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US leaders must cooperate with Cuba to prevent oil spills

In Singapore, a semisubmersible oil rig is being prepared for oil exploration off the coast of Cuba. Repsol, a Spanish energy company working with Cuba, is expected to drill as close as 50 miles off the coast of Florida and at depths deeper than Deepwater Horizon, which exploded in U.S. waters last year, producing the largest oil spill ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

These developments rightly have the attention of Florida’s federal leaders.

Attempts to use brute force in ceasing Cuban oil operations to protect Florida’s beaches, marine life and tourism revenue may be sincere, but they are not the best way to prevent a repeat of the Deepwater spill.

The bipartisan efforts include placing pressure on Repsol and legislation such as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-Fla) plan to pull U.S. visas for company executives associated with Cuban oil. or U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s (R-Sarasota) proposed legislation that would have the U.S. Interior Department deny oil and gas leases to companies dealing in Cuban oil.

While these measures may discourage or delay drilling off Cuban shores, it can’t totally stop them.

Aside from implementing a military occupation – a measure that should never enter the equation – the U.S. can’t keep Cubans from drilling off their own beaches.

Instead, U.S. leaders must work cooperatively with Cuban officials and assist in measures aimed at preventing and responding to oil spills off Cuban shores, in the event that the country does decide to pursue drilling off its coast.

This was the opinion of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon spill last month, when it recommended that the U.S. work together with the Cuban government to prevent spills.

In addition to taking attention away from preparing for the uncontrollable, efforts aimed at forcefully stopping Cuban oil production could create fissures among the U.S. and nations that may inevitably invest in and operate wells off Cuba’s coast.

No one wants to see another spill near Florida shores, but this test of U.S. influence is unlikely to be effective in persuading a Cold War enemy that’s defied the U.S. for decades, as evidenced by the nearly 50-year trade embargo between the nations.

U.S. leaders must prepare for the worst-case scenario, instead of engaging in undertakings that may be, in the long term, counter-productive to its best interests.