The Associated Press
Published: January 26, 2007
CARACAS, Venezuela: The state oil companies of Venezuela and Cuba will
join in hunting petroleum in Venezuela's Orinoco River belt as well as
Cuba's part of the Gulf of Mexico, the government announced on Friday.
The deal between Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., or PDVSA, and
Cubapetroleo, or Cupet, appears to bolster a growing oil industry in
Cuba, where a lack of petroleum caused dire hardships following the
collapse of Soviet aid in the early 1990s.
It also further expands President Hugo Chavez's relationship with
President Fidel Castro's communist government in Cuba. The deal was one
of 16 agreements signed by Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage during a
trip this week to Caracas.
Under the announced accord, PDVSA and Cupet will jointly explore in the
Orinoco's Boyaca Norte block in Venezuela, as well as in blocks N53,
N54, N58 y N59 in Cuba's part of the Gulf of Mexico.
Venezuela already has been selling Cuba almost 100,000 barrels of oil a
day under preferential terms, while Cuba has thousands of volunteer
doctors to Venezuela who offer free care to the poor.
PDVSA last year also signed an agreement to revive Cuba's Cienfuegos
Cuba's own oil production has increased steadily over the past 15 years,
aided by companies from Canada, Spain and other nations.
Oil specialists believe Cuba's waters in the Gulf of Mexico could
contain large quantities of crude, although explorations so far have
turned up only modest discoveries.
In September, Cuba signed a deal giving ONGC Videsh Ltd., of India's Oil
and Natural Gas Corp., exploration rights to other blocks in the Gulf of
ONGC Videsh also is cooperating with Spanish-Argentine Repsol YPF and
Norway-based Norsk Hydro ASA in other exploration efforts in Cuban waters.
The U.S. government embargo of Cuba blocks U.S. companies from
participating in such exploration.