November 23, 2005

Beware Dictators Bearing Oil

Marc Comtois

Let's nip this in the bud. Just because New York and Massachusetts think it's ok to get discount oil from a radical, totalitarian, doesn't mean Rhode Island should follow suit. Sure, it sounds good. . . at first.

Local legislators and Venezuelan officials yesterday vigorously defended an agreement that will bring discounted heating oil to more than 40,000 low-income Massachusetts residents courtesy of a Latin American leader engaged in an acerbic public campaign against President Bush and US foreign policy.

The deal, signed yesterday in a Quincy couple's front yard, will provide more than 12 million gallons of heating oil from Venezuela, with each qualifying household eligible to buy up to 200 gallons, enough to last several weeks, at a 40 percent discount. The Quincy couple, Linda and Paul Kelly, were the first beneficiaries of the arrangement.

The agreement has come under fire because President Hugo Chávez, whose nation is the fourth-largest supplier of US oil, has used harsh language to criticize Bush policies on free trade, poverty, and the war in Iraq. But representatives from his government yesterday said politics played no role in the gesture, which was negotiated recently in a face-to-face meeting between Chávez and Representative William D. Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat.

''Our objective is simple: to help people of limited means through the winter," said

Felix Rodriguez, chief of CITGO, a US subsidiary of the Venezuelan petroleum company, said: ''No one should have to choose between heat and medicine or food."

Who could be against such choice, right Mr. Rodriguez? Setting aside the impropriety of a Congressman engaging in foreign policy or the interests of erstwhile Massachusetts political families, there is still a bit more to the animosity ginned up against Pres. Chavez than his distaste for President Bush.

Melana Zyla Vickers provides more information. Chavez explains he's more than "a hypocrite whose government enriches itself on highly globalized, state-controlled oil revenues, while he denies the region's privately owned businesses the same opportunity."

He's become an exporter of revolution, a socialist authoritarian with a Fidel Castro-style agenda to destabilize the region and with oil dollars to finance his ambitions.

Consider how his government takes advantage of Venezuela's oil wealth. When an American driver fills up at the local Citgo station, those gas dollars go from American wallets into Chavez's governing pockets -- after all, his government controls Citgo. From Venezuelan coffers, the money goes to fund leftist narco-insurgencies in Colombia, Ecuador, and other Latin American countries -- insurgencies the U.S. soldiers and U.S. taxpayers have expended great resources to tamp down.

Leftist guerrillas from eight Latin American countries have received training at Venezuelan military bases this year, according to an Ecuadorian intelligence report revealed in a Quito newspaper earlier this month. El Presidente Chavez of course denies the charges. But his recent vows to create a regional, anti-American leftist front, his alliance with Fidel Castro's Cuba, his rising military expenditures and persistent reports that weapons disappear from the Venezuelan military into the hands of regional leftist rebels, make the charges all the more believable.

That's just the sort of guy we should be looking to for charity, eh? If a crack dealer offered to subsidize your heating bill, would you let him? Or a terrorist? But he also pays for postive P.R. here in the U.S., and many lap-up his image as if he's some real life, modern day Che Guevera. Thus, many on the left tout the his graciousness and turn the other way to avoid scrutinizing his methods. He may be subsidizing U.S. oil, but he's doing it at the expense of his own people. How liberal and caring is that? By the way, next time, think twice before buying gas at a CITGO station.