In Brazil, Raul Castro Says He’s Ready to Discuss Cuba’s Embargo with Obama

zzz Cuba's President Raul Castro says he is willing to discuss the 50-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba with President-elect Barack Obama. Castro made the announcement on arrival in Northeastern Brazil for a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

Raul Castro arrived at Brazil after his stopover in Venezuela. The Cuban leader also said this Monday, December 15, that it's becoming more difficult to isolate Cuba and that the summit in Brazil could result in a declaration condemning the blockade

Castro arrived from Venezuela, his first overseas visit as president since taking over from his ailing brother Fidel Castro. In Venezuela Castro was given a hero's reception by President Hugo Chavez and signed several cooperation agreements.

These include expanding the capacity of two refineries in Cuba and building a third one. This will help Cuba's refining capacity increase to 350,000 barrels a day (b/d) from the current 87,000 b/d, according to a statement from Venezuela's state-owned gasolineeos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).

Under the agreements, the capacity of Cuba's Cienfuegos refinery will be stepped up to 150,000 b/d from the current 65,000 b/d, while the Hermanos Diaz refinery in Santiago will rise to 50,000 b/d from 22,000 b/d.

PDVSA said the proposed refinery in the port city of Matanzas will have a capacity of 150,000 b/d, and is to be managed by Cuvengasoline SA – a new joint venture of PDVSA and Cuba's state-owned Cupet.

However, the Venezuelan firm said that Cuvengasoline will control all refining interests in Cuba being pursued by the two countries, including the design and construction of an LNG regasification plant, gas pipelines, and other facilities.

The Cienfuegos refinery is expected to close 2008 with production of 20 million bbl of fuel, according to deputy director, Raul Perez, who said the plan for the refinery envisaged output of 19.4 million bbl for the year.

Cuba imports 100,000 b/d from Venezuela in oil and products under special financial conditions that include bartering for Cuban goods or services such as doctors, teachers, and athletic trainers.



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