Beware Dictators Bearing Oil III
Rhode Island’s senators will meet today with officials of Venezuela and its state-controlled oil company to discuss what may be an imminent deal to sell discounted heating oil to the state’s poor people.
Citgo, a Houston-based business owned by Venezuela’s government oil concern, has already agreed to distribute 12 million gallons of heating oil at below-market prices to needy households in Boston and 8 million gallons to residents of the Bronx in New York City.
Those agreements, which stem from a pledge last summer by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, emerged last month after discussions between Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., and representatives of the Chavez government and of Citgo.
The deals have generated controversy because of the contention between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. Chavez has reportedly accused the Bush administration of seeking to assassinate him or topple his government. The Bush administration has criticized Chavez’s support for Colombian guerrillas and his declaration that the United States brought the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, upon itself.
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.
Boy, that’s clever. That Sen. Reed sidestepped the real issues of Chavez’s questionable democratic bona fides, his desire to become South America’s leading military power and his various strong arm tactics shouldn’t be surprise. Oil-from-Chavez offers a double-bonus: cheap oil for a valued constituency and a poke in the eye of the Bush Administration. How could he resist? For that matter, how could Senator Chafee?
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. . .
Chafee, who has a separate meeting with Venezuelan and Citgo officials, said the “dynamic” of the deal under negotiation is that “President Chavez wants to embarrass President Bush because we don’t have good relations with Venezuela.” Chafee said, “It’s not hypocritical for me to explore this initiative” because he has twice visited with Chavez in Venezuela and said that “we need to repair our relations” with that nation.
Chafee, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel with responsibility over South America, held out former President Richard M. Nixon’s overtures to communist China as an example for Mr. Bush to follow with Venezuela.
Look, I can appreciate the realpolitik that seems to be motivating our Senators: sometimes you have to deal with the devil (so to speak). And it is a worthy effort to try to find cheap heating oil for the disadvantaged. Besides, as Senator Chafee’s allusion to China indicates, we’ve been dealing with authoritarian’s for a long, long time. But this is taking things to a particularly acute and intimate level, isn’t it?
Here are some previous posts that include discussion on Chavez:
The Geopoliticization of World’s Oil & Gas Industry (Don mentions Venezuala’s energy deal with China)
Dictator Chavez of Venezuela
Religious Without Being Morally Serious Vs. Morally Serious Without Being Religious (Don writes of Pat Robertson irresponsible call for an assassination of Chavez)
A Republican Crackup? (Andrew mentions Jack Kemp’s improper lobbying efforts for Chavez)
Beware Dictators Bearing Oil
Beware Dictators Bearing Oil II
A Reason to Support Hugo Chavez!
Hugo Chavez holds an Election but Nobody Comes