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Shilling for Citgo

By A.M. Mora y Leon | The American Thinker

May 19th, 2005 | In the U.S., it comes like a wave. All of a sudden, far-left media outlets are shilling, embarrassingly enough, for a dreaded Giant Corporation (an oil company!), Citgo, the refining and gasoline retailer once known as Cities Service. Formerly best-known for a massive neon advertising sign over Boston's Kendall Square, easily visible in nightime panoramas of the Back Bay skyline, Citgo was acquired by the Venezuelan government oil company a number of years ago.

This left wing apostacy from the doctrine of corporate original sin is ridiculous. It has happened in the last two days like a coordinated effort from some central planning authority in Venezuela. And given the out-of-the blue quality to it, that might be what it is. Common Dreams, Pacifica Radio, Indybay, and others are suddenly hawking Citgo gas to American consumers like a 1960s-era advertising campaign, the same era giving birth to the Boston neon extravaganza, which once had preservationists urging Boston to declare it a landmark. The current left-wing shilling for Citgo is a landmark of sorts, marking a willingness to alter doctrine to suit craven considerations unseen since the the day the American Communist Party switched from urging peace with Hitler to clamoring for war, when Germany turned on its former Soviet ally.

The move comes, ironically, a couple months after Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez declared Citgo an evil organization that gave no benefit to Venezuela because (get this!) he found out that each Citgo gas station was independently owned. Anathema!

Chavez was so angry at Citgo for this that he threatened to sell the chain last February. Someone apparently whispered to him the insanity of it: getting rid of a huge refining and marketing network in the world's largest consumer market would be lunacy. Venezuela produces a heavy high-sulfur grade crude oil, the hardest kind to sell when oil prices drop because of its higher cost of refining into gasoline. The idea was quietly dropped.

But it's true that Citgo doesn't make as much money as it should in an era of sky-high oil prices. There are at least three reasons for it. One is the squeeze all U.S. gasoline retailers are feeling with prices at the pump going sky-high. Consumers are buying less gasoline, so sales volume is down. Another reason is that the company is not public, but owned by the inefficient state oil company. Last March, Miguel Octavio proposed the idea of making Citgo a publicly traded company, which would bring needed capital into the company at a time of high oil prices. That lucrative opportunity's out of the question with market-phobic Chavez at the helm.

A third reason is in the atrocious way Citgo is being run. The New York Times, of all papers, published a devastating article in April about mismanagement at Citgo now that Chavez's cronies have taken control. It wasn't hard for the Times to find U.S. sources who'd quit Citgo, appalled at the pit of corruption and thuggery it was becoming. It definitely looked like Chavez's men were running it.

The turmoil at Citgo, though, doesn't begin to touch on the depth of destruction Chavez has wrought on PDVSA, the once mighty Venezuelan state oil company. The state oil company is bankrupt and falling apart, its production far lower than anyone imagined. Against the leftwing flackery urging U.S. consumers to buy Citgo gas in the fringe presses, Venezuela is awash in news stories about the corruption, mismanagement, and declining production at Venezuela's state oil company. It's unbelievable. Daniel in Yaracuy has a good rundown of the recent news stories exposing the extent of the decline. One important detail from all this: Chavez himself is extremely upset about the stories, and last Sunday railed away about the news on his personal television show in Venezuela.

The oil-company story that upset Chavez the most was in El Universal, by Roberto Giusti. He wrote an article citing $120 billion (with a b) in state oil revenue that's done nothing to benefit Venezuela, and much of which seems to be unaccounted for. He built it around the recent essays of Gustavo Coronel (an American Thinker contributor), who's done more than anyone to show how badly Venezuela has fallen as an oil power, citing his work. Daniel has a great photo of the enraged Chavez pointing to the news article close to where Gustavo's Coronel's name appears in the paper.

With Citgo and its parent company on the skids, it's no surprise that word from on high in Caracas would come down to urge consumers to buy Citgo gas. But it's a losers' effort, rather like newspapers believing their revenues would go up if they bash internet bloggers. A simple ad campaign would likely be more effective than this ridiculous "grassroots" effort.

But there is no doubt Venezuela is in trouble, because its oil earnings are neither matching what they could be if this was run like an ordinary oil company, nor high enough for the amount of waste and fraud its leaders feel entitled to. There just isn't enough money to go around for all the corruption they'd like. So, they are calling out their best troops, scattered sandalista shills in the U.S., to bring in the bacon for them.

It's pathetic.

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