Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nelson wants Clinton to use diplomacy to prevent drilling off Cuba

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson has written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to use diplomatic pressure to stall plans by the Spanish to drill for oil off Cuba.

"National elections are set in Spain for March 2012," Nelson wrote. "Spain may have a government less inclined to tolerate investment in Cuba. Until such time as the elections, I urge you to do your utmost to prevent these drilling operations."

Full letter below.

May 19, 2011
The Honorable Hillary Clinton          
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton:
I am concerned that there may be drilling off the coast of Cuba as early as this summer, threatening Florida’s environment and tourism-driven economy, not to mention U.S. national interests.  The Spanish oil company Repsol, in a consortium that includes companies from Norway, India and Italy, is expected to drill a deep-water exploratory well roughly 20 miles northeast of Havana — in the currents that run up our Eastern Seaboard and very close to the fragile Florida Keys and south Florida beaches.
Over the past several years, I have asked Republican and Democratic administrations to withdraw the diplomatic letters that we exchange with Cuba every two years. These letters are the only thing enforcing the 1977 Maritime Boundary Agreement under which Cuba claims the right to drill.  But our presidents have disagreed with me.
So, last year I filed legislation that would have allowed the U.S. to deny visas to executives of foreign corporations in drilling agreements with Cuba.  Congress did not pass it.
Now, as oil exploration off Cuba looms on the horizon, I have introduced the Gulf Stream Protection Act of 2011.  This would require oil companies that do business with Cuba to at least comply with all U.S. safety regulations.  It would be a good safety net.
Meantime, national elections are set in Spain for March 2012.  Spain may have a government less inclined to tolerate investment in Cuba.  Until such time as the elections, I urge you to do your utmost to prevent these drilling operations.
I am asking that you raise this crucial issue with your counterparts in the current Spanish government and impress upon them the urgency of this situation.  Oil drilling is coming at the behest of Cuba’s communist regime, eager to benefit from any offshore oil resources.  And by partnering with Cuba, Repsol is acting contrary to U.S. interests in the hemisphere.
Financial gain from oil would only bolster a tyrannical regime in Cuba, and indefinitely postpone any hopes for real democratic change on the island.  I appreciate your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response.

Bill Nelson

[Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 4:05pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours