Bush asked to recall US-Cuba boundary delineation note

A US senator has asked President Bush to recall a diplomatic note to Cuba delineating boundaries in the gulf because of a Jan. 15 agreement between Brazil and Cuba's state oil firms.

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 24 -- US Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has asked President George W. Bush to recall a diplomatic note to Cuba delineating Gulf of Mexico boundaries because of a Jan. 15 agreement between Brazil and Cuba's national oil companies.

The agreement between Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) and Cupet "foresees assessment of the offshore blocks in the Cuban sector" of the gulf, Petrobras said. It also provides for technical and economic analyses for construction of a lubricants factory in Havana as well as provisions concerning refining, maintenance, research and development, and human resources, Petrobras said.

"I am alarmed by new reports that Brazil and Cuba have agreed to jointly explore for oil off the island's northwest shores. Two years ago, Spain and wildcatters from Canada signed agreements with [Cuban leader] Fidel Castro to explore his country's offshore oil deposits. And both India and China have expressed their intention to explore there as well," Nelson said to Bush in a Jan. 23 letter.

Activity in Cuban waters could place oil rigs within 50 miles of the Florida Keys and a marine sanctuary there, Nelson warned. "And, as the Gulf Stream flows, an oil spill or other drilling accident would desecrate part of Florida's unique environment and devastate its $50 billion tourism-driven economy," he said.

Nelson said that Cuban waters, as delineated by the US-Cuba 1977 Maritime Agreement, are just 45 miles off southern Florida's coast. The agreement was never ratified by the US Senate, but has been enforced by the exchange of diplomatic notes every 2 years, he said.

"My staff informs me the State Department has sent the latest such notes, but that they have not yet been received by the Cuban government. So I am writing to ask you to recall those notes," Nelson's letter said. He said that he looked forward to working with Bush "to ensure that we not only protect Florida, but also prevent the Castro regime from being enriched at our expense."

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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