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Tim Cole

Former British Ambassador to Cuba

Part of UK in Cuba

6th January 2014 Havana, Cuba

Seven wishes for 2014

A new year brings the opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months and look forward to the future. It’s a time to make resolutions and plan for the coming year. Here are my seven wishes for Cuba in 2014.

1. More measures are introduced that unleash creativity, innovation and entrepreneurism.  Cubans are great people, amongst the most hospitable and friendly people you can meet anywhere in the world. They are also creative and innovative – look at all the new businesses that have sprung up in the private sector over the last few years. These businesses, and the entrepreneurism, that lies behind them are largely driving the growth in the Cuban economy and providing jobs and income for lots of people. In any country that is important.

2. Cuba delivers on the commitments it has made on human rights which I covered in an earlier blog. These commitments include improving access to the internet. Cuba continues to lag behind other countries in the provision of internet to its people; the fact that you can’t get internet on your phone here amazes visitors as you can in almost every other country in the world. And here only a minority of people can acces the internet in their homes. The internet is, in my view, absolutely crucial for any country that wants to develop. It puts people in touch with each other, creates markets and helps create wealth. If a cooperative in Artemisa wants to sell onions to a hotel in Varadero, the internet is the best way to connect them. Many other countries, including in Africa where I previously worked and which are much poorer than Cuba, have realised the development benefits of the internet and are surging ahead.

3. Britons coming to Cuba continue to have happy, safe, fun-filled holidays. About 150,000 of my compatriots come to Cuba every year for their holidays. Most, if not all, have a great time – certainly my family and friends who have visited have done – and the Embassy has relatively few consular problems to deal with. But when we do, we rely on speedy and efficient information and support from a range of Cuban authorities to help us resolve them. My thanks to them all for all their help in the last few years; long may it continue!

4. No hurricanes, flooding or other natural disaster. No disease. We were lucky in 2013 to have a very quiet hurricane season. However, there was serious flooding in Pinar del Rio in June and dengue and cholera in different parts of the country during the year. Wouldn’t it be great if in 2014 Cubans didn’t have to worry about any of these?

Buena Fe
Buena Fe

5. I get to see Buena Fe live. Regular readers of this blog/my tweets will know how much I like Buena Fe. If you haven’t yet heard their music check them out on YouTube (the album ‘Buen Viaje’ is a great introduction). I don’t know why I haven’t yet seen them play live; I always seem to be in the wrong town or doing something else when they’re playing. That’s going to change in 2014.

6. Isla de Juventud win the baseball. I like to see an underdog win and would love it if IJV, one of Cuba’s smaller and less prosperous provinces, win this season’s baseball championship. They’re through to the second phase along with the big guns – Industriales, Matanzas, Villa Clara – and are looking strong. I don’t know if my support will help them – at the beginning of the season I picked Guantanamo and they finished last in the first phase! – but I’m rooting for them. Come on you Pirates!

Crowd with England flag
Crowd with England flag

7. England win the World Cup in Brazil and the English flag comes into fashion in Cuba. It was fantastic when I arrived in Cuba to see everyone wearing the British flag on their T-shirts, jeans or on their fingernails. The Olympics had just finished and our flag was all the rage. I still see a few people wearing it but not many. I suspect in the year of the football World Cup the Brazilian flag and national colours are about to take over but wouldn’t it be great if England win and the English flag, one of the three that makes up the Union flag, becomes cool in Cuba?

About Tim Cole

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat…

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat since 2001; before Cuba, I spent 5 years in London where I worked on Pan-African policy and global economic issues and 6 years in southern Africa as Deputy Head of Mission in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Most of my career has been in Africa as before joining the FCO I ran humanitarian aid programmes in Central Africa for the British NGOs Christian Aid and Save the Children. I’m married to Clare and we have 2 children – Jonathan and Zea.

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