Friday, November 25, 2005

And up through the ground came a bubblin' crude

Hugo Chavez seems a bit of a jerk, I'll have to admit. His posturings and radical rhetoric often overshadow the actual good that he does. While some claim him to be the Hispanic Nelson Mandela, he would do well to study Mandela's methods, instead of trying to provoke knee jerk reaction from both his supporters and his enemies.

Still, this seems like a useful, if politically awkward offer of help:

Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, has pulled off his greatest public relations coup yet in his campaign to irritate the Bush Administration with a deal to supply cheap fuel to thousands of poor residents of Boston and New York.

To the anger of many in Washington, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, a company controlled by the Venezuelan Government, will supply more than 45 million litres of oil at 40 per cent below market prices.

The deal is one of the most spectacular moves yet in Mr Chavez's attempt to market his "21st-century socialism" using his country's oil wealth.

While it will not change many minds in Washington about his populist and autocratic regime, Caracas hopes it will bolster Mr Chavez's claim as the coming leader of an anti-capitalist Latin America. Mr Chavez, who once dubbed President George Bush a "genocidal madman" and led a huge anti-US protest earlier this month, first proposed his fuel offer in August when oil prices were at a record high after Hurricane Katrina.

Joe Kennedy, the chairman of Citizens Energy, one of the organisations that will distribute the oil, said the deal highlighted the failure of oil companies in the US and the Government to step in to help.

"Our government has made billions of dollars just this year on the royalty payments the oil companies pay to the Government," he said. But when it is a question of poor Americans, "what do we hear from Washington? Sorry boys. There's no money in the till."

Keep in mind, this is the same Chavez that almost was ousted in a US sponsered coup a while back, and who that paragon of Christian virtue Pat Robertson said:

We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.

The question, of course, is what matters to GWBush: saving face in a pissing match with Chavez, or actually helping Amricans who might have trouble buying gasoline.

We'll see. My bet is on saving face.