Cuba, United States sign oil spill deal before Trump inauguration

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By Marc Frank

<span class="articleLocation”>Cuba and the United States agreed on Monday to
jointly prevent, contain and clean up oil and other toxic spills
in the Gulf of Mexico, as they rush to conclude deals before
President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

U.S. Charge d’Affaires Jeffrey DeLaurentis, upon signing the
agreement, said it was one of a series of deals to protect the
shared marine environment of the two neighboring countries
separated by just 90 miles of water.

Trump has threatened to scrap a still-fragile detente
between the two countries unless Cuba makes further political
and economic concessions.

U.S. companies and the outgoing administration of President
Barack Obama have announced a flurry of small deals in recent
weeks aimed at making it harder for Trump to ditch the detente
established by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in 2014.

The former Cold War foes said last month that they hoped to
sign as many as six cooperation accords before Jan. 20, when
President Barack Obama leaves office.

The oil spill pact, also signed by Cuban Deputy
Transportation Minister Eduardo Rodriguez Davila, calls for the
parties to prepare joint disaster plans, test them and train
personnel, among other measures.

Cuba and foreign partners drilled four offshore wells in the
Gulf of Mexico in 2012, raising concerns that U.S. sanctions
meant the United States was not in a position to respond to a
spill that could be carried by currents to its coast.

The wells came up dry, but Cuba says it plans to drill
again.

“This agreement is especially important for people living in
coastal communities along the northern coast of Cuba and
southern Florida because it provides a strong measure of
protection against future disasters,” Dan Whittle, head of Cuba
projects at the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, said.

Obama has used executive orders to improve relations and
punch holes in the U.S. trade embargo, which can only be lifted
by Congress. The deals and orders can be reversed by Trump.

More than a dozen cooperation accords have been inked to
date, ranging from postal services and law enforcement to
protecting marine life and fighting drug trafficking.

Negotiations are ongoing over difficult issues such as U.S.
nationalization compensation claims, Cuba’s demand for embargo
reparations, extraditing fugitives and the return of the
Guantanamo Naval Base to Cuba.

Last week a deal was struck to export small amounts of
charcoal to the United States and in December Google signed an
agreement to place servers on the island to quicken access to
its products.



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