By Dave Lindorff
It’s going to be interesting to see how much longer the vicious decades-long US embargo of Cuba lasts, whichever person wins the White House this November.
The main reason the US has stubbornly refused to trade with Cuba, and has used sanctions to bully other nations into refusing to trade with Cuba, while enthusiastically trading with and investing in China, Vietnam and other communist regimes, is that Cuba has had little to offer the US, either in terms of products or markets.
That’s all about to change dramatically, with word that the Communist island just 90 miles to the south of Florida may possess oil reserves equal to or greater than all the oil reserves left in the United States.
According to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian, Cuba may be sitting on some 20 billion barrels of oil, located in Cuban territory under the Gulf of Mexico. If the reports from Cuban, Spanish and other geologists are correct, Cuba, which currently only produces 60,000 barrels of oil per day (about half the country’s domestic demand), is on the verge of joining the ranks of the world’s exporting nations.
20 billion barrels of reserves would place the little country in the top 20 nations in the world in terms of reserves.
The Republican crowds who are greeting presidential candidate John McCain and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin with rowdy chants of “Drill Baby, Drill!” my have to start shouting “Perfora Cariño, Perfora!” while watching Raul Castro joining meetings of OPEC.
After all, most experts say that a lot of the offshore drilling being planned in US coastal waters is likely to lead to dry holes, while drilling in Cuban waters by the country’s national oil company Cubapetroleo, or Cupet, and by a consortium led by Spain’s Repsol, which is set to begin with punching some test wells early next year, are likely to produce gushers.
If the oil starts flowing, how long will it be before the US starts clamoring to buy it? How long will it be, for that matter, before US oil companies start using their lobbying clout to get the US embargo lifted, so they can get a chance to join the drilling party? After all, if the US companies are kept out by vestigial anti-Communist ideology, the investment opportunities will be left wide open for European, Middle Eastern and Venezuelan interests.
For the long-suffering Cuban people, who have been forced to eke out a national economy virtually barred from the global marketplace, this oil find is an astonishingly lucky break, particularly coming at a time that existing oil reserves are beginning to run out, and that prices for crude are soaring.
It’s going to be fun to watch the rationalizations coming out of Washington, particularly from the hard Right, for whom Fidel Castro’s Cuba has for several generations served as a prime bogeyman in the Cold War pantheon of villains. Just as Corporate America has since the 1970s been hypocritically singing the praises of Communist China, and has been justifying economic trade and investment with that nation on the grounds that “economic engagement” will bring democracy (all the while calling for a boycott of all things Cuban), we will soon be hearing such songs about virtues of economic engagement with Cuba.
This new oil bonanza may not be great news for the environment—either the waters of the Gulf or for the carbon-sogged atmosphere of the earth—but for the Cuban people, at least for the short term, it’s an amazing turn of events.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net