SANTIAGO DE CHILE_ Alicia Bárcena, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) executive secretary, is a straight-talking woman, and when she outlines the regional panorama, attention is inevitably drawn to Cuban related issues.

Alicia Bárcena, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) executive secretary, is a straight-talking woman, and when she outlines the regional panorama, attention is inevitably drawn to Cuban related issues.During a recent brief review here of the Latin American and Caribbean situation, she said that Cuba has taken very interesting steps in order to drive its economic development, but the U.S Blockade has undoubtedly been a tremendous obstacle.

The Mexican diplomat, who assumed the leading ECLAC role in 2008 said that against the backdrop of a global economic slowdown, he has found a glimmer of hope within some countries with responsible fiscal conduct, like Cuba.

In response to a question asked by The Havana Reporter on the significance of the progress, she replied that “the Blockade still represents a very significant obstacle”.

She outlined in her analysis that “the truth is that Blockade means greater financial costs”.

Bárcena explained that ECLAC approximated in a report compiled for the U.N. General Assembly that by 2014, the Blockade had cost Cuba 117 billion dollars. She described these as being very severe losses for a relatively small country.

ECLAC’s highest official acknowledged the easing of some travel restrictions, but said that this was essentially a very complex issue.

Alicia Bárcena, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) executive secretary, is a straight-talking woman, and when she outlines the regional panorama, attention is inevitably drawn to Cuban related issues.Expressing a view that “with the new Mariel port in operation, we remain confident that there will be much more activity in 11 key sectors set to attract foreign investment, such as agri-food, bio-chemical, renewable energies and construction”, and she too said that internal Cuban economic and legal transformations were certain to bear fruit.

In addition, she referred to forecasts for an economic growth rate of 4% this year, a dynamic that has surpassed initial expectations.

This is in the context of an average expansion rate of 0.5% for Latin American and Caribbean nations.

With the slowdown being indeed a generalized phenomenon in the region, the ECLAC organization forecast heterogeneous expansion between sub-regions and countries, with South America contracting by a projected 0.4%, Central America and Mexico growing by 2.8% and the Caribbean by 1.7%.

Panama is in pole position in the regional stakes with a high 6%, followed by Antigua and Barbados with 5.4% and Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, both with rates of 4,8%.

Bárcena applauded Cuban Government efforts to stimulate economic growth and welcomed the figure of 4%, which ranks amongst the region’s best for 2015.

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