Cuba Seeking Exploration Expertise from Petrobras

According to diplomatic sources, Cuba has invited Petrobras to drill for oil offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Petrobras is reviewing the offer to determine the risk. However, Brazilian President Silva is in agreement with the idea. "The political will exists, though Petrobras will decide on the basis of risk, convenience and profit, like any commercial operation," the diplomatic source said.

A new Brazilian ambassador, former Workers' Party legislator Tilden Santiago, presented his credentials on Tuesday to the communist-run government of President Fidel Castro. Santiago, once a left-wing Roman Catholic priest, said Lula wanted to strengthen political and business ties with Cuba. Brazilian companies have invested heavily in the cigarette industry and in the assembly of buses in Cuba.

Petrobras spent $15 million in the late 1990s exploring for oil off the north coast of Cuba, near Cayo Coco, but did not find anything and left with an option to come back. Cuba has found heavy crude and gas onshore east of Havana, where Canadian firm Sherritt International is involved in exploration and production. In Cuba's Gulf of Mexico waters, Sherritt has contracts for four blocks, and Repsol-YPF has six. Repsol is expected to start drilling by the end of 2003.