Dominican Republic time zone UTC-04:00
Capital City Santo Domingo
Currency Dominican peso
National Day Feb 27
The Dominican Republic’s new Ambassador His Excellency Elnio M. Durán tells me that in his previous life he’s “been in the banana business. And cow farms too!” Prior to this diplomatic appointment, Mr Durán was Vice-President of Grupo Banamiel SAS, the largest company in the Dominican Republic dedicated to the export of bananas to Europe and the United States. As well as a role as Banana Advisor to the Executive Branch of the government, he also served as the President of the Association of Dominican Banana Producers (2014-16).
The Ambassador was also President at Projects Don Gabin, an agricultural and livestock production company, as well as President at Durafil SRL a company dedicated to the distribution of agrochemical products. In honour of his service, he was awarded the Medal Honour of Merit from the Association of Landowners and Farmers Inc in 2017.
Mr Durán arrived in London in March this year, presenting his Credentials at Buckingham Palace on 12 May. He has been to London several times in the past for business. “The UK is the biggest banana market for the Dominican Republic. But this time is different now I’m living here. But crucially, I already knew that London was a beautiful and important city.”
Recalling his days as a student, Mr Durán says that after completing his undergraduate studies in Agricultural Engineering at the Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, Santiago, he worked for five years in the cotton industry. Then came one of the best days of his career, when he was accepted to study for a Master’s in Etymology in the US (at Texas A&M University). Having grown up in a poor family, this was a sign that things could really change for him.
From there, his career began to take off. In 1993 he also served as national Marketing Manager for Swiss multinational, CIBA GAYGE. From 1993 to 1997 he was Operation Manager of Plantaciones del Norte, Grupo SID where he developed and introduced new technologies in the production of bananas for export, as well as market studies for Europe and the Unites States. In addition, he has vast experience and knowledge on water management programmes, overseeing the introduction of the Pressurised Irrigation System. These technologically advanced systems have had a great impact on ferti-irrigation.
So, this is the first time Mr Durán has worked in diplomacy. “I was selected by my President to come to London.” He continues: “As an agricultural engineer by trade, I have had no experience as a diplomat until now, but I have a lot of experience in business and 35 years in the private sector. Today, diplomacy focuses more on business and trade, so my experience will be valuable.”
Per his government’s instructions, the Ambassador’s priorities will focus on three different areas. “Firstly, the Embassy will be looking for companies to invest in the Dominican Republic, especially in green energy. We also must increase the numbers of tourists between the UK and the Dominican Republic. Finally, we must protect the people from the Dominican Republic living in the UK and promote our culture.”
How has the COVID-19 crisis affected his work in the UK so far and his government’s work back home? “The Dominican Republic is doing well,” he states. “About 60 per cent of the population have had two vaccination doses, and 70 per cent have had one dose. So, we are proud of that.”
The Ambassador has been hoping to receive a delegation of up to 26 guests including his President for COP26. “We are waiting to hear what will happen. It will be impossible for our VIP guests to quarantine for 10 days. It will be very difficult if my country remains on the Red List.” Keen for the Dominican Republic to have a presence at the summit, he continues: “In my country, we don’t produce much CO2, because we don’t have much industry. But we do have a severe dry season, which can make things quite difficult. We have to get some funding to make climate adaptions a reality.”
A major diplomatic challenge he faces during his appointment will be to relaunch the Dominican Republic’s tourism sector in the UK. “People do not have time for quarantining, so tourism has been affected very badly. To make matters worse, we don’t even have a direct flight between the Dominican Republic to the UK right now. So we must relaunch our tourism in the UK, which is an important destination market for us.”
In his downtime, the Ambassador loves “to watch movies, especially political thrillers with actors like Robert De Niro, and Al Pacino, and Anthony Hopkins.”