Juan Gonzales & Duncan Campbell / The Guardian – 2005-08-26 23:59:54
Oil Fat Cats Vs. Hugo Chavez
(August 26, 2005) — I pulled into the Mobil gas station on 11th Ave. in Manhattan yesterday for my weekly stickup from the oil companies.
Their take this time was an astonishing $3.05 per gallon for premium unleaded. “Every three or four days the price goes up,” said Patel, the man in charge of the station. “Lots of complaints from my customers.”
Complaints from everyone except oil executives.
Last year, Exxon/Mobil, the world’s largest corporation, posted the highest profits of any company in history — more than $25 billion. The oil giant, based in Irving, Tex., is on track to shatter that mark this year, with revenues that now approach $1 billion per day.
Which brings me to Pat Robertson and Hugo Chavez.
Robertson, the right-wing evangelist and friend of the Bush family, publicly called this week for the US government to kill — or at least kidnap — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
“This is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us badly,” Robertson said. His less-than-Christian remarks ignited an outcry and forced him to issue an apology of sorts, though he still insisted that he had at least “focused our government’s attention on a growing problem.”
That “problem,” quite simply, is that Chavez, a radical populist who has been voted into office repeatedly by huge majorities in his own country, controls the largest reserve of petroleum outside the Middle East.
Neither Robertson, nor former oil executives George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, nor their buddies at Exxon/Mobil, Chevron, etc., are happy about all this.
Even more scandalous for Big Oil, Chavez is using Venezuela’s windfall not to fatten his own country’s oligarchy but to benefit the Venezuelan poor and help neighboring countries.
Yesterday, while Robertson was issuing his half-baked Chavez clarification, the Venezuelan president was in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where he announced a new oil agreement with that country’s prime minister, P.J. Patterson.
Under the agreement, Venezuela will supply 22,000 barrels of oil a day to Jamaica for a mere $40 a barrel. That’s far lower than the current world price of about $65 a barrel. With the price of gasoline in