The ‘Cuban Costco’, in the Hands of a Regime Front Man

Diplomarket is heavily guarded: “Yes, that looks like a military unit.” (14ymedio)

The supermarket belongs to the company Las Américas TCC Corporation, based in Miami and whose vice president is Frank Cuspinera Medina.

By Juan Diego Rodríguez/Olea Gallardo (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – The opening of a wholesale supermarket in Havana under the name Diplomarket in December last year went unnoticed. Only an ad on Instagram for the company, dedicated until then only to online purchases and shipping, gave an account of the opening of the establishment, located at kilometer 8 ½ of the Carretera Monumental, in the neighborhood of Berroa, more than 6 miles east of the center of the capital.

A tweet last week from Patrick Oppmann, a CNN correspondent, put the focus of current affairs on commerce. “After years of having to look for the most basic products, it’s a bit surreal to see how a private entrepreneur has set up what is basically the first Costco in Cuba,” said the journalist on the network now called X, without specifying the name of the supermarket and assuring that Cubans can pay in pesos, dollars and euros, even with U.S. credit cards.

And yes, the images that accompanied his text verified the resemblance to the American wholesale firm: huge corridors with wholesale products placed as in a warehouse, the distinctive red color and, more revealing, the sale of Kirkland brand products, marketed exclusively by Costco.

In a visit to the store this Wednesday, 14ymedio verified that, in fact, the place is similar to the Costco franchise, which is in more than a dozen countries. It is also true that the Kirkland brand populates its shelves, but no more so than Goya, the largest food company of Hispanic origin in the United States, which just three years ago was involved in a controversy for defending the then-president, Donald Trump.

Photo: Patrick Oppmann (CNN)

For the rest, the differences between Diplomarket and Costco are obvious. In Costco, when buying wholesale, the products are cheaper. In Diplomarket, very few customers were seen with the large packages. Most preferred to buy the items separately, at stratospheric prices: a small bottle of Goya oil for 7 dollars, a small can of grated Goya coconut for 4 dollars, a bar of soap for 2 dollars (the complete package, 16 bars, $32), toothpaste for a little more. As for cheeses and sausages, prices exceeded 20 dollars, as for a large jar of mayonnaise. Tools and household items are also offered at an unattainable price given the country’s average salary.

Diplomarket does not require a membership card, as Costco does, and is supposed to be open to any customer, but the stratospheric prices and the remoteness of the location deter any ordinary Cuban. “It’s designed for cars, and you always see luxurious cars and the rich people who fill those huge cars,” says Mayca, a young woman from Central Havana who went once with a friend who has a private food business.

The establishment is also heavily guarded. At the first checkpoint, they take the data of the vehicles at the time of entry, and then there is another booth with guards before you enter the store. At the door, two individuals look everyone up and down. A large screen shows the movement of the security cameras, placed everywhere with warnings. “Yes, that looks like a military unit,” Mayca concedes.

Inside, a kind of “persecution” by the employees begins. You are not allowed to take photos or record videos, and the workers walk behind the customers watching every movement, disguising their zeal with kindness: “Can I help you with something?”

Mayca says that whenever she has gone she has felt very uncomfortable: “Not only because of the vigilance but because of the humiliation with which they treat you. “A lady almost had to return the merchandise because she didn’t bring dollars and thought that everything could be paid in Cuban pesos. At the last minute she was saved by her friend, who loaned her some American bills.”

Didn’t the U.S. correspondent say that you could pay in all currencies? Doesn’t it say that in the firm’s own ad on Instagram? The cashier laughed at our reporter’s question: “That’s over, people pay in cash in dollars.”

As for the ownership of the supermarket, neither does it have the same transparency as the capitalist brand that it intends to emulate. They do not indicate on the web or on the premises any clear information about what causes the most mistrust: who actually owns Diplomarket, a gigantic, well-stocked and clean store, guarded like a government enclave?

The firm is not on the list of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) approved by the Ministry of Economy and Planning. Moreover, according to its corporate website, Diplomarket belongs to an American company called Las Américas TCC Corporation, founded in 2011 and based in Florida.

The vice president of Las Americas is the Cuban, Frank Cuspinera Medina, who is domiciled in the United States. Two years ago, his name appeared as a “specialist” in a meeting between self-employed workers (TCP) and the National Association of Economists and Accountants of Cuba.

On that occasion, he told the Cuban News Agency that “this type of exchange allows the institutions to know first-hand the interests and needs of the TCPs” and that the official association was “an efficient way to raise the approaches presented at the meeting to the authorities in charge.”

Cuspinera Medina, whose current address is in El Vedado, Havana, also appears in a letter that several Cuban entrepreneurs sent in 2021 to U.S. President Joe Biden, asking him to lift sanctions against the Government of the Island,  which were harming their businesses. In the letter he does not appear as a member of Las Américas, but as part of Iderod Servicios Constructivos.

This last firm is also not on the regime’s MSME list, but a company of the same name is: Cuspinera SURL LVI, dedicated to “providing e-commerce platform services.” It is also a branch of Las Américas TCC.

