Moscow Offers Mexico a Swap on Oil Deliveries

Times Staff Writer

The Soviet Union has asked Mexico to deliver Mexican crude oil to Cuba while, in return, the Soviets supply Mexico’s customers in Europe, according to news reports that reached here Sunday.

The proposal was announced during a five-day visit to Moscow by Mexican Foreign Secretary Bernardo Sepulveda, who traveled to Moscow last week to pave the way for an expected visit by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to Mexico sometime this year.

By cutting transportation costs, the oil deal would save money for both countries, according to a report in the influential Mexican newspaper Excelsior.

But such an arrangement, if worked out, would probably upset the U.S. government, which for more than a quarter century has tried to isolate Communist Cuba from its hemispheric neighbors.


The announcement also comes in the wake of unconfirmed reports about other Soviet efforts to expand relations with Mexico: a request to let Soviet warships visit the port of Vera Cruz and to open Soviet consulates along the U.S. border. The Mexican government has denied that any such proposals were made.

U.S., Mexico at Odds

In the last few months, Washington and Mexico have been at loggerheads over policy toward Cuba. Mexico opposed a U.S. effort to persuade the United Nations to investigate the human rights situation in Cuba. Last week, in a choice of words seen by observers here as aimed at irritating Washington, Sepulveda said that Mexico would protect the “human rights” of Mexican workers in the United States who are affected by the new immigration law scheduled to go into effect Tuesday.

When the United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in the early 1960s, Mexico refused to go along and has since maintained normal diplomatic, trade and travel relations with the Caribbean island regime. Although proposals for oil trade-offs with the Soviets have surfaced off and on for several years, Mexico has never entered into such an agreement.


Excelsior quoted Nikolai V. Zinovyev, chief of the Soviet Administration of Trade With American Countries, as saying “conversations have already begun” with the aim of setting up the oil deal.

States Soviet Proposal

“We have suggested . . . the use of our ships, or in their absence, Mexican ships to supply your petroleum to this Caribbean island,” Zinovyev told Excelsior. “In exchange, the U.S.S.R. would carry this hydrocarbon (oil) to European countries to fulfill Mexican commitments.”

The Soviet Union is Cuba’s oil lifeline. Besides supplying all of Cuba’s oil needs, the Soviets permit Cuba to resell any petroleum it does not use so that Havana can obtain much-needed foreign exchange.


Spain is Mexico’s largest European customer and accounts for about 11% of all Mexico’s petroleum sales abroad.