CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Monday his government plans to sell as much as 66,000 barrels per day of heating fuel from its U.S. Citgo refinery to poor communities in the United States.
The offer, made after populist Chavez held talks with U.S. civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, would represent 10 percent of the 660,000 bpd of refined products processed by Citgo. The deals would cut consumer costs by direct sales.
"We are going to direct as much as 10 percent of the production, that means 66,000 barrels, without intermediaries, to poor communities, hospitals, religious communities, schools," Chavez told reporters at a press conference.
The world's No. 5 oil exporter, oil cartel OPEC member Venezuela is a key supplier to the United States, providing about 15 percent of all U.S. energy imports.
But relations between Caracas and Washington have become strained since left-winger Chavez was elected in 1998 promising social reforms.
Chavez, a former army officer who survived a coup in 2002, frequently accuses the U.S. of backing efforts to kill him or topple his government. U.S. officials dismiss those charges but say Chavez has become a threat to regional stability.
At a time when Bush appears helpless to stem rising oil prices (if we believe he really wants to), Chavez shows us the answer is easy: Cut out the middle-men and profit takers, who have carved out an unneccesary niche for themselves.
It's also interesting to note the lack of press coverage of such a significant offer. When Chavez first made this offer last week during the Robertson mess, it was completely ignored by the mainstream press, who apparently did not know how to "frame" such a humanitarian gesture from a supposed ruthless dictator. Yesterday Rueters gave it a headline, but no one appears to have picked it up still. The exceptions are the Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg. You would think at a time when gas prices are the number one thing on every person's mind that such a story would merit at least a page 14 mention. But when it contradicts the overarching "story" we like to tell ourselves about good and band guys (and economic systems), then things get ignored.