The President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said that the first overseas visit of his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro since taking office will be to Brazil. The announcement was made during his visit to Havana when Brazil's state-controlled oil multinational Petrobras signed an agreement to explore and exploit oil and gas offshore Cuba.
"We are pleased to learn that finally his Excellency will travel to Brazil to participate in the first meeting of Latin American and Caribbean nations, next December, without interference from any other power or any other continent," said Lula over the weekend.
Raul Castro, 77, will then be one of the stars of the coming Integration and Development Summit of the Americas and the Caribbean to be held in Salvador, capital of the Brazilian northeastern state of Bahia. It will also mark the first overseas trip of Raul Castro since 2006, when he took over the presidential office from his ailing brother Fidel, 82.
According to the oil agreement signed between Petrobras and its Cuban counterpart Cuba Petroleo, the Brazilian government managed corporation will be involved in the exploration of oil and gas, at a depth ranging from 500 to 1.600 meters in a 1.600 square kilometers area to the north of the island.
Petrobras plans to invest US$ 8 million in the first stage and has seven years to complete exploration and 25 for exploitation if hydrocarbons are found.
"Don't you worry Raul, because if there's oil be it at 500, 1.000, 3.000 or 7.000 meters deep we'll discover it, help convert it into energy", said Lula.
Raul Castro said he was totally confident that Petrobras would find crude in the Gulf of Mexico because "other countries (US and Mexico) already have, we have a small production and we trust Petrobras."
Cuba relies on foreign partners (Canada) to produce 60,000 barrels of oil a day, but earlier this month, Cuba Petroleo exploration manager Rafael Tenreyro Perez said that offshore reserves have the potential to produce 20 billion barrels of oil, more than double the previous estimate.
Brazilian officials have hinted in recent months that they would like to see their country become nearly as important a trade partner for Cuba as Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez, who ships nearly 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day to the island at favorable prices.