Saturday, July 12, 2014

Putin pledges to help Cuba explore for offshore oil

Putin pledges to help Cuba explore for offshore oil
By By Alexei Anishchuk and Daniel Trotta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to help
revive Cuba's struggling offshore oil exploration on Friday at the start
of a six-day tour of Latin America as Russia aims to reassert its
influence on the communist-ruled island.

Putin was joined in Havana by close ally and so-called Russian oil czar
Igor Sechin, the chairman of state oil company Rosneft, to finalize a
deal to explore for oil off Cuba's northern coast.

The Russian president also promised to reinvest $3.5 billion of Cuban
debt with Russia into development projects on the island, part of a deal
in which Russia forgave 90 percent of Cuba's debt, or almost $32
billion, most of it originating from Soviet loans to a fellow communist

Both measures inject much-needed foreign investment into Cuba and
demonstrate an act of defiance against the United States, which
maintains a 52-year-old economic embargo that effectively shuts out many
Western companies from doing business in Cuba.

"We will provide support to our Cuban friends to overcome the illegal
blockade of Cuba," Putin said.

Putin's journey to the back yard of the United States comes as he is
under pressure from the West to help restrain pro-Russian separatists in
Ukraine and urge them to find a negotiated solution.

Sechin is one of the Russian executives the United States has targeted
for economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. The United States has
blacklisted individuals believed to be part of Putin's inner circle, and
Sechin is among the most influential people in Russia.

Putin will also visit Argentina and Brazil for bilateral talks, and
while in Brazil he will participate in a summit of the so-called BRICS
nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa on Tuesday and

On his first stop in Cuba, the Cold War ally of the former Soviet Union
situated only 90 miles (145 km) from the United States, Putin met with
former President Fidel Castro and current President Raul Castro before
receiving the Medal of Jose Marti, Cuba's highest decoration.

Fidel Castro, 87, stepped down in favor of his brother for health
reasons in 2008 after 49 years in power. For an hour he and Putin
discussed international affairs, the global economy and Russian-Cuban
relations, the Kremlin said.

Any major oil find would radically improve Cuba's economic trajectory.

Cuba produces about 55,000 barrels per day (bdp) through aging onshore
wells and imports about 110,000 bpd on favorable terms from socialist
ally Venezuela.

Following a number of foreign companies whose wells have all come up
dry, Russian oil company Zarubezhneft last year began drilling in Cuba's
Boca de Jaruco area. That project has been suspended. Zarubezhneft also
has been helping Cuba extract from existing onshore wells.

An aide to Putin in Moscow said on Thursday that Zarubeznheft would sign
a new deal in Cuba along with Rosneft, but in the end only Rosneft was

"Developing new blocks on Cuba's offshore shelf is (expected) in the
very near future," Putin said.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by
Mohammad Zargham)

Source: Putin pledges to help Cuba explore for offshore oil - Yahoo News

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