Vima Foods, Spanish Emporium which Sells Low-Quality Items for High-Quality Prices

Vima’s products are prominently displayed on all the retail websites where customers overseas can make purchases for delivery in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, December 14, 2023 — The wedding last weekend in Havana of Víctor Moro Morros-Sarda and Alexandra Lacorne made the news in Spain’s gossip columns for having brought together several figures who frequently make appearances on their pages. Among the 400 guests were Tamara Falcó, Marchioness of Griñón, daughter of Isabel Preysler and sister of Enrique Iglesias; and her cousin, Álvaro Falcó, Marquis of Cubas. They were accompanied by their respective spouses, Íñigo Onieva and Isabelle Junot, the daughter of Philippe Junot, former husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco.

Only readers of Hola! and similar magazines would be interested in such an event were it not for two things: the luxurious wedding, which lasted several days, took place at a time when Cuba is going through one of its worst crises of the last quarter of a century, and the groom is the son of Víctor Moro Suárez, founder of Vima Foods, a brand of imported products which have been omnipresent in Cuban hard-currency stores for decades.

The company is described by Vanitatis as “an international food group” and by El Debate as “a multi-national distributor of food products with offices in Havana, New York, Coruña and other locations.” For the island’s residents Vima Foods is synonymous with low-quality at high prices.

I can only imagine that Vilma’s ham croquettes must be the worst in Spain because there’s nothing in them. They’re just flavored flour

“They seem like a scam to me,” says Mariam, a Havana native who has not bought any of the company’s products for two years after falling ill from eating a can of Vima tuna which she bought at a hard-currency store. “They are third or fourth-class products sold for high-class prices.”

Mayonnaise, mustard, tomato paste and other sauces, a wide variety of canned goods, cured meats, frozen foods (vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and shellfish, and even bread) pre-cooked foods, cheeses of various sizes, jams, syrups, powdered milk, yogurts, olives, cooking oils, legumes and grains are just some of the many Vima items for sale on the Island, all of them imported.

These products are prominently displayed on all the retail websites where overseas customers can make purchases for delivery in Cuba.

One of their most popular items is their croquettes. But Mariam has nothing good to say about them either: “I can only imagine they must be the worst in Spain because their ham croquettes have nothing in them. They’re just flavored flour.”

When people in other countries were asked how they perceived the brand, Carlos — who emigrated from Cuba two years ago — said, “I don’t know anyone in Spain who buys it. Fortunately, I myself have never seen it in a supermarket because I remember it was the worst.”

Vima World describes itself as a “family-run company founded in 1994” and a group “whose origens began in Galicia’s fishery sector.” On the same website it claims it operates not only in Spain but in forty other countries as well, and that it also has offices in Panama, the Domincan Republic, Mexico, the United States, China and Cuba.

Its founder has never hidden his ties to the island. Victor Moro Suarez (son of Victor Moro Rodriguez, who died in 2021) was a politician during Spain’s transition to democracy. He also headed a frozen food conglomerate. He spent more than twenty-five years in this country, where he served as president of the Association of Spanish Businessmen in Cuba.

What is murkier are the origins and expansion of his multimillion-dollar business. The so-called Panama Papers, a series of leaked documents obtained from the database of the Mossack Fonseca law firm by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in 2016, revealed that Vima World was on the list of companies which had been registered in tax havens.

“I found a work niche in the Caribbean, starting in Cuba, and that circumstance led me to form this group of companies.” The ICIJ search engine indicates it was founded in January 1994 in the British Virgin Islands. However, Moro Suarez himself acknowledged in an interview with the local Galician press almost two decades ago that his empire started in Cuba. When asked by the journalist how he ended up with one hundred and sixty employees serving twenty million meals around the world, the businessman responds, “I found a work niche in the Caribbean, starting from Cuba, and that circumstance led me to form this group of companies.”

An article in La Voz de Galicia (The Voice of Galicia) four years earlier confirmed, “Vima was created in Havana in 1994 to take advantage of the opening of the Cuban market to tourist investment and became the main supplier to hotels and restaurants.” It reporthed that, in 2002, Vima World, “a distributor based in Vigo and 100% owned by Galicia’s Moro family” was the sector leader in Cuba, with control of 15% of food distribution and 25% of supplies to hotels. It is said to have earned 25 million euros in 2001.

How was a foreigner able to launch and then head a business in Cuba in the mid-1990s and achieve these results in just seven years? It is one of Vima’s unknowns. It is especially striking given that its appearance on the island happened to coincide with the Special Period — after the fall of the Soviet Union and the loss of its subsidies to Cuba — a time of  dollarization and despair.

Also puzzling is how a firm like Vima World S.L., which has been around for almost thirty years, did not show up on the National Registry of Foreign Commercial Ventures until this past October.

The fact that official news outlets such as Cubadebate have reported that its Havana office is in the  Berroa neighborhood — also home to the mysterious Diplomarket — traditionally under the control of Gaesa, the all-powerful business consortium run by the Cuban armed forces, only reinforces the the idea that it is well connected with officials in the highest echelons of power. The author of that article noted that, according to his sources, Moro Suarez has been seen seated alongside figures such as Fidel Castro and Cuban singer/songwriter Pablo Milanés.

The media outlets that reported on the Moro-Lacorne wedding mentioned none of this. They focused instead on other details such as the most recent photo of Moro-Suarez next to his wife, Mariquita Morros-Sarda, in the traditional Spanish mantilla worn by maids of honor.

The usual syrupy, superfluous prose was all about dresses and extravagant waste. Staying at the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, one of the most expensive in the city, the guests enjoyed a “pre-wedding” party at the Tropicana cabaret, reserved solely for them for the occasion. They moved around in glittering vintage cars and attended a ceremony held in the Havana cathedral itself. Many of the guests, like the influencer Belén Barnechea, shared relaxed images of the streets of the capital, day and night, with shots that in no way illustrated the true and calamitous state of the city. A lavish Havana of glossy paper under the canopy of Vima Foods.


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