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Venezuela: Oil as a propaganda tool

By Veneconomy

01.09.05 | As part of his anti-U.S. campaign, President Chávez has tried to convince his followers that Cubans are prosperous whereas people in the U.S. are poverty stricken. So much so, that in his weekly Aló, Presidente show he offered to provide the poor in the United States with heating oil at a 40% discount, in addition to an opportunity for 150,000 people –out of the 6,000,000 to be included in Mission Miracle—to have eye surgery in Cuba or Venezuela. The offer was improved upon during his recent meeting with Reverend Jesse Jackson, whom he told that 10% of Citgo production –some 66,000 b/d of heating oil – would be distributed “without middlemen” to organizations controlled by Afro-Americans such as Jackson himself or actor Danny Glover. He went on to say that he would sell it “at cost” to benefit some 7,000,000 of that country’s poor, a subsidy of over $100/year for each of the potential beneficiaries.

Up to now the naive might have been able to argue that the oil-for-trinkets deals, the easy payment terms and discounts for domestic crude oil, and other handouts to countries such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Costa Rica, Peru, and the Caribbean island nations, among others, were prompted by the President’s feelings of solidarity and generosity towards countries with serious economic and social problems. Or even, perhaps, that the disadvantageous oil agreements, the direct assignment of blocks in the Orinoco Oil Belt to Brazil, Argentina and China are all part of a geopolitical strategy that will benefit Venezuela, as the Bolivarians seek to portray it.

There is, however, no justification whatsoever for his offer to the poor in the U.S. It would seem to be fueled more by sheer animosity and aimed directly at Washington.

If the offer of a 40% discount is actually honored, Citgo would be selling the heating oil at a loss, to the detriment of the Republic and the Venezuelan people.

The most embarrassing part of this Machiavellian ploy by President Chávez is that it occurred shortly after four Venezuelans died in a Caracas hospital, joining the hundreds who have died since he took office, not from a lack of oxygen alone, but from the lack of resources of all kinds. The President offers gifts to the Americans while local hospitals have no supplies, schools in the slums are crumbling --as are the main highways in several states-- and a great many Venezuelans do not even have a roof over their heads.

If these regrettable events don’t force the government to reconsider and begin channeling all this generosity, solidarity and the resources so openhandedly given to other nations towards Venezuela instead, what will do the job?

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