Cuban oil plans irk Florida congresswoman

Dec. 18, 2012 at 8:35 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said she was concerned about Cuba's commitment to energy safety now that a Russian company started oil work there.

Russia oil company Zarubezhneft is expected to start drilling for oil off Cuba's coast through a joint venture with state-run oil company Cubapetroleo.

Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the administration of Cuban President Raul Castro was rushing to exploit potential offshore reserves while it continued to impose an "iron grip" over the people. This, she said, was a U.S. national security risk.

"The administration (of President Barack Obama) must wake up and see that a Castro regime rich in petrodollars is not in the interest of our national security," she said in a statement.

Cuba is looking into cutting the amount of oil it imports from Venezuela through development of offshore reserves. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that, as of 2009, Cuba had less than 1 billion barrels of oil reserves.

Members of the House of Representatives, all of Cuban descent, from both parties criticized Obama in a letter last year for not standing against foreign investments planned for Cuba's energy sector. Ros-Lehtinen, a harsh critic of Cuba, was one who signed the letter.

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