ago, I met with T&T Man-
ufacturers' Association (TTMA) and we spoke
about making more contacts with Cuban
companies," he told the Business Guardian
two weeks ago at his home in Westmoorings.
He speaks English with a heavy accent, but
boasts he is also fluent in Russian.
Vasquez, who came to T&T straight from
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cuba, pre-
sented his letter of credence to the Minister
of Foreign Affairs in January and will be posted
in T&T for four years.
Vazquez said a trade delegation of about
six or seven persons from Cuba will be coming
to TIC 2014.
"Right now we are having different meetings
on this to see what new economic and busi-
ness areas can be exploited. For example, there
is biotechnology, which Cuba is well known
for. Cuba has developed new vaccines and
expertise in this area and this is just one area
that T&T companies can look at.
"In T&T there are high levels of diabetes
and related diseases and we have developed
many vaccines and medical technologies to
deal with such cases," he said.
Cuban economic growth
The Cuban economy grew by 2.7 per cent
in 2013, below the expected 3.6 per cent.
In December, Cuban vice president Adel
Yzquierdo said the slowdown in growth was
influenced by non-compliance in planned hard
currency revenues, which forced a major
adjustment of the plan and perspectives for
2014 in October. There was also lower growth
rates in manufacturing and construction.
Vasquez said the Cuban economy does not
only depend on tourism.
"Right now we are exploiting wind power
and solar energy power as alternatives to tra-
ditional fuels. Oil and gas will not be around
forever and it is important that countries like
us work together on new industries like this,"
He said although the economy is being
transformed by access to foreign companies,
state-subsidised health and education remain.
Vasquez said there are 155 doctors and nurses
This comes at a time when there is a short-
age of qualified doctors and an estimated
3,000 nurses in T&T.
Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Kamla Per-
sad-Bissessar made a call for more nurses
from Caricom to come to T&T to work to fill
"These medical practitioners specialise in
different areas. At this time, there is a dele-
gation from the Ministry of Health preparing
to go to Cuba. From speaking to different peo-
ple here, I have received a good opinion on
the Cuban doctors and how they have prac-
tised. It is possible that this year there will be
an increase of Cuban medical staff because
of the new School of Nursing in San Fernan-
Vazquez, who has met with Health Minister
Dr Fuad Khan, reported that Khan is pleased
with the work of Cubans in T&T's health sec-
"It is in the interest of both countries to
develop this co-operation. We must incorporate
more health professionals in T&T. I met the
Minister of Health, who made positive com-
ments about the work of the Cuban collab-
orators who have worked with dedication and
Vazquez said T&T and Caricom has sup-
ported Cuba every year in its bid to have the
United States embargo lifted.
"The Prime Minister of T&T has made her
position very clear on this issue. The problem
is very year the United States maintains the
blockade," he said.
He said diplomatic relations between the
two countries have existed for decades.
"Cuba and T&T have good relations and
friendly relations and because Cuba is a
Caribbean country the culture is similar. The
most important thing is Cuba is grateful to
T&T for its support against the US blockade.
Relations between both countries is 43 years
He said the present US President Barack
Obama, like his predecessors have done for
the last half century, has maintained the block-
"He has not lifted the blockade and I have
no idea when that will be done."
Vasquez gave the example of PriceSmart in
T&T, which, he said, did not provide any serv-
ices to him in February on the grounds that
it could not do business with the Cuban
PriceSmart, based in San Diego, California,
is a membership shopping club with one mil-
lion cardholders at 32 owned and operated
warehouse clubs in 12 countries and one US
"In T&T, PriceSmart did not give me service
because I am the Cuban ambassador. They
terminated the services with Cuban delegations
in Barbados, El Salvador and Panama. The
problem is PriceSmart's head office is Cali-
"I presented my ID to PriceSmart in
Trinidad. The salesman apologised and said
he has instructions from the United States
that he could not sell me. I was surprised as
this is in Trinidad and not the United States."
A March 4 article from the Cuban news
Web site, CU DEBATE, which operates out of
the International Press Centre in Cuba, said
as part of the extra-territorial aspect of the
US blockade of Cuba, the PriceSmart chain,
as a US company, withdrew the membership
of the Cuban diplomats in El Salvador.
Prensa Latina, the official state new agency
of Cuba, referred to a letter from the general
manager of the supermarket chain, Ricardo
Osorio, to the Cuban ambassador there, Iliana
Fonseca, which announced the suspension of
access to their services.
"PriceSmart El Salvador is a subsidiary of
a US company and being so, the US govern-
ment prohibits our parent company, and there-
fore us in El Salvador, from doing business
and sales with citizens of Cuba who do not
permanently reside in the country," the letter
Fonseca told Prensa Latina this is "irrefutable
proof" of the strengthening of the economic,
commercial and financial blockade against
Vazquez also spoke about the The Com-
munity of Latin America and the Caribbean
(CELAC) meeting in January which was
attended by Prime Persad-Bissessar.
He said it is important the region holds
such summits to confront challenges in eco-
nomic, social and other spheres.
"Brazil inaugurated a new port in Cuba
during the CELAC meeting. We have relations
with Venezuela, T&T and all the other coun-
tries in the region, and it is important we
work together to confront the issues in our
He said the fifth Caricom and Cuba Summit
will be held in Cuba in December where T&T
and the other Caribbean countries can focus
on building co-operation.
"We all have differences, but we must fight
for the common good of our countries, fighting
poverty and developing the social sectors,
such as health, education and culture," Vasquez
MARCH 2014 • WEEK THREE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG7
Cuba and T&T
and solar energy
GUILLERMO VAZQUEZ MORENO
PHOTO: MARYANNE AUGUSTE
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