Venezuela will provide heavily discounted heating oil to about 37,000 low-income families in Maryland, Virginia and the District this winter, Caracas’ envoy to the United States said yesterday.
This will be the first time that Washington-area families benefit from the program, which is still being negotiated by Citgo, the oil company controlled by the Venezuelan government, and the Citizens Energy Corp., a non-profit group founded by Joseph P. Kennedy II, said an aide to Mr. Alvarez.
Citizens Energy officials could not be reached for comment late yesterday. Mr. Kennedy is a former congressman from Massachusetts and the son of Robert F. Kennedy.
The heating-oil program, which started last year, again includes jurisdictions in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. Other newcomers this year are Alaska, New Jersey, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Wisconsin, Mr. Alvarez said.
Several communities that had been considering the Venezuelan offer rejected it after Mr. Chavez described President Bush as "the devil" in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
In Alaska, many Eskimo and Indian villages say they have no choice but to accept the oil, but others would rather suffer.
"As a citizen of this country, you can have your own opinion of our president and our country. But I don’t want a foreigner coming in here and bashing us," Justine Gunderson, administrator for the tribal council in the Aleut village of Nelson Lagoon, told the Associated Press last month. "Even though we are in economically dire straits, it was the right choice to make."
Nelson Lagoon residents pay more than $5 for a gallon of oil — or at least $300 a month per household — to heat their homes along the wind-swept coast of the Bering Sea, where temperatures can dip to minus 15 degrees.
Asked why Mr. Chavez’s government is worried about poor Americans while poverty in his own country remains a problem, the ambassador said the profit Venezuela is forfeiting from its discounted sales in the United States is not enough to make a difference for Venezuela’s needy.
Original source: Washington Times