I've really come to admire Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, a man who puts his money where his mouth is and really sets out to help the poor - even the poor of a country thats leadership seems to find him the root of all evil.
I'm, of course, referring to his work through the gas company, Citgo, that has been supplying discounts of up to 60 per cent on heating oil to poor communities in the U.S. So far he is supplying Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
New York now plans to allow Citgo to supply Upper Manhatten.
Citgo now says it has supplied over 180,000 of America's poor with discounted heating.
Chavez also announced that the program will be doubled next year from its current level of 40 million gallons. "No one should believe that this is just a momentary interest," Chavez told the group. "Leave at ease and tell your neighbors of the communities you represent that the program will continue; it has just begun," he said.None of this is likely to win him any new friends in the White House, especially as he refers to President Bush as a "terrorist", however, what no-one could have foreseen is that certain Republicans would object to what he was doing.
Chavez insisted that the program was not designed to buy support in the US, as many critics claimed, but is rather an example of corporate responsibility, because Citgo, which is now making large profits in the US, is now giving back to communities in which it does business.
"Citgo has done good business in the US. We believe companies, along with making a profit. need to have social responsibilities for the people they sell to," said Chavez.
Chavez pointed out that in the 20 years Venezuela has owned Citgo, it never paid dividends to the Venezuelan state. Only in 2004 and 2005 has it begun to repatriate some of its profits to Venezuela, he said.
He also cited the program as "an example of his government's efforts to move towards socialism, in which countries relate to each other on the basis of cooperation, solidarity, and complementarity."
Enter Congressman Joe Barton, the powerful Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This stalwart recipient of some $2 million in campaign contributions from the energy industry announced he would launch an investigation into possible antitrust violations by a major oil company.So at a time of skyrocketing fuel bills they have chosen, rather to take affirmative action that might bring prices down, to take task with "a charitable donation of heating oil to relieve the suffering of a few thousand American families."
No, not ExxonMobil or Chevron, but - wait for it - Citgo.
You couldn't make that up.
Oh, and Congressman Barton recieved $2 million in campaign contributions from the energy industry. But I'm sure that's got nothing to do with his impending investigations.
Full marks to Chavez for exposing them as the partisans that they are and, more importantly, for engaging in the kind of misty eyed old Socialism that no politician in the US would ever dare aspire to.
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