Will Cuban Oil Find Break U.S. Embargo?

By TODD LEWAN
The Associated Press
Saturday, July 29, 2006; 12:27 PM

MIAMI -- Some facts about America's trade embargo with Cuba:

_ It's been U.S. policy since 1961.

_ It has yet to loosen Fidel Castro's grip on power.

_ It has cost America little strategically or economically.

Until now, that is.

From here on out, say a growing chorus of experts, America will pay a price for maintaining its 45-year trade ban with the communist nation _ a strategic and economic price that will have negative repercussions for the United States in the decades to come.

What has changed the equation?

Oil.

To be more specific, recent, sizable discoveries of it in the North Cuba Basin _ deep-water fields that have already drawn the interest of companies from China, India, Norway, Spain, Canada, Venezuela and Brazil.

This, in turn, has reheated debate in the U.S. Congress and the Cuban-American community on an old question:

Has the time finally come to shelve the embargo _ given America's need for more sources of crude at a time of rising gas prices, soaring global demand and the outbreak of war in the Middle East?

Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, an expert on Cuba energy matters and a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, says America's thirst for oil will soon force a fundamental change in Washington's relations with Havana.


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