Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — Nearly three weeks after it became widely known that the Spanish energy company Repsol had come up empty handed in its oil drilling efforts off the coast of Cuba, after the entire international media had squeezed the news dry, the Cuban press stooped to partially and manipulatively informing the people of the island of this finding.
In my opinion, the communiqué issued by Cubapetroleo (or “Cupet,” the island’s state-run oil company) overestimates the potential of Cuba in terms of the reserves of that site. It places emphasis on the zone “covering an area of 112,000 square kilometers in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the major oil producing basins worldwide, with a high potential for the discovery of new reserves. “
But this doesn’t mean that Cuba has all of the Gulf of Mexico at its disposal for drilling. Plus, the government lacks a calculation for the reserves in the particular blocks under its control. Nonetheless, the authorities here have reported the astounding figure of 20 billion barrels of oil available.
It’s curious that with “so much Cuban oil,” Repsol has abandoned the effort without even pursuing the two additional wells it had planned. This action was taken after the company spent about $150 million on the first dry well.
“How can Cupet explain to the Cuban people the decision to abandon the effort?”
Actually, not only does Cupet fail to provide an explanation, but it doesn’t even refer to Repsol’s walking away from the project. Apparently this is some special type of “economic culture” that the Cuban media, businesses and government want to promote.
What’s more, the information published on the Granma newspaper’s website wasn’t positioned to be read by anyone. This important article didn’t appear in the June 6 cover, one had to dig through the “National” section to find it in fourth place, under a less that revealing title that simply reads “Informative Note,” and without the needed explanations.
In case you have doubts, here I’m linking the national page of Granma website’s English edition for that day, where you’ll see that the note is preceded by an article on health care, another on the death of the mother of a 1997 victim of anti-Cuban terrorism, and then under two articles on Cuban rum.
The same happened in the print version in Spanish: The “informative note” was on the second page. And on the cover?: The planet Venus, Vladimir Putin, the Olympics and the environment.
Did they want the information to be known or not?
In 2005, Fidel Castro said on a televised panel discussion: “We need an economic culture among the people. There isn’t one among our country’s people. There’s no economic culture in our country therefore people don’t know where the money goes.”
I believe that for a good while it’s been known why people haven’t had an economic culture. Censorship by the Communist Party/government has kept the press from addressing and investigating these issues in a timely fashion and with the transparency and conflict this implies.
Although Cuba currently produces about half of its oil and gets the other half from Venezuela, the truth is that the deposits on land and in shallow water appear to have reached the limits of production.
That is why the government has turned its attention to its economic zone of the Gulf of Mexico, which has been divided into 59 blocks, 22 of them under “risk contracts” with the companies Statoil-Repsol-OVL (Norway, Spain and India), PDVSA (Venezuela), PetroVietnam, Petronas (Malaysia), Sonangol (Angola), CNOOC (China), Gazprom (Russia) and others.
This still means that almost 63 percent of its area is not yet under contract and some of the contracted blocks have now been abandoned by Repsol: a panorama that’s not at all encouraging and that the Cuban government and the media are determined not to face.
I confess that personally I don’t want to see a single drop coming out of those waters for the safety of the species that live there, and also with the hope that at some point we Cubans will prepare to implement a truly sustainable and environmentally responsible development model.
The real development of alternative energy sources — mainly renewable ones — will be vital for Cuba in order to achieve energy sovereignty and to avoid the tragic events triggered by British Petroleum in 2010, though Cuban journalists seem to have forgotten about that incident.
For now, I welcome the decision by Argentina to expropriate 51 percent of the shares of state-owned YPF, all of those belonging to the 57.4 percent that was in the hands of Repsol since 1999. I’ll also continue to look (not in the national press, of course) for more information about economic events on my green island.