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Public Statements

Letter to President Obama

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

During today's House Committee on Natural Resources Hearing, Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) followed up on a letter sent by himself and three other Cuban-American members of the House of Representatives to President Barack Obama expressing concerns over Cuba's plans to drill for oil 90 miles from America's shores, and questioning whether prohibitions on exports to Cuba are being enforced to prevent American oil drilling technology from reaching Cuba and extending an economic lifeline to a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

In the letter, Congressman Rivera, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18) , Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-21) and Congressman Albio Sires (NJ-13) question how the Administration is enforcing the Trading with the Enemy Act which prohibits certain transactions involving property involving Cuba or a Cuban national, the Export Administration Act and the Export Administration Regulations which "generally prohibit virtually all exports and reexports of U.S.-origin goods, software and technology to Cuba."

In today's Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Oversight Hearing on "North American Offshore Energy: Mexico and Canada Boundary Treaties and New Drilling by Cuba and Bahamas", Subcommittee member Congressman Rivera questioned Michael Bromwich, Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, an agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior and Vice Admiral Brian Salerno, Deputy Commandant for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Congressman Rivera raised concerns about the Bureau's inspection of the Repsol oil rig, expected to be conducted later this year, as Director Bromwich noted that it would not be an accurate assessment of the rig because it would not take place in the location where the rig would be drilling.

The Congressman questioned whether the rig complied with U.S. sanctions against Cuba, and expressed disappointment that the only evidence of such compliance is self-reports from Repsol itself. He also noted, based on Director Bromwich's testimony, that even if Cuba were an ideal neighbor--not a State Sponsor of Terror that is holding an American citizen hostage, and the United States were to lift the embargo and other sanctions, the United States would still not have enforcement or compliance capabilities in their national waters.

Congressman Rivera asked Vice Admiral Salerno about who would be responsible for funding cleanup efforts in the event that oil reaches American waters and shores following a foreign oil spill, regardless of whether it originates from Cuba, Mexico or the Bahamas. The Congressman strongly feels that the responsible party should pay for all cleanup costs for spills that reach American shores.

Following the hearing, Congressman Rivera said, "Cuba is designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism by our own government, a nation that has as much regard for environmental safety as it does for human rights. We have to enforce existing economic sanctions against the Castro regime and not give unilateral concessions that will provide them with a greater opportunity to drill less than 90 miles from our shores, and will grant the Castro regime an economic lifeline."

Dear Mr. President:

We are extremely concerned over what seems to be a lack of a coordinated effort by the Administration to prevent a State Sponsor of Terrorism, just 90 miles from our shores, from engaging in risky deep sea oil drilling projects that will harm U.S. interests as well as extend another economic lifeline to the Cuban regime.

Spain's state-owned energy company, Repsol, has entered into an agreement with the Cuban regime to drill off Cuba's coast. A Chinese-built deep water oil rig will be used for this project --the Scarabeo 9. Despite the fact that the oil rig has not reached Cuban territorial waters, or the Western Hemisphere for that matter, the Department of Interior has been actively providing assistance, guidance, and technical advice to Repsol. This is inconsistent with numerous U.S. foreign policy and national security objective with regards to Cuba.

The Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) as implemented by 31 C.F.R. 515.201, prohibits certain transactions involving property in which Cuba or a Cuban national has any interest whatsover, directly or indirectly. The support that the Department of Interior is providing to Repsol appears to be in contravention of TWEA, as such assistance will result in a financial windfall to the Cuban regime. It may also facilitate processes that could lead to an environmental disaster off U.S. shorts and the greater Caribbean.

The Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement for the Department of Interior at a recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, indicated that Interior, in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, will conduct an examination of the rig just before it enters Cuban waters. However, in conjunction with this examination, we request that the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) also be involved and conduct its own review and inspection to ensure that no U.S. laws or regulations are being violated, including the TWEA and the Export Administration Act (EAA).

We are concerned by reports that the Scarabeo 9 may have been designed specifically to avoid U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba. While the EAA and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) general prohibit virtually all exports and reexports of U.S. -- origin goods, software and technology to Cuba, we need clarity on how the Administration is applying the sanctions and EAR to foreign produced items incorporating 10 percent or less controlled U.S. content.

According to press reports, the Scarabeo 9 includes a U.S. origin blowout preventer and may contain other controlled, U.S. origin items, and possible advanced computer software that may be in violation of EAR section 734.4, the de minimis U.S. content rule regarding technology found on this structure. What information or assurances has the Administration sought or received from Repsol to ensure that the oil rig complies with the existing U.S. sanctions against Cuba?

Recently, your Administration announced a settlement with a Texas company, Flowserve, for alleged violations stemming from transactions that included, among others, the exports of pumps, valves, and related component parts and supplies from the United States indirectly to Iran. According to the Federal Register notice, several of Flowserve's foreign affiliates engaged in transactions involving property in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest. The company has agreed to remit $2.5 million to BIS to settle apparent violations of the EAR arising from the same course of conduct. We would appreciate additional information about this matter to learn what U.S. oil drilling or related technologies may have made their way to Cuba and if any of this technology could be used for the Scarabeo 9 project.

The Export Administration Regulations clearly state that the only items allowed to be exported to Cuba are donations of medical equipment, agriculture exports, and telecommunications equipment. Thus, even if the de mimimis rule does not apply, the broader prohibitions against exports to Cuba must still be enforced.

We are concerned that sensitive U.S. technology can fall in the hands of a regime that supports terrorism and as such, this Committee would appreciate a response to the matters raised in this letter as soon as possible.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Albio Sires
Mario Diaz-Balart
David Rivera


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