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Julie Webb-Pullman: Our Man from Havana

Our Man from Havana

Story & Images By Julie Webb-Pullman

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José Luis Robaina Garcia, whose last posting was as Minister Counsellor in the Cuban Embassy in the People's Republic of China, presented his credentials to the Governor-General, Hon. Anand Satyanand, at Government House last Thursday.

His Excellency's arrival could not be more timely, given last week's Norwegian apology for the dodgy meningococcal vaccine being administered to our young – Cuba is a world leader in this area.

His Excellency told SCOOP that Cuba is looking forward to collaborating with New Zealand in biotechnology and other areas, so let's hope the meningococcal vaccine is top of the list.

"On the basis of friendship, co-operation and development, and with the utmost respect for New Zealand authority, we would like to contribute to development wherever and in whatever way we can," he said. He noted that there have never been any conflicts, difficulties or problems between New Zealand and Cuba, and that they have very good communication and can discuss anything, including human rights.

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"Little by little, step by step, we can continue building friendship and co-operation in every way possible. The Cuban Government has a lot of respect for New Zealand, for the people and the Government," he said. "New Zealanders are hardworking, educated and very caring compared to many other countries, where people can fall in the street and be left as if they are only a leaf."

H.E. Robaina Garcia said that it is not just his Government, but the Cuban people also have a high opinion of New Zealanders - more than a thousand kiwis travel to Cuba each year, and are considered to be the best foreign visitors to his country, being well-behaved, clean, and knowledgeable.

The independence of our Government and foreign policy are also a plus, and together with the generally friendly environment, make for many opportunities for business between the two countries. "We already have many commercial exchanges, on our side coffee, honey, cigars, and information science, but there are many other areas for important collaboration, such as biotechnology and medicines," he said, mentioning potential collaboration on developing solutions to skin problems for diabetics as one example.

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Wider South Pacific co-operation is also on the agenda, with Cuba already providing medical attention in Papua and Nauru, for instance, and other accords and collaborations are imminent. Maybe we could do a milk-for-medicine deal – doesn't have quite the clout of the Chavez oil-for-doctors, but hey, our ailing health system could do with some of that world-renowned Cuban health-care.

All work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but there is no danger of a dull José - it is not just our voracious appetite for Cuban salsa and music that has him opening the first Cuban Embassy in our country – he also intends to share Cuban art with us, in addition to some 40 subtitled films he brought with him!

Once this show gets on the road Cuba may lose a few tourists – why leave town when you can see his country right here – especially when, as he appreciatively pointed out, we already live in one of most beautiful cities in the world!! Salud, Senor Robaina Garcia - y Bienvenidos!


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