Mexico’s Oil Giant Risks Sanctions by Selling to Cuba

Senator Marco Rubio
3 min readOct 27, 2023


By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

“What we want is brotherhood, we want justice, and we are in solidarity with all people. If that means being a communist, a populist, put me on the list.”

These words from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador really give the game away. Obrador badmouths the United States, mocks the countless Americans who have died from trafficked fentanyl, and cozies up to Russia and China. He is no friend of ours, and now he is aligning himself with our region’s most left-wing regimes: the communist dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela.

On Sunday, Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro arrived in Mexico, at Obrador’s request, to participate in an international summit on migration. That’s not the only sign of deepening ties, though. Mexico’s government has sold more than $200 million in oil to the Cuban regime over the course of 2023.

This summer, Reuters analysts observing shipping data discovered that Mexico had suddenly “surpassed Russia as a key provider of oil to the fuel-thirsty island.” When pressed on the issue, Mexican Secretary of State Alicia Bárcena said the shipments were humanitarian “donations” intended to relieve Cuba’s years-long shortages. As of October 16, however, President Obrador has admitted that the shipments are transactional in nature. In his own words: “If they [Cuban officials] tell us, ‘Sell us oil, because we don’t have any way of getting it,’ of course we’re going to do so.”

Obrador’s admission is notable, but he intentionally misleads the international community on the facts of why Cuba is so low on oil. “The people of Cuba,” he claims, “are suffering from an inhumane and unjust blockade.” This is communist propaganda, plain and simple. The people of Cuba are actually suffering from six decades of illegitimate rule by an inhumane and unjust regime, whose brutal grip on power will only be strengthened by Mexican oil.

Remember that U.S. sanctions on that regime and its state-owned enterprises do not apply to independent businesses and allow for humanitarian shipments of food, fuel, and medicine to reach the Cuban people. Every year, faith-based organizations and the Cuban diaspora in the United States provide assistance and remittances to families on the island. Moreover, Cuba annually trades in the billions of dollars with Venezuela, China, Russia, Spain, Germany, and other countries.

In short, the reason for Cuba’s years-long fuel shortage is that its greatest oil providers have turned off the tap of their own accord, coupled with a long history of economic mismanagement. If one thing is for certain, it is that the United States is not involved.

We should keep it that way. We know from experience that trade with Cuban officials is a lifeline for the Cuban dictatorship, one of the most oppressive regimes in the world and a longstanding adversary that lies just 90 miles from our shores. Mexico’s business is its own, but how it conducts its business is important. Specifically, Obrador should think twice before using U.S. banks and financial institutions to facilitate its fuel sales and shipments.

Consider the fact that Mexican state-run oil company, Pemex, uses loans from the official U.S. Export and Import Bank (EXIM) to finance many of its international operations. EXIM claims to be uninvolved in Mexico’s sale of oil to Cuba. But if EXIM or some other U.S. entity were involved, Mexico would be on the wrong side of U.S. law.

I urge President Joe Biden to make clear to President Obrador that the United States will not support an anti-American, communist dictatorship at its doorstep. Moreover, I urge him to communicate that any attempt by Mexico to circumvent U.S. policy will be met with targeted sanctions on the sectors responsible.

The U.S.-Mexico relationship is incredibly important for both of our nations, but President Obrador seems to have misplaced priorities. The Biden Administration can no longer ignore his support for the growing left-wing bloc in our region, which includes Díaz-Canel and Maduro, but also Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Communist China’s Xi Jinping. It is time for America to prepare for the worst.



Senator Marco Rubio

Official Account. Follower of Christ, Husband, Father, U.S. Senator for Florida.