President Raul Castro (brother of Fidel Castro) met with the head of Russian oil company Rosneft in Havana on Saturday – just the latest in a series of signs that the two countries are probably preparing some major energy agreement, or even a series of agreements.
Cuban state-owned media published a photograph of Castro and Igor Sechin sitting with notebooks at a table with Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas. This was after the latter two had held what was termed in a brief caption “a working meeting”.
Castro usually appears with visitors only in protocol photographs. There was no further information. Castro and Sechin have known each other for decades.
The still communist-controlled country had struggles with blackouts and fuel shortages after the fall of their communist benefactor – the Soviet Union. Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez, ended that crisis at the turn of the century, and Cuba came to rely on Venezuela for about 70 percent of its fuel needs.
But socialist Venezuela’s subsidized shipments have fallen by at least 40 percent since 2014. Cuba consumes 140,000 barrels per day of oil products. That’s why the country is looking for new suppliers to help mitigate electricity and fuel rationing to state companies.
Rosneft, Russia’s state-run oil company, began shipping some fuel in May to Cuba even as the United States under Donald Trump began reversing a fragile detente begun by former U.S. President Barack Obama. They were the first significant Russian fuel deliveries since the early 1990s.
According to Jorge Pinon, an oil expert at the University of Texas at Austin, the Cuba deal this year was equivalent to around 1,865,000 barrels and valued at $105 million at current prices.
This is in line with the Russian report that it shipped oil products to Cuba from 2010 through 2015 valued at $11.3 million.
A couple of months ago, Rosneft revealed it was considering increasing oil shipments to Cuba and improving refining capacity on the island after Sechin met with Cuban Energy Minister Alfedo Lopez in Moscow. This is probably the deal that will bring that oil trade agreement into fruition.