Cuban Ambassador on a mission of celebration and cooperation
Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
His Excellency Héctor Conde Almeida, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Thailand and Myanmar, began his term officially in April 2017 and has since become a familiar figure in the Bangkok diplomatic community. His CV clearly shows his excellent professional qualifications, with personal qualities to match. Mr Almeida comes across as a man with a deep knowledge of world affairs who is also very easy to get on with. The charm was on full display at the reception to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution held on January 29, 2018. The annual reception has become one of the most anticipated events on the diplomatic calendar.
The Cuban Embassy may not be as imposing as the sprawling diplomatic compounds on Wireless Road, but it has a personal touch that makes it no less impressive. Large photos of former President Fidel Castro, his brother and former President Raúl Castro and current President Miguel Díaz-Canel adorn the walls. Colorful brochures in Spanish and English are available to visitors.
The Ambassador’s residence is nearby, situated in a quiet neighborhood off Sukhumvit Road. Some of the photos on these pages were taken there. The ambassador’s wife, Thelma Alina Picans Esnard, who also works at the embassy, prepared breakfast for everyone.
“My first visit to Thailand in July 2012 was to attend two multilateral meetings of the UN Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer), at the UNESCAP building in Bangkok.
“I came back to Thailand on February 21, 2017, this second time with my wife and my daughter, as Cuba’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand and non-resident Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. We are all very happy with the assignment. May 15, 2018, marked 60 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Cuba, and the celebration of this historic landmark adds to our profound feelings of joy and pride to be in this friendly and beautiful country.
“Our two nations enjoy a long history of friendly ties and fruitful bilateral cooperation. The bonds are happily expanding today in the fields of public health, education, science, tourism, culture and sports. Both Thailand and Cuba are great advocates of multilateralism and inter-regional cooperation, and actively promote South-South cooperation and development actions within the framework of the Latin America-East Asia Cooperation Forum (FEALAC).
“This similarity of views and common interests has led to mutual support and collaboration at various multilateral forums, for example the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries (NAM) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
“Similar outlooks have also led our countries to place science, technology and innovation at the center of sustainable development strategies. Joint efforts in biotechnological, medical and pharmaceutical applications represent an important contribution to public well-being in both nations and have led to advances in the treatment of cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases.
“We are reinforcing efforts to strengthen our bilateral partnership through enhanced interaction between the peoples of both countries. We are also reaching out to the Thai people to better inform them of opportunities and exciting possibilities coming for Cuba in the context of updating the Caribbean archipelago’s economic and social development model.
“In 2018 Cuba welcomed over 4.75 million visitors from all over the world, and there was a significant increase in Thai visitors. Cuba is known for its natural beauty and proud history. In 2019, Cubans celebrate 500 years since the founding of Havana. For anyone who may be thinking of visiting Cuba, this would be a great time to do so. At the age of half a millennium, our capital city is famous for its youthful vibrancy, as well as for its hospitality and historical treasures.”
“Prior to 1959, half of the Cuban population was illiterate or semiliterate and the infant mortality rate was more than 40 deaths per 1,000 live births. Now, thanks to universal and free education and health care, Cuba has reached almost 100% literacy and the infant mortality rate has dropped to around four deaths per 1,000 live births, lower than many developed countries. Life expectancy has risen from 58 years in 1959 to 78.45 years for men and 80.45 years for women today. In 2019, 51% of the state budget in Cuba is dedicated to education, social assistance and health-care services. Cuba has some of the world’s best medical schools, as recognized by the UN.
“Gender inequality was eradicated by the Cuban Revolution. Women’s rights are flourishing in Cuba. In Cuba’s National Assembly, 53.22% of MPs are women – the second highest number in the world, and 48.4% of members of the State Council are women. Women represent 60.5% of all graduates of institutes of higher education in Cuba.
“The US economic blockade against Cuba constitutes the main obstacle for the development of the Cuban economy to its true potential. It holds back and jeopardizes the implementation of the country’s National Plan for Economic and Social Development and the national implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It is the principal hurdle for the development of Cuba’s economic, commercial and financial relations with the world.
“Up until March 2018, the accumulated damage for Cuba from implementation of the blockade is estimated at $933,678,000,000 American dollars. This is taking into account the depreciation of the dollar as compared to the price of gold on the international market.
“The economic blockade policy against our small-island developing nation in the Caribbean has intensified since 2017 and continues to be enforced with rigor. After signs of a better bilateral relationship under President Obama, the current US administration imposed a serious setback to bilateral relations with its “Presidential Memorandum for National Security on the Tightening of US Policy against Cuba”, issued on June 16, 2017.
“With the stated intention of tightening of the blockade against Cuba, the memorandum’s provisions restrict even further the right of US citizens to travel to Cuba and impose additional obstacles on the limited opportunities for trade and transactions.
“The strengthening of the extra-territorial application of the blockade is another distinct manifestation of this tightening policy, as there is renewed pressure on third countries. This has marked effects on Cuba’s international financial and loan relations. The permanent persecution of Cuban financial transactions and international banking and lending operations with Cuba has intensified on a global scale.
“In March 2019, the US administration further strengthened its economic blockade against Cuba through the gradual activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. This Act was conceived to codify and tighten the economic blockade with the purpose of subverting and overthrowing the Cuban government and imposing a regime to the liking of the US government.
“Since its entry into force in 1996, the Helms-Burton Act has sought to universalize the economic blockade through brutal and illegal pressures exerted by the United States against third countries, their governments and companies. Title III had been suspended by subsequent US administrations due to universal rejection, but it is being gradually re-activated by the current administration.
