Saturday, April 15, 2017

Oil in Cuba: Dream or Nightmare?

Oil in Cuba: Dream or Nightmare?

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 11 April 2017 — HAVANA, Cuba. – "Thank
goodness oil is something we don't have in Cuba." So said the lyrics of
a popular song by Cuban musical group Habana Abierta. However, now
Cuba's official media insist the opposite is true: "The enterprise
Cuba-Petroleum Union (CUPET), which promotes prospecting projects with
the participation of foreign capital, reveals that, "In four wells
located in the Economic Zone Exclusive to Cuba in the Gulf of Mexico
(ZEEC-GOM) there have been indications of crude."

Lately, when the disappearance of "high test" and the shortage of
"regular" gas in Havana have caused real congestion in the few service
stations where some fuel could be found, the news of the alleged
presence of large Cuban oil reserves sounds like a bad joke: who cares
that there are several billion of barrels of oil of dubious quality,
deeply buried in the depths of the Gulf, if there is not a drop of gas
at service stations? And, if it were true, how would Cubans benefit from
it? Our idiosyncrasy has a special mocking phrase to illustrate the
case: "It's here but not for you."

In fact, such fanfare by the press about the dubious and inaccessible
discovery that lies submerged in ultra-deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico
is highly notorious, while the official press has been evasive in
informing us about the fuel crisis taking place in the nation, before
our very eyes, which is fueling popular uncertainty with the alarming
signs of the return to the days when the Soviet subsidy program ended
with a stroke of the pen. Many Cubans point out that the unburied ghost
of the so-called "Special Period," with its aftermath of blackouts and
famine, is, once again, stalking the nation.

Therefore, the topic of "crude" with which the masters of the hacienda
are trying to shake the hopes of the masses, smells like a sting, as
long as the cataclysms in the house of the allies cause the Mafiosi of
the Palace of the Revolution to play any card palmed in their sleeve to
emerge and to continue, unharmed, to place their bet: to conserve power
at all costs and at any price.

That is why some suspicious individuals consider that the news is only a
beam of light to attract unsuspecting investors, and that it
collaterally pursues the immediate effect of reassuring the mood of a
population sufficiently shaken by the gradual — although apparently
inexorable — return to another cycle of great material hardships, this
time with the aggravating issue that has been the end of the United
States' wet foot/dry foot policy, which has been, for the longest time,
the most expeditious solution to escape the condemnation of perpetual

Thus, while the economic and political crisis in Venezuela — whose true
causes and magnitude are carefully silenced in the official media —
keeps deepening, common sense and the experience of nearly six decades
of cons suggest to Cubans the existence of a direct relationship between
the current gas shortage and the spasms of agony of the Chávez-Maduro
regime, incapable of continuing to maintain any longer the already
depleted subsidies that have artificially prolonged the life of the
Cuban dictatorship.

So now, if we hypothetically assume the possibility that the olive green
kleptocracy would soon dispose of another source of hydrocarbons — this
time, alas, its absolute property — what would that mean for Cuba's
destiny? Well, nothing less than a sentence to live under conditions of
dictatorship in perpetuity, with the acquiescent tolerance of the powers
that rule the planet. In fact, many of the staunchest critics of
Castro's "socialism" would become its partners. This would not be a
novelty, because it is axiomatic that wealth often grants immunity to

So if, for once, Cubans decided to climb down the ridge and assume the
true position we occupy in the world, which equals that of plankton in
the biological chain, we would find that similar plots have already
taken place.

A classic example is Equatorial Guinea, that diminutive West African
island, formerly known as Fernando Poo, with less than 100 thousand
inhabitants, that has been a Portuguese, French, English and finally a
Spanish colony until in October of 1968, when it obtained its
independence, only to pass onto the hands of dictator Francisco Macías,
who imposed a single compulsory party and a repressive regime
(1968-1979), until he was deposed by a coup led by Teodoro Obiang. The
latter, after having executed the defeated tyrant, promised to end the
island's political repression.

However, far from improving the lives of the Equatoguineans, under
Obiang's control, repression and poverty increased, as did the country's
underdevelopment. Meanwhile, Amnesty International, the UN and numerous
world figures have repeatedly accused Mr. Obiang of arresting political
opponents, as well as of torture and human rights violations. These
accusations have not influenced a process of democratization or, at the
very least, improvement in conditions and in the standard of living of
three quarters of the population, which continues to be plunged in the
most absolute misery.

It can be said that the misfortune of the Equatorial Guineans is due to
the utter indifference of the inhabitants of this planet, the majority
of whom do not even know of its existence. Additionally, the kleptocrat
Obiang is often amicably received by leaders, politicians of high rank,
and personalities of renowned prestige from the Western world, who,
however, otherwise tear their garments and throw spears for democracy in
all international forums.

It turns out that, years ago, in that small spot in the African
geography, enormous oil reserves were discovered, whose rights of
exploitation belong to foreign companies, mainly Americans, who don't
seem to have any scruples in negotiating with the flaming President who
was described at one time as "the most murderous thieving ruler in the
world" by a former US ambassador to that nation. Beneficiaries of such
massive dividends might be saying among themselves, "To Caesar what
belongs to Caesar."

Obiang, meanwhile, not only retains absolute power in Equatorial Guinea,
but is the founder of a dynasty that has amassed, with impunity,
colossal wealth by appropriating the revenues from oil exploitation and
safeguarding them in European bank accounts, and perhaps in banks in
other continents too. To ensure the continuation of the plunder of the
national wealth for the benefit of his caste, his son occupies a
relevant political position in the country and has numerous properties
inside and outside the little island.

Aren't there certain suspicious similarities? We Cubans should be
warned. It isn't prudent to be so arrogant as to think that kind of
thing happens in Equatorial Guinea "because they are Africans" and that
the same thing will never take place in Cuba because we are
"westerners." Sixty years ago nobody would have believed that prosperous
Cuba would become a nation almost as poor as Haiti … and we continue our

Personally, far from feeling encouraged by them, the Cuban oil reserves
announcements set off every possible alarm in me. Sufficient time has
elapsed and dissimilar circumstances have taken place to verify that the
precariousness of the rights and freedoms of Cubans do not concern any
of the great centers of world power and politics.

In fact, the destiny of the inhabitants of this island is so uncertain
and our dreams for democracy still so chimerical that it would suffice
for a gambling foreigner to appear, reckless enough to invest huge
amounts of venture capital into the oil adventure and that – in fact —
such precious hydrocarbons might appear, for the Castro kleptocracy to
sprout anew "with that added force," crushing any hint of hope for Cuban
freedom. I don't have religious beliefs, but, just in case, I will keep
my fingers crossed.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Oil in Cuba: Dream or Nightmare? – Translating Cuba -

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