[Marxism] Cuba Awaits Results Of Offshore Petroleum Drilling

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 16 14:14:03 MDT 2004


(While news of US-Cuban medication cooperation
bursts forth, Cuba's steps toward energy inde-
pendence continue making slow but hopeful progress. 

(Reports like this have been popping up in places 
like FINANCIAL TIMES, and the WALL STREET JOURNAL 
over the last several weeks. If Cuba succeeds in
this area, it would be without a doubt the most
powerful blow stuck for the island's independence
since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959. 

(You may recall that FINANCIAL TIMES quoted a Cuban
economist on the island as saying that if oil IS
successfully struck, two possibilities would then
be presented: the US would be forced to end the US
blockade, so US companies could participate in 
what we might call the "black gold" rush, or else
"the missiles might fly."

(Meanwhile, Washington maintains its efforts to
starve and strangle the island into submission
via escalated travel restrictions, remittance
cutbacks, anti-Cuban propaganda efforts such as
the "sex trafficking" speech Bush made today, and 
the increased US funding for opposition political
activists within the island.)
=================================================

Cuba Awaits Results Of Offshore Petroleum Drilling
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
July 15, 2004 1:07 p.m.

HAVANA (AP)--As a Spanish firm enters the last stage of
petroleum exploration off Cuba's coast, officials and
economists are growing increasingly hopeful of news that
could profoundly affect the communist country's struggling
economy.

"Supposing there is petroleum, it would be really good news
for the country," said Jorge Mattar, a specialist on the
Cuban economy for the U.N. Economic Commission on Latin
America and the Caribbean.

Battered by world oil prices and a foreign exchange
deficit, Cuba spends "a good percentage" on the purchase of
foreign petroleum, Mattar said.

Spanish petrochemicals company Repsol-YPF (REP) is
currently doing exploratory drilling about 18 miles north
of the island's coast in Cuban waters, spending $195,000 a
day to rent a Norwegian platform since early June.

The location was identified by studies after Repsol-YPF
contracted from the Cuban government in December 2000 an
area for oil exploration.

The firm has said the process would take about two months,
meaning news may be forthcoming in the coming weeks.

Oil specialists believe Cuba 's waters in the Gulf of
Mexico could contain large quantities of crude, just as
those of Mexico and the U.S. do. Earlier explorations,
however, turned up only modest discoveries.

Mattar said that short term, a significant petroleum
discovery would could result in easier international
financing for Cuba , under a U.S. trade and financial
embargo for more than four decades.

But it would be at least three or four years before such a
find would have a significant impact on the economy, said
Mattar, a Mexican economist in Cuba recently for the
release of a new U.N. report.

Eventually, said Mattar, a major find could "create more
freedom for in development policies."

While hopes are high, "as of now, it's all speculation,"
said Ramon Ripoll, Cuban vice minister for foreign
investment. "Besides, we'd have to wait several years to
see a real impact. Development in the next few years will
not be based upon what may be found there."

Cuba was almost wholly dependent on foreign oil imports and
imported most of its supply on extremely favorable terms
from the former Soviet Union.

But when the Soviet Bloc collapsed more than a decade ago,
Cuba began producing much of its own oil and gas.

Cuba currently produces 75,000 barrels daily, about half of
what it needs. It imports the rest, much of it on favorable
terms from political ally Venezuela.

The hopes for increased self-sufficiency and a possible new
income source come amid tightened sanctions by the U.S.

New rules aimed at blocking funds to President Fidel
Castro's government make legal travel to Cuba virtually
impossible for Americans and limit who can receive family
remittances from abroad.

Although the U.S. embargo prohibits U.S. companies from
drilling for oil here, Cuban authorities say they have no
objection to them joining the exploration efforts.

"The Cuban government does not object to letting American
petroleum companies participate in exploration and drilling
in our zone as long as it is based on mutual benefit," read
an official notice in the Communist Party daily Granma late
last year.






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