Discovery of Cuban oil deposits raises hopes for eased restrictions

With the recent hardening of U.S. trade policy toward Cuba, analysts are now speculating that one thing could help ease the restrictions: Oil, that is. Black gold. Texas tea. Two Canadian companies have discovered oil in Cuba’s waters off the Gulf of Mexico, announced President Fidel Castro in a Dec. 25 speech to parliament deputies (Merry Christmas!). The deposit, estimated to contain some 100 million barrels of higher-grade oil than has historically been produced in Cuba, is raising the hopes of some Cubans for greater energy and economic independence: fewer oil imports, more oil exports, and some much-needed cash for the country. It’s also raising the hopes of some American energy companies. “If Cuba is able to show that it has higher-quality crude at sufficient levels, the Bush administration would come under pressure to permit, at a minimum, purchases of Cuban-origin oil,” said John Kavulich of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.