You get a bullet in your own foot!
The discovery of potential deep-water oil and gas reserves off Cuba’s northern coast has caught the eye of the world’s energy-hungry nations.
India’s state-run oil firm ONGC, already signed up to exploration in the area, has just upped its stake – the latest to place its bets on a Cuban oil rush.
The 44-year-old US trade embargo, meanwhile, continues to bar American companies from doing business with the Caribbean island.
But, some observers are asking, can the US really afford to risk losing out on valuable energy resources only 50 miles (80km) off Key West?
The prospect of nations such as China, Venezuela or India lining up to exploit Cuban oil has already led some politicians to call for the embargo to be relaxed.
They want US oil companies to be able to bid for exploration rights – and for environmental laws to be relaxed to allow drilling in the adjoining US waters.
And while the debate over that rages, US companies will effectively be shut out while other foreign firms develop the fields. Among them, no doubt, will be PDVSA, the state oil company of Venezuela, which is already in an agreement to ship oil to Cuba and help it run its state-owned refineries, in exchange for doctors and medicine for poor neighborhoods under the Barrio Adentro program, and also for the teaching materials and programs that recently wiped out illiteracy in Venezuela.
In fact, oil–both in terms of sales and the taxes levied on foreign oil firms–is financing Chavez’s Bolivarian project at home, which is wildly popular with the majority of Venezuelans; after all, they are benefiting from it. Even the oligarchy, which never misses an opportunity to complain about Chavez, isn’t exactly hurting. Far from it. EVERY Venezuelan’s income is up, thanks to Chavez’s astute oil policies and his decision to not only make sure the price never drops below a sustainable level, but also to invest the profits back into his country rather than just allowing them to settle in the pockets of an already inordinately wealthy few. Now, just imagine that happening in chronically impoverished Cuba, too!
Meanwhile, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, ALBA–which currently has three signatories, Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia–is making inroads. This treaty emphasises fair trade, co-operation and mutual solidarity; it’s a home-grown solution to a made-in-the-USA problem, the FTAA, in which trade is far from free–and workers, likewise. Chavez, through ALBA, aims to change all that–and if the recent Mercosur summit in Argentina is anything to go by, ALBA may well find additional Latin American signatories before too long. When other leaders see that social justice is not only politically viable but economically sound, watch for things to get verrrrrry interesting!
And then there’s that irksome PetroCaribe thing, which situates Venezuela–and possibly, some years down the road, Cuba–quite nicely to become regional leaders in oil (and other economic) development, as well as major sellers to the CARICOM nations. Once again, Texas oilmen and Miami mafiosi will find themselves out in the cold.
In other words: this is shaping up as one for Latin American solidarity–and one in the eye for right-wing US policymakers, who can’t seem to see past the ends of their own noses, and certainly couldn’t shoot straight to save their own lives.
Or, for that matter, their economic skins.
Ha, ha, ha.