“There have been 27 UN resolutions overwhelmingly adopted by UN General Assembly to put an end, without any conditions, to this illegal practice.
“Despite the very harsh effects of the 60-year-old US economic blockade, Cuba has continuously striven to defend and build a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation. Nothing will bend the Cuban people from that effort.”
- Born: May 1, 1963, in Havana, Cuba.
- Language proficiency: Spanish, English, Russian.
- Marital status: Married with one daughter.
- 1982-1987: Graduate degree “Master of Arts in International Law”, awarded by the State University “S. M. Kirov”, Bakú, Azerbaijan.
- 1991-1993: Certificate from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Received a fellowship to train on the administration and implementation of IAEA scientific programs and protocols.
- 1995-1996: Master degree in European Union Law at Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain.
- 1998: Diploma on Environmental Management, awarded by the Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, Germany.
- 2004: Diploma on Environmental Management, awarded by the Global Environmental Centre (GEC) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
- 2012: Ninth University of Eastern Finland ‒ UNEP course on multilateral environmental agreements, Grenada.
Professional work history:
- 1987-1995: International Cooperation Officer at the Cuban Executive Secretariat for Nuclear Affairs.
- 1995-2005: International Cooperation Officer for international scientific and technical co-operation at the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA).
- 2005-2006: Deputy Director of the International Co-operation Department at the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA).
- December 2006-December 2011: First Secretary, Head of the Science, Technology and Environment Office at the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in the People’s Republic of China.
- January 2012-August 2016: Deputy Director, Department of International Relations, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA), Republic of Cuba.
- February 2017 to present: Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
Summary of work experience:
He has been in charge of the work with UN Multilateral Agreements pertaining to the environmental, biological and chemical fields, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy; including their negotiation and implementation procedures.
His main duties in the multilateral field have included the following activities:
- Analysis and provision of legal and political advice on International Organizations, with emphasis on forums such as UNEP, GEF (and its Implementing Agencies), IAEA, CSD, WTO (Trade and Environment), UNITAR, AOSIS and international NGOs as IUCN and WWF.
- Following-up the work of key international environmental Conventions such as UNFCCC, CBD, UNCCD, Montreal Protocol, Ramsar Convention, Basel Convention.
- Programming, negotiation, management, implementation and evaluation of national/regional environmental projects in different fields of activity.
- Participated in the intergovernmental negotiations for the elaboration of the following international instruments: Draft Protocol on Liability and Compensation to the Basel Convention; Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity; and the Non-Aligned Movement Co-operation Plan on Science and Technology in the area of Biodiversity.
- Acted as Vice-President of the 8th Session of the Conference of the Parties of Ramsar Convention (Ramsar CoP8), held in Valencia, Spain, November 18-26, 2002.
- Acted as national liaison officer for the Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNCCD CoP6), held in Havana, August-September 2003.
- In 2005 served as member of the group of experts on Liability and redress to the CBD.
- Served as member of the Cuban delegation to the Pan American Meeting on Strengthening Implementation of International Instruments for Enhanced Nuclear and Radiological Security and the IAEA Regional Seminar for the Caribbean on Safeguards, Quito, Ecuador, April 3-6, 2006.
- 2006 and 2007: Served as representative member of AOSIS in the Compliance Committee of the Kyoto Protocol, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- Participated in the “Rio+20” preparatory process.
- Served as Head of the Cuban delegation to the 11th and 12th meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar), Bucharest, Romania, July 6-13, 2012 and Punta del Este, Uruguay, June 2-9, 2015 respectively. Elected at COP 11 as a member of the Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention.
- 2012-2015: Standing Committee member of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Attended the 46th, 47th, 48th, 49th and 50th meetings as member representing the Caribbean sub-region.
- In 2012 served as member of the Executive Committee of the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol.
- Served as Head of the Cuban delegation in the 32nd Meeting of the Open- ended Working Group of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, Bangkok, Thailand, July 23- 27, 2012.
- Acted as Head of the Cuban delegation at the 11th and 12th Meetings of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (COP 11 and 12) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Hyderabad, India, October 8-19, 2012 and Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, October 6-17, 2014 respectively.
- Attended as member of the Cuban delegation the Sixth Meeting and acted as Head of the Cuban delegation at the Seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (COP/MOP 6 and 7) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Hyderabad, India, October 1-5, 2012 and Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, September 29- October 3, 2014 respectively. Elected at COP/MOP 6 as member of the Compliance Committee to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
2013-2016: Compliance Committee member, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Attended the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th meetings as member representing GRULAC (Caribbean subregion).
- Served as Head of the Cuban delegation at the Eleventh Session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the UNCCD (CRIC 11), Bonn, Germany, April 15-19, 2013.
- Acted as Head of the Cuban delegation at the Fifth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Review of Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (WGRI 5), June 16-20, 2014, Montreal, Canada.
- Attended the Eleventh part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 2.11) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Bonn, Germany from October 19-23, 2015.
- Acted as Head of the Cuban delegation at the Ninth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions (WG8J 9), November 4-7, 2015, Montreal, Canada.
- Acted as Head of the Cuban delegation at the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth meetings of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 18, 19 and 20) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, June 23-28, 2014; November 2-5, 2014 and April 25-30, 2016 respectively.
- Acted as Head of the Cuban delegation at the First meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Implementation of the Convention, May 2-6, 2016, Montreal, Canada.
- Attended as member of the Cuban delegation the Second Meeting of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA2), May 23-27, 2016, Nairobi, Kenya.
- Acted as Head of the Cuban delegation at the Tenth Meeting of the Open- ended Working Group of Basel Convention (OEWG 10), May 30-June 2, 2016, Nairobi, Kenya.