December 14, 2005

Beware Dictators Bearing Oil IV

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Jack Reed and Senator Lincoln Chafee have helped broker a deal to bring heating oil assistance supplied by Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez. Senator Reed has no problem doing business with Chavez because he believes the deal is not political. According to John E. Mulligan in the Projo

Sen. Jack Reed has minimized the controversy, saying that the first associaton many people have with Citgo is the company's sign near Fenway Park in Boston.
Citgo is a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil company.

From what the Projo presents, Senator Chafee goes further in justifying dealing with Chavez. Chafee blames America first…

Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee said he can understand why Chavez believes he has not been accorded respect by the Bush administration. Chafee said Mr. Bush should invite Chavez to the Oval Office for a meeting. Noting that Chavez has ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro, Chafee partly attributed the bad blood between the two governments to Mr. Bush's desire to pander to Cuban-Amercans in Florida before the 2004 election.
If Senator Chafee thinks that Chavez bears any responsibility for strained US-Venezuela relations, the Projo does not mention it.

Supporters of the assistance program point out, reasonably, that it is unfair to single out the Chavez government for vilification. America does business with lots of bad characters to keep the oil flowing. The world’s largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, is not exactly a bastion of civil liberties.

But no one pretends that Saudi Arabia is a liberal democracy. President Bush himself has called for political reform in Saudi Arabia. Here is President Bush speaking before the National Endowment for Democracy this past October…

By standing for the hope and freedom of others we make our own freedom more secure.

America is making this stand in practical ways. We're encouraging our friends in the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to take the path of reform, to strengthen their own societies in the fight against terror by respecting the rights and choices of their own people.

As the President is willing to challenge the Saudi government about its need to respect the rights and choices of its people, are Senators Reed and Chafee willing to challenge the Venezuelan government to respect the rights and choices of its people? Ironcially, the chain of events leading to the oil assistance deal provides a perfect context in which to do so....