11 June, 2009 – Council on Hemispheric Affairs
As the Obama administration slowly inches towards normalizing its relations with Cuba, pressure is mounting on the new president to lift the decades-old, and universally acknowledged, anachronistic embargo. A relic of the Cold War, the Cuban embargo witnessed the loss of its stated purpose years ago and is now gratuitously hobbling the diplomacy of Cuba and the United States. At the same time, Cuba is struggling to pay for necessary imports and provide energy sources for its people. A lift of the ‘blockade’, as many Cubans call the embargo, would give Havana the opportunity to repay some of its debts and afford everyday necessities, as well as discourage refugees from illegally flooding into the U.S. Normalized relations would give the U.S. access to Cuban oil exploration and drilling, and allow the U.S. to implement environmental regulations aimed at protecting the Florida coast from potential oil spills. Enhanced trade with Cuba could generate up to $1.9 billion for the U.S.’s cash-strapped economy, and the image of the U.S. in Latin America undoubtedly would encounter a much-needed boost. Very few deny that both nations would benefit from a lift of the embargo and trade normalization.
Cuban Offshore Oil
Desperate to end U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East, United States’ officials are certainly aware of Cuba’s oil-producing potential. In its 2004 assessment, the U.S. Geological Survey found that Cuba has 5 billion barrels of crude oil off its northern shores; Havana claims it has 20 billion . Five billion barrels would put Cuba on par with Colombia or Ecuador, while 20 billion barrels would make Cuba’s oil capacity comparable to that of the United States’ and place it among the top 15 oil reserves nations in the world. Either way, Cuba’s oil is attracting the attention of oil companies from around the globe. At the moment, Spain’s Repsol, Brazil’s Petrobras, and Norway’s StatoilHydro are overseeing exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. India, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Venezuela also have signed deals with Cuba.
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