HAVANA TIMES – Cuban President Raul Castro met with on Saturday with Igor Sechin, the head of the Russian oil company Rosneft, with whom Cuba has cooperation agreements in exploration and drilling in search of oil, amid the energy crisis facing the island, reported dpa news.
The Cuban newspaper “Juventud Rebelde” reported Sunday that the meeting was held at the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.
The official text gave no information on what issues the Cuban president and the executive of the Russian petroleum agency addressed during their meeting. The energy crisis in Cuba is exacerbated by the decline in the supply of fuel from Venezuela.
The meeting was also attended by Mikhail L. Kamynin, Russian ambassador to Cuba, and Ricardo Cabrisas, vice president of the Council of Ministers, the source added.
Castro and the executive of the Russian oil company had met previously in Havana in November 2013, when they discussed relations in several fields including hydrocarbons, health, tourism, and energy.
Before his meeting with Castro, Sechin held a working meeting with Cabrisas, also head of Economy and Planning, on issues related to economic relations and cooperation between the two countries.
Sechin’s visit reflects the gradual rapprochement between Moscow and Havana with which Russia intends to reestablish its presence in Cuba, of which it was an economic pillar for three decades until the fall of Soviet communism.
Cuba agreed in May 2013 with Russia to start in 2014 a second stage of drilling on a marine platform in the north of the island in search of oil in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Gulf of Mexico, after several failed attempts with other foreign firms.
Several Russian oil companies such as “Zarubezhneft” and “Gazpromneft” have participated in exploration and drilling to search for oil in deep waters of Cuba, specifically in their EEZ.
The relaunching of bilateral ties goes hand in hand with economic agreements in several areas, such as energy, transport, electricity and health. The renewed Russian presence in Cuba is visible with the arrival of a growing number of tourists from the European country.
The deep economic crisis in Venezuela, which assumed the role of the former Soviet Union as Cuba’s main political and economic ally, has caused a sharp contraction in the amount of oil that Caracas sends to Havana.
The fall of the Venezuelan supply in 2016, from 100,000 barrels per day to only 55,000 in the second semester, forced Havana to compensate it with purchases in Algeria and later Russia.
Another effect of the decrease in imports from Caracas has been the decision of the Government of Raul Castro to assume full control of the oil refinery in Cienfuegos, originally a binational company administered by Cuba and Venezuela.
Although the announcement was made official last Friday, the refinery operates as a fully Cuban state entity since August under the aegis of Union Cuba-Petroleo (Cupet). Before the refinery was in the hands of the binational firm Cuvenpetrol.