THE 50-year United States embargo against Cuba could finally be lifted after the discovery of an enormous oil field in Cuban waters.
The trade embargo has endured in part because there was little the US wanted to buy from its impoverished neighbour.
But the discovery of up to 20 billion barrels of oil in the waters off of Cuba's coast, 60 miles from Florida, has made US businessmen and politicians consider lifting it.
Repsol, a Spanish oil firm, will start drilling within months.
If it strikes a large deposit, the trade embargo could be revised or removed, according to Professor Mark Jones, an expert on Latin America at the Rice University of Texas.
"The greater the drilling and production, the greater the pressure will be to engage in an overhaul of the embargo, either getting rid of it altogether or watering it down substantially," he said.
Opponents of the US embargo argue that it has failed to drive Fidel Castro from power and that if Cuba becomes rich from its oil, regime change is even less likely.
They also argue that warmer relations between the two countries could help stave off an environmental crisis if there is a spill from the field.
"If there is any leverage that could push the Obama administration to push for change it would be from an environmental standpoint," said John Kavulich, a senior policy adviser at the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.
In a further sign of a thawing in relations between the two countries, the Cuban National Ballet yesterday arrived in the United States for a month-long tour.
The Cuban troupe will perform tomorrow in Washington, then go to New York and Costa Mesa, California before wrapping up in Los Angeles on June 26.
The tour is the latest in a series of cultural exchanges that began after President Barack Obama took office as the longtime ideological foes seek common ground they have been unable to find politically since Cuba's 1959 revolution.
The New York-based American Ballet Theatre and members of the New York City Ballet performed before ecstatic audiences in Havana in November.
(©The Daily Telegraph, London)