The issue is not a minor one, given the U.S. embargo against Cuba. As U.S. Treasury officials said, following a meeting of Cuban businessmen in Miami a few weeks ago, several conditions must be met in order not to break the law. Entrepreneurs residing in Cuba, for example, cannot create companies in the U.S. to sell their products or buy goods directly from U.S. companies. Similarly, Cuban-Americans cannot establish businesses on the Island unless they achieve permanent residence in the country through repatriation.

It is not clear in which category Cuspinera Medina, which maintains a low profile on social networks, belongs. About Diplomarket, Mayca is blunt: “It is not private.”

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

2 thoughts on “The ‘Cuban Costco’, in the Hands of a Regime Front Man

  • This is fascinating.

    Here is Frank Cuspinera’s LinkedIn page:
    “Vice President” of “Las Americas TCC, LCC”, located in Pompano Beach, FL.
    “Import and Export, NVOCC and Freight Forwarder.”

    NVOCC is Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier:
    An ocean carrier who performs all of the services of a carrier, but who does not own their own vessel(s). They operate by leasing or buying available space in containers and using their own House Bill of Lading to contract with customers.

    We also find online that Frank Cuspinera is “owner” of:
    Las Americas Travel, Cargo and Courier, LLC,-Cargo-and-Courier,-LLC-305-226-7330

    “Las Americas Travel, Cargo and Courier is located in Miami, Florida. This organization primarily operates in the Warehouse Club Stores business / industry within the General Merchandise Stores sector. This organization has been operating for approximately 12 years. Las Americas Travel, Cargo and Courier is estimated to generate $326,741 in annual revenues, and employs approximately 4 people at this single location.”

    (I imagine the revenue generation must be radically off.)

    So this is the same company, the TCC stands for “Travel, Cargo, and Courier”.

    Clearly Frank is an American businessman —  two active Florida based LLCs “Las Americas Travel, Cargo and Courier” and “CUSPINERA SURL, LLC”, and with a residence in Pompano Beach, FL.

    Yet he also claims to be a *Cuban* Entrepreneur/Business Owner, for example as he signed in the letter to president Biden alongside Cuba-based Cuban business people, with his stated business being “Iderod. Servicios constructivos” (and not mentioning his Florida based LLCs).

    Here is the Facebook page for Iderod, Havana
    It seems Frank was actively pursuing the construction business in Havana 7 years ago.
    The website listed,, is no longer live (if it ever was).

    Iderod’s Facebook postings are largely a few ads for Diplomarket.

    Diplomarket (the retail store at Carretera Monumental) has a Facebook presence here as “Diplo Hoster”

    Maybe I don’t know enough about the US Embargo but I thought that mostly it was only food that was exempted. But Diplomarket also sells air conditioners, hand tools, gas powered generators, appliances like Instapots and other non-food products.

    This October 7, 2023 article:
    says that John Kavulich is about to be the first American “allowed” to (theoretically) invest in a Cuban business in sixty years — he says he is considering putting $25,000 into some undisclosed private Cuban business.

    But with Frank Cuspinera we seem to have an American not only “investing” in private Cuban business (or businesses) but *owning* a fully on brick and mortar “warehouse club” retail operation (as well as a construction company) , and not with an investment of a paltry $25,000 —  it looks like at least 100 times that. And, if the implications of this article are to be believed, with ties to the Cuban state. I have to wonder if he doesn’t also have very close ties to the American State.

    Frank Cuspinera, a resident of the USA (and citizen?) is in the “warehouse club stores” business in Miami and he also *owns* a brick and mortar warehouse club store in Havana, Cuba? And, if it’s true, maybe the only place on the island to take US issued credit cards?

    As the article implies, how is this possible under the embargo etc?

    This reminds me of Uber, or maybe even Napster, simply plowing forward in the face of laws and waiting to see where the pieces land.

    By the way, website prices for US and intl. brand grocery items seem to be from 15% to 60% higher than what one pays typically in the USA — sure it’s very high — but not *that* much different than what I’ve seen for similar “imports” at supermarkets in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, or other islands. 10 oz of Cafe Bustelo coffee is 60% higher than sold by the retailer Target in its US stores, a 50 pound bag of wheat flour is only 15% higher than the same brand bag from a US online (restaurant supply) retailer, a 33 oz jar of Nutella is 31% higher than it goes for in the US at Walmart.

    It’s my experience in the Caribbean and South America that “brand name” imported goods (e.g Nutella) are also sold at a premium, well above typical US retail prices — and for the most part the majority of locals of other Caribbean islands can not typically afford them either, though I realize in Cuba the disparity and difficulty in accessing even basic necessities is even more pronounced.

    Maybe Frank knows something and Biden is about to radically open the trade floodgates? Or Frank is about to get pounces on by the US Treasury? The US gov has to know what’s going on, with all the spooks, spies, export controls, information gathering and whatnot. Or no? I really have no idea, but I would think so!

  • I wonder if the government and those in the Cuban military know anything about this? Is it possible that they have their hand in it? But I only ever wonder about all of that, every time I wonder how pigs are able to fly. And everyone knows George Orwell’s opinion on that, from his 1945 novel Animal Farm: “all pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others.” So, come on. Is there really any mystery whatsoever about what’s actually happening here?

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