Hugo Chavez must be grinning from ear to ear. As the White House assiduously tries to demonize him, a Boston popular tabloid hails him as a savior of the city’s working class:
OUR VIEW: Heating aid just in the nick of time
The Patriot Ledger, Nov. 28
There was good news on the home heating oil front last week, just hours before the first blast of winter air struck the region.
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Quincy, helped arrange a deal with Citgo Petroleum Corp. for some 12 millions gallons of Venezuelan oil to be purchased at a steep discount by low-income Massachusetts residents. An estimated 45,000 households will receive a one-time delivery of 200 gallons of oil at a price 40 percent below the market rate.
The arrangement caused a splash because Citgo Petroleum – known hereabouts for the very visible vintage sign in Kenmore Square – is a subsidiary of the Venezuelan government. People in Washington and elsewhere can debate whether the deal was a political slap in the face from Venezuela to President Bush, because Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is at odds with the White House. But for homeowners worried about whether they will have enough oil to heat their homes this winter, the politics are irrelevant. Cheaper oil is cheaper oil, and it’s welcome.
Less noticed perhaps was a $20 million fuel assistance program from the state, which can mean up to $840 for a family that meets the income eligibility standards. The law also includes tax deductions of up to $800 in oil or natural gas heating bills for taxpayers earning $50,000 as single filers, or $75,000 as joint filers. The deductions will be for oil and gas purchased between Dec. 1 and March 31 only. The package also includes tax credits for people making home improvements intended to increase energy efficiency.
The amount of aid available for home heating is more critical this year than ever, as energy costs are predicted to be almost 30 percent higher than last year. The Legislature and Gov. Mitt Romney have acted in a timely manner to have this assistance available.
In Congress, meantime, squabbling over appropriations bills has left the amount of money available for heating assistance the same as last year, or $77.5 million for Massachusetts. The amount of federal heating assistance nationwide is just $2 billion, truly a drop in the bucket for a product as essential as food or medicine.
Here’s a Nov. 22 story on the very shrewd and courageous deal:
Venezuela sending cheap oil to Massachusetts
Two nonprofit groups sign deal to aid low-income residents
QUINCY, Massachusetts (AP) — Thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents will receive discounted home heating oil this winter under an agreement signed Tuesday with Venezuela, whose government is a political adversary of the Bush administration.
Citgo Petroleum Corp., a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, will supply oil at 40 percent below market prices.
The agreement gives President Hugo Chavez’s government standing as a provider of heating assistance to poor U.S. residents at a time when U.S. oil companies have been reluctant to do so and Congress has failed to expand aid in response to rising oil prices.
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt of Massachusetts, a Democrat, met with Chavez in August and helped broker the deal.
He said his constituents’ needs for heating assistance trump any political points the Chavez administration can score.
“This is a humanitarian gesture,” Delahunt said, speaking after a news conference with Venezuelan officials and others outside the home of a constituent in Quincy who will receive heating aid.
Citgo is the Houston, Texas-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company and has about 13,500 independently owned U.S. gas stations.
It is offering Massachusetts more than 12 million gallons of discounted heating oil over the next four months, starting in December.
The two nonprofit organizations will screen recipients for financial need and cooperate with oil distributors that will make discounted deliveries to qualifying homes and institutions, such as homeless shelters and hospitals.
Chavez proposed offering fuel directly to poor U.S. communities during a visit to Cuba in August.
He has said the aim is to bypass middlemen to reduce costs for the American poor — a group he argues has been severely neglected by Bush’s government.
Chavez has become one of Latin America’s most vocal critics of U.S.-style capitalism, which he calls a major cause of poverty.
U.S. officials accuse Chavez of endangering Venezuelan democracy by assuming ever greater powers.
During a short-lived 2002 coup against Chavez, the U.S. government promptly recognized the new leaders, who were soon driven out amid a popular uprising.
Unfortunately, even as Chavez is winning friends among the Boston working class, he is now losing them among the Mexican (as well as Venezuelan) ruling class. See our last post.
See also our last post on the oil shock.