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CUBA STANDARD — A former Mexican ambassador in Havana suggests Mexico form an oil partnership with Cuba.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto should use an upcoming visit to Havana to advance a Mexican-Cuban energy partnership, writes Ricardo Pascoe Pierce in a column published by Mexican daily Excelsior today.

“It would be difficult to find a broader international solution” for Mexican state oil company Pemex, he writes. “As countries that share the Gulf of Mexico, we have common interest that can unite us. Pemex and [Cuban state oil company] Cupet could work in a beneficial association for the development of both nations, way beyond what we have today.”

Pemex officials believe a recent energy reform passed by the Mexican parliament will allow the state company to expand abroad, similar to Brazilian state company Petrobras.

Mexico is too dependent on the United States, and a strategic oil pact with Cuba would be “something substantial to balance things,” the former diplomat and leftist politician argues.

Peña Nieto will be in Cuba Jan. 25-29 to attend a summit of CELAC, the recently founded Latin American bloc that excludes the United States and Canada.

Pascoe cites the pressure the U.S. government exerts on Mexico and other Latin American countries to support Cuban dissidents, and describes how Mexico’s yielding to U.S. pressure has thrown a wrench into Mexican-Cuban relations since the 1990s.

The Mexican approach to Cuba seems to have been changing since Peña Nieto came to power early this year. In a substantial step to improved relations, Mexico agreed in November to waive 70 percent of Cuba’s $487 million debt. Pascoe suggests the Peña Nieto administration cut a deal, in which it exchanged debt relief for access to dissidents.

Pascoe writes that during his tenure in Cuba, under conservative President Vicente Fox, Cuba offered Mexican state oil company Pemex to operate the mothballed refinery at Cienfuegos. He says he suggested Mexico agree to a deal, because of the refinery’s strategic location on trade routes between the Caribbean, Europe and South America. But Fox and his foreign minister decided to decline, “due to ideological reasons and their commitments with Washington, which today appear a product of myopia, not a strategic vision or of national interest.”
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