HAVANA TIMES – A former Mexican ambassador to Cuba is proposing that Mexico and Cuba set up “a strategic partnership on matters of energy” to firm up relations between the two countries.
The two partners would be Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos) and Cupet (Cuba Petróleo), writes Ricardo Pascoe Pierce in a column published Monday (Dec. 6) in the Mexican newspaper Excelsior.
Pascoe was Mexico’s ambassador in Havana from 2000 to 2002, during the administration of Mexican President Vicente Fox. He resigned his post after Fox offended Cuban President Fidel Castro by asking him to leave a United Nations summit in Monterrey so as not to irk U.S. President George W. Bush with his presence.
The incident, which became known as the “you-eat-and-leave” blunder, was one of several in 2002 that damaged relations between the two countries. Fox also angered his Cuban hosts by meeting in Havana with dissidents opposed to Castro.
In his column, Pascoe refers to the fact that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto will travel to Havana later this month to attend the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a version of the Organization of American States (OAS) without Canada and the United States.
Peña Nieto is likely being pressured by Washington to meet with Cuban dissidents during his stay on the island, Pascoe writes: “Will he give in to Washington’s pressure or will he adopt a passive posture before the Cuban government?”
“And what will the Mexican say in his official speech?” the former diplomat wonders. Relations between Mexico and Cuba are not as friendly as in the past “because Mexico realigned itself in the world when the Soviet Union fell. The Free-Trade Agreement with the U.S. and Canada [NAFTA] was a global strategic shift by Mexico, not just a trade change.”
“To this day, Mexico continues to look toward the north, not the south, regardless of the nationalistic blather you hear,” Pascoe says.
His recommendation is “something more substantial to balance things. That something-else could be a strategic partnership on matters of energy between Cuba and Mexico.
“In the days of Fox, Cuba offered Pemex the operation of an abandoned refinery in Cienfuegos. My recommendation at the time […] was that it was important to accept the offer because of [Cuba’s] strategic location in the routes of mercantile maritime traffic between Europe, the Caribbean and South America.
“Fox and his foreign minister [Jorge Castañeda] refused to accept Cuba’s offer for ideological reasons and their commitments to Washington, which today seem a result of shortsightedness, not of a strategic vision or the national interest. At present, Venezuela operates the refinery,” Pascoe says pointedly.
“Oil companies from Canada, Great Britain, Spain, China, Venezuela, Brazil and Vietnam operate in Cuba. It would be hard to find a broader international option. As neighboring countries on the Gulf of Mexico, we have a common interest that can unite us.
“Pemex and Cupet could work out a beneficial partnership for the development of both nations that would go much farther than what we have today,” Pascoe concludes.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Pascoe was a co-founder of Mexico’s Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT) and Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). He served as ambassador to Cuba from 2000 to 2002 and has been active in Mexican politics since. At present, he teaches at Mexico’s Autonomous National University (UNAM) and writes a political column for the newspaper Excelsior. He is the author of “On the Edge: The Story of a Diplomatic Crisis” (Mexico City, Sin Nombre Publishing, 2004)]