Working to provoke discussion and provide up-to-date information and analysis on US-Venezuelan relations, politics, policies, and culture.

Venezuelan oil sales to American poor:

Chávez builds base with grass-roots circles in U.S.
November 21, 2005
Miami Herald
By Pablo Bachelet

WASHINGTON - Miami's Jesús Soto supports Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's vision of ''participatory democracy.'' Valerie Pusch of Chicago backs Chávez because of his policies on behalf of the poor.

And they say so loudly, as heads of their local Bolivarian Circles -- among the dozen or so U.S. copies of the groups Chávez has set up throughout his country to mobilize Venezuelans on behalf of his socialist "revolution.''

Even as Chávez attacks President Bush as his sworn nemesis, his government is running a strong campaign to curry favor with U.S. citizens through leftist grass-roots groups, paid lobbyists and public relations operatives and offers of cheap fuel for America's poor.

Click to read the full story

Venezuelans to begin selling cheap oil to poor in Boston, New York
November 18, 2005
Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela --Venezuela will soon begin selling heating oil at discount prices to poor communities in Boston and New York, following up on a promise by President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's state oil company announced.

Click to read the full story


Blogger ConsDemo said...

There may be some altruistic reasons for this, but it is also a bit of a gimmick. The level of need is much higher in Venezuela than in the U.S. and the $ would be better spent there.

December 02, 2005 7:40 AM

Anonymous esandoval said...

Re: Money being better spent in Venezuela. Keep in mind that the Venezuelan government is not spending money on this per se. They are providing fuel at reduced rates by eliminating the middleman and delivering it themselves. They are not making major budget expenditures. Any oil company can do this, but alas, they've not stepped up. For obvious reasons, heating oil is not used much in Venezuela.

December 02, 2005 9:38 AM

Blogger ConsDemo said...

Greetings Esandoval,

Your statement may be literally true but it does represent revenues forgone for PDVSA.

Not all people in Venezuela are enamored with this subsidy.

From an Editorial in El Nacional, a leading Caracas daily on Monday, August 29, page A/8

El mandatario “recordó que muchos norteamericanos mueren de frío por falta de calefacción en época de invierno”. ¿Y cuántos venezolanos fallecen diariamente por falta de atención médica, por equipos en mal estado en los hospitales, por carencia de recursos y medicinas? ¿Lo sabe usted, señor Presidente?

Here is my (possibly imperfect) translation:

The President [Chavez] “notes that many Americans die of for lack of heat in the winter”. How many Venezuelans pass away daily for lack of medical attention, the poor condition of hospitals, the lack of resources and medicines? Do you know, Mr. President?

December 03, 2005 12:10 PM

Blogger bugs said...

Unfortunately, I would wager that nearly every country in the world today has people who die due to hunger, cold, or other following this logic, no nation could ever provide assistance to any other nation.

Sure, there has to be a balance, but I doubt that this program is breaking the bank for PDVSA.

And they are filling a very real need in the U.S. This program wasn't originally Chavez's idea. A group of U.S. senators wrote to all the major oil companies asking for heating oil assistance this winter. Only Citgo responded.

December 04, 2005 6:55 PM

Anonymous esandoval said...

Hi Consdemo,

You cite El National, but that paper is notoriously anti-Chavez, and it's never been an ally of Venezuela's poor, either. They only write about the poor when they think they can get a ding in against the present administration.

There is way more access to health care these days in Venezuela than in years past. It's not even comparable. Yes, there is still poverty, but now at least among the poor there is health care, education, and access to government in a way never seen before. It's not a perfect system, clearly, but it's better than in years past.

El National has always been a little crazy on this subject since the government stopped supsidizing private hospitals that only catered to the super-rich, in favor of hospitals and clinics that served everyone.

December 04, 2005 10:11 PM

Anonymous Peric O'Verde said...

Esandoval wrote: "Yes, there is still poverty, but now at least among the poor there is health care, education, and access to government in a way never seen before."

When I hear comments like this, I often wonder if these people have some sort of mental problem, are plain idiots, or are fanatics to the point that they cannot see the reality in which Venezuelans have to live every day.

There is NO health care system in Venezuela. Chavez's thugocracy has placed Cuban doctors that can deliver here and there an aspirin or some extremely basic health care. This is certainly good as a first line of defense.

However, while people like esandoval "forget" to mention is that the Venezuelan hospital system is essentially collapsed.

Anyone with a health problem that requires going to a hospital is doomed. There are no medical supplies; equipments and infrastructure are basically non-existent. People have to buy their own medicines and basic things like bandages. Norway's channel two had a segment in their news program that is really eye-opening. It can be seen at

Of course, I am expecting some Chavez apologist to come forward and say that this segment is some imperialist plot master minded by Bush.

December 05, 2005 11:37 AM

Anonymous esandoval said...

Hey peric o'verde,

I've spend lots of time in the barrios around Caracas, living and working in low-income communities. They see the health missions as a godsend. Live are being saved--this is not an aspirin service.

I think many Venezuelans of a certain class didn't really have a sense of just how hard life was for the poor majority until the Chavez administration put their needs front and center. Now there is a lot of talk in the upper classes that things MUST be worse now than before for the poor because they'd never seen the situation on TV or in the news before. Unfortunately, it was always there. It was just being systematically ignored.

There is still a long way to go of course, but the vast majority of Venezuelans wouldn't change direction.

I'm not a "Chavez apologist," but I do have a deep connection with Venezuela's poor.

December 05, 2005 2:36 PM

Blogger ConsDemo said...

Hola Esandoval,

Yes El Nacional is anti-Chavez as the New York Times is anti-Bush. As with most other media, there is a mix if truth and slant in their reporting. However, the paper does contain useful information.

December 05, 2005 11:43 PM

Anonymous esandoval said...

Howdy Consdemo,

You're right that el National does have some value. The bias in their reporting (like many papers in Venezuela and the United States) is primarily class based. Many reporters have never stepped into a poor barrio, and it's just impossible to understand what's going on among the majority of Venezuelans without a deep understanding of life in the barrios and a respect for those people. El National (like the New York Times) is written by the middle and upper classes for the middle and upper classes, and I guess that's fine. It just frustrates me that they will talk about the poor when they can use it to attack the administration, but they don't seem to write sympathetically about these people in any other context.

December 06, 2005 9:40 AM

Blogger Marc Cooper said...

Very happy to find this blog and I hope it promotes more clear-headed discussion on Venezuela. Let me stir it up a bit by saying it's rather irrelevant what the political color or bias is of El Nacional. His initiative to provide discounted oil to some American communities is something that clearly benefits the recipients. And it is just as clearly a propganda move by Chavez. That leaves the whole enchilada doused in ambiguity and so works the world.

The difficulty in discussing Chavez in the U.S. is that the dialogue inevitably and understandably gets refracted through the US/Venezuela conflict. But that shouldn't lead anybody to surrender their critical faculties. It seems crystal clear to me that Chavez is a problematic figure who combines the rhetoric and possibly the reality of social justice with some equally distressing demagogy. You are invited to read my take on him on the new Truthdig website where you are also free to comment.

Anyway, glad to see this blog up and running.

December 16, 2005 11:41 PM


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