Cuba could have America over a barrel
Will Havana’s vast oil find bring an end to American hostility, asks Philip Jacobson
Ordinary Cubans could reasonably be excused for wondering why the fates have dealt them such a rotten hand over the years, but at last it seems that their luck may have changed.
Vast deposits of offshore oil have been discovered in the area of the Gulf of Mexico controlled by Cuba, opening up the heady prospect of the country moving into the big league of world producers. Revised estimates of the North Cuba Basin's recoverable reserves run as high as 90 billion barrels, or approximately as large as those of the US - something that would surely set Fidel Castro chuckling into his beard as he adjusts to retirement.
The state-owned oil company expects a Spanish-led consortium to start drilling its first well by the middle of 2009, and several others could be on stream by 2010. While it will be several years before revenues begin to flow, the prospect of an oil-rich Cuba raises intriguing questions about the US trade embargo introduced almost half a century ago.
Cuba may not have featured prominently in the current race for the White House, but political observers believe that America's undiminished thirst for oil will eventually force Washington to reconsider its hostility towards Havana.
With the 50th anniversary of the Castro revolution coming up next year, the news on the oil front provides a much-needed boost for the regime now led by the 'Old Man's' brother Raul.
After yet another ferocious battering by the elements last month, Cuba's long-suffering citizens will rejoice at the prospect of improvements in the quality of their daily life - even if that is not quite just around the corner. As a favourite Cuban joke goes, the most visible failings of the revolution to date are breakfast, lunch and dinner. ·
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