Chavez Offers Condolences and Criticizes Bush’s Handling of Catastrophe

Speaking during his weekly television program, Chavez blasted Bush's handing of the hurricane crisis, saying that the government should have helped poor people evacuate before the hurricane hit. Chavez expressed his solidarity with the people of the U.S. and offered more aid.

Caracas, Venezuela, September 5, 2005 —Venezuela’s President Chavez charged that the U.S. government, under President Bush, is more interested in expanding its empire than in helping its own people. The U.S. “attempts to dominate the world and does not attend to the needs of its people,” said Chavez during his weekly Sunday television program Aló Presidente.

Chavez particularly lambasted the Bush administration’s lack of effort to help the poor in New Orleans to evacuate from the city before Hurricane Katrina hit. “How many children died there that could have been evacuated by land, by air, by water? Not one helicopter was moved before the hurricane came. Not one public use vehicle was moved. No bus nor military truck. Nothing,” said Chavez angrily. “And Mr. Bush is on vacation in Crawford, on horse,” he added in his rough English.

Chavez went on to discuss how much money the U.S. had spent on its war in Iraq and that it appears to be preparing for wars against Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. “They are preparing to dominate the world,” said Chavez.

Despite his strong criticisms of how the Bush administration handled the emergency caused by hurricane Katrina, Chavez reiterated Venezuela’s solidarity with the people of the United States and his condolences for the hurricane victims. “Before anything else we gather the sentiment, the solidarity, the love of the people of Venezuela and send it to New Orleans, Louisiana, and to the entire coast of the Gulf of Mexico. We are, prior to anything else, moved by this tragedy,” emphasized Chavez.

Chavez drew a comparison to the tragedy that Venezuela suffered in December 1999, when torrential rains caused mudslides, killed an estimated 15,000 people, and made over 150,000 homeless. “It is the same face, drama, and pain, whether in English, Spanish, Chinese, or Guarao [an indigenous language], it is the same soul.”

In the course of the program, Chavez also spoke via phone to Felix Rodriguez, the CEO of CITGO, which is a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA. In the course of the phone conversation Chavez informed viewers that Venezuela would increase its total aid package for the victims of the hurricane to $5 million, which would be distributed via CITGO.

Also, Venezuela is sending a tanker with 1.3-1.5 million barrels of gasoline to alleviate the gasoline shortage that the hurricane-struck area is currently suffering, where gasoline prices are nearing $7 per gallon.

While numerous refineries in Louisiana and the Gulf coast area were forced to shut down because of the hurricane, CITGO’s Lake Charles, Louisiana refinery is operating normally. CITGO even managed to increase its total refining capacity from 810,000 barrels of crude oil per day to 843,000 barrels per day, explained Rodriguez to Chavez.

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