Former Executive member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Glen Noel left the island on Thursday for Havana to begin his tour of duty as the island’s resident Ambassador to Cuba.
Noel is the first diplomat to take up duties officially for the new regime in St George’s following the change of government eight months ago when Congress defeated the New National Party (NNP) administration of long-standing Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY before flying out of the island, the senior NDC member said that he is looking at making changes to the shopping list that Grenada has had with the Cubans over the years.
“…It will be different,” he said, adding that, “We have to focus more on the Transformational Agenda and our priorities especially as it relates to the productive sector.”
Ambassador Noel noted that most of the Grenadian doctors and other persons who go into medicine did return home and after some years of service to government did move towards private practice and became millionaires.
“You can’t help one sector and they ain’t coming back and do nothing for the economy in any serious way – not even providing a little free medical clinic for the ordinary people to say well we got our education free,” he said.
According to Ambassador Noel, it is not his intention to decline any further assistance or offer from the Cubans in the medical field but he would concentrate instead on research in agriculture, tourism and engineering in particular.
“We have to explore new possibilities,” he remarked.
The new Grenada Ambassador to Cuba felt that Grenada also needed to look at deepening the cultural ties and exchanges with the Spanish-speaking sole communist island in the western hemisphere.
“…We could benefit from Cuban dance groups and musicians coming down…,” he said.
“You know how nice it might be to introduce the same cricket to Cuba especially the T-20 and T-10 that is entertaining and quick and things like that and to have Grenadian dancers, calypsonians among others going up in the cultural field and things like that,” he added.
The new Grenada envoy stated that the island can also look at benefiting from Cuba in the area of craft and felt that there are lots of areas to explore.
In the area of trade, Ambassador Noel pointed out that while Grenada cannot export in bulk any one commodity to Havana, it needed to look at “niche things that we have that they don’t have over there as it relates to our spices and things like that.”
“So I will explore that – rum, spices, any other product that we could send up there,” he told THE NEW TODAY.
Ambassador Noel also spoke of looking at ways in which he could make life much easier for those Grenadians who are currently studying in Cuba.
“The idea of sending up some barrels and a container whether it is once or twice a year with foodstuff and toiletries and all the basic things that they need certainly will make life a little bit easy for them,” he said.
The Grenada envoy also spoke of having an interest in meeting with the representatives of the other foreign embassies stationed in Cuba to strengthen the ties with the Congress administration in St George’s.
Ambassador Noel said that Cuba has almost 100 foreign embassies including some from important countries in Latin America like Chile, Brazil, Colombia and all those places “offer possibilities” for Grenada.
During the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution, the left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of executed Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was considered to be Cuba’s closest ally in the English-speaking Caribbean.
However, the October 25, 1983 U.S-led military operation to oust from power the bloody military coup that took over from Bishop saw the Governor General the late Sir Paul Scoon expelled all Cuban and communist diplomats from the island.
Havana broke off ties with Grenada and only recognised the island in the 1990-95 rule of Congress under the late Sir Nicholas Brathwaite as part of a brokered deal to become a member of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).
Former Congress leader Tillman Thomas who was then serving as Minister of Tourism became the first government representative to visit Cuba following the resumption of diplomatic relations.
It was later followed by former Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell of the New National Party (NNP) becoming the first Grenadian leader to travel to Havana to meet with the Cubans.