Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cuba Open to US Oil Investment

Minister: Cuba open to American investment in oil ventures, but blocked by U.S.

The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

HAVANA: Cuba is open to American companies that want to join the communist country's new oil-drilling ventures but any such deals are being blocked by Washington, the minister overseeing energy matters said Tuesday.

Basic Industry Minister Yadira Garcia said exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico should start to yield profits by 2011.

"A lot of American companies have been coming, they know about our studies ... but we are not the ones limiting them," Garcia told reporters at an international gathering on earth sciences.

Garcia said it was "a good moment" for Washington to let American oil companies invest in the Cuban market. Currently, a long-standing U.S. trade embargo prohibits most American trade and investment with the communist-run island.

In effect for more than four decades, the U.S. embargo bans virtually all trade between the two countries except for the sales of American food and medicine to the island.

Companies from Norway, India, Malaysia, Spain and Venezuela are among those that have already reserved blocks for petroleum exploration under production-sharing agreements with Cuba.

The U.S. Geological Survey has reported that the North Cuba Basin off the island's coast holds a substantial quantity of oil — 4.6 billion to 9.3 billion barrels of crude and 9.8 trillion to 21.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

U.S. Senators Larry Craig, a Republican from Idaho, and Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, earlier this month introduced a measure containing a provision to allow U.S. oil and natural gas companies to work in Cuban waters.

But a Senate bill already has been introduced that seeks to punish companies that invest in Cuban drilling near Florida. U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-born Republican from Florida, has pledged a similar measure in the House.

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