Prevention of Cuba’s Drilling Best Serves U.S. Interests

Mauricio Claver-Carone in the Huffington Post:

Prevention of Cuba’s Drilling Best Serves U.S. Interests minds should be able to agree that it’s not in the United States’ national interest to assist anti-American dictators in searching for oil to support their repressive, failing regimes. It won’t drop the price of gas in the United States or do anything to enhance our “energy independence.”

Yet American assistance to make oil-drilling in the Florida Straits profitable is exactly what Cuba’s dictators Fidel and Raul Castro hope to gain as they use the threat of oil-drilling to maneuver the Obama Administration into once again unilaterally lifting U.S. sanctions on Cuba.

Cuba’s search for leverage over the United States is not new. The Castro brothers have been using offshore-drilling as a lure to extract economic and political concessions from various nations since 1991, when the collapse of the Soviet Union ended that country’s hefty subsidies to Cuba.

Brazil recently declassified documents showing that in 1993 the Castro regime offered oil rights on the “most promising” areas of Cuba’s offshore waters to then-President Itamar Franco and Brazil’s national oil company Petrobras. In exchange, Cuba wanted Brazil to shun Cuban dissidents and cancel a meeting of Cuban exiles at Brazil’s Washington Embassy. The Franco government all-too-happily complied. Years later, Petrobras exited Cuba empty-handed.

Castro found a new “partner” when Hugo Chavez rose to the presidency of oil-rich Venezuela in 1998. With the backing of Chavez and Venezuela’s national oil company PDVSA, the Castro regime resumed its diplomatic offensive signing highly publicized oil-leases with Spain’s Repsol, Norway’s Statoil, Russia’s Gazprom, India’s ONGC Videsh, Malaysia’s Petronas, Canada’s Sherritt, Angola’s Sonangol, Vietnam’s PetroVietnam, and China’s CNPC.

Only one company, however, actually conducted any exploratory drilling: Spain’s Repsol in 2004. The company found some oil, but not in any commercially viable quantity. It, too, then pulled out of Cuba. Similarly, Canada’s Sherritt and Brazil’s Petrobras — perhaps the most credible and respected of the region’s oil companies outside the United States — publicly abandoned their efforts in 2008 and 2011, respectively, stating Cuban oil production was not “commercially viable.”

Why? U.S. sanctions drive up costs of production. Even the Castro regime admits it. Keep in mind that Mexico’s Pemex and Venezuela’s PDVSA refine most of their heavy crude in the United States, and then repatriate it. As long as U.S. sanctions against the Castro regime are in place, producing and refining any oil found in Cuban waters in the United States isn’t an option.

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