Monday, September 19, 2011

Random News Generator- Cuba

We should probably lead this edition of the RNG with this piece from Fareed Zakaria, fresh this morning. Zakaria here thinks back to the BP oil spill, and notes that Cuba, not overly far away, has oil reserves of its own- estimates go from 5-20 billion barrels. (The BP spill was about 4.9 million., to put it in perspective.) Zakaria goes on to note that there's no shortage of countries lining up to drill that oil, but because of our embargo on Cuba, not only is none of that oil is going to be ours, but in the case of another spill, there's nothing that we can do but watch. We don't even get to try to clean it up- the embargo prevents that as well- until it washes up on the Florida coast.

First in line: Spanish company Repsol, which plans to be drilling by mid-December. They'd be drilling sooner, but they're waiting for hurricane season to end.

The embargo is weakening in another field, though. Saturday marked the first charter flight from Fort Lauderdale to Havana since 1987. Fort Lauderdale joins 10 other cities that are permitted to fly to Cuba, as per an authorization in March: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Tampa, Atlanta, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

However, the people taking those flights travel as the window for warmer relations appears to be closing. American government subcontractor Alan Gross was arrested in December 2009 for supplying Internet equipment to a small Jewish community, and was sentenced last month to a 15-year prison term. Earlier this month, Bill Richardson made a visit to Cuba to try to negotiate Gross' release, but Richardson was, contrary to expectations, given the coldest possible response: a flat rejection of any discussion whatsoever, after having been invited by Cuba. Richardson would not be leaving with Gross. He would not be allowed to meet with Gross. He would not be allowed to meet with Raul Castro concerning the matter. He would not even be given demands on how the situation might be resolved. The end.

After a week of fruitlessly trying to open up any sort of avenue whatsoever, Richardson left so embittered that, despite previously warm relations, he isn't sure he could ever return to Cuba as a friend. According to Richardson, "Perhaps the Cuban government has decided it does not want to improve relations. Perhaps that is the message it is sending." And indeed, the incident underscores a sharp backslide in relations that had been steadily progressing, but since the Haiti earthquake have been on markedly less steady ground.

And so Gross stays put. Indications are he may be staying put for a very long time.

No comments: