As it becomes clear that the Trump Administration support, so far unsuccessful, for regime change in Venezuela is also very much about targeting the huge financial presence of China with the Maduro regime, recent news of a major Chinese oil success in Cuban waters will clearly deepen the geopolitical tensions. And it involves not only Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil.
China’s major state-owned oil company, CNPC, through its subsidiary, Great Wall Drilling, has begun exploring for oil off Cuba’s coast in a joint venture with state-owned oil firm Cuba Petroleum Company (CUPET), according to an April 16 report in the China state news agency, Xinhua. Great Wall has been engaged in oil exploration in Cuba since 2005, but this is the most promising result to date. Advanced drilling technology from CNPC has opened the prospect of major oil off Cuba for the first time.
The news comes as Washington sanctions target Venezuela oil earnings and also its agreements to supply Cuba with low cost oil. While the Maduro government continues to insist it will deliver oil to Cuba despite sanctions, clearly the security of supply is becoming riskier and supply less.
On April 21 US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that Washington will use a heretofore unused sanction law that allows legal action in US courts to sue foreigners using property seized by the communist regime. While it’s not clear how hard that will hit Cuba, it will clearly chill foreign companies looking to invest in Cuba.
Cuba is well-known to have provided large-scale military assistance as well as thousands of Cuban doctors and medical personnel to support the Maduro presidency in Venezuela. What is less well-known and perhaps an unspoken motive behind the Bolton declaration is the presence of China in both countries.
China presence in Cuba
Details of Chinese loans to the Cuban economy are classified state secret and not disclosed. Clearly though, Beijing has quietly been increasing its presence in the Caribbean island, a country which during the Cold War Fidel Castro era had become a close ally of the Soviets, putting them then at odds with China. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, despite several attempts by Russian companies such as Norilsk Nickel to gain a presence in Cuba again,