President Raúl Castro and Igor Sechin, head of the Russian oil giant Rosneft, met in Havana on Saturday [Dec. 16], the news agency Reuters reported, describing the meeting as “the latest sign the two countries are readying a major energy agreement.”
On Sunday, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde published a picture of the encounter (above), which showed, from left, Castro, an unidentified Cuban interpreter, Russian ambassador Mikhail Leonidovich Kamynin, and Sechin. Earlier in the day, Sechin had met with Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba’s minister of the Economy and Planning.
A three-sentence caption in the Cuban daily provided no details about the encounter.
Cuba relies heavily on Venezuela for about 70 percent of its fuel needs, Reuters says, “but socialist Venezuela’s subsidized shipments have fallen by at least 40 percent since 2014. Cuba is looking for new suppliers to help mitigate electricity and fuel rationing to state companies.”
Rosneft “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,” Reuters continued. “They were the first significant Russian fuel deliveries since the early 1990s.
In October, Rosneft announced that “it was considering increasing oil shipments to Cuba and improving refining capacity on the island after Sechin met with Cuban Energy Minister Alfredo López Valdés in Moscow,” Reuters concluded, pointing out that “Cuba consumes 140,000 barrels per day of oil products.”
Last October, López and Sechin traveled to the Rosneft refinery in Tuapse, Krasnodar Region, according to the Russian newspaper Krasnaya Vyesna (Red Spring), which on Sunday also reported on Sechin’s presence in Cuba.
At the time, “issues of joint modernization of the Cuban oil refinery at Cienfuegos and an increase in the supply of petroleum products from Russia to Cuba were discussed,” the Russian article said. “The Cuban delegation inspected the Tuapse refinery and the deep-water marina of the Tuapse port.”
Krasnaya Vyesna also pointed out that “in September 2016, after Cuba had problems with obtaining oil from Venezuela, Castro addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting to establish a supply of Russian oil to Cuba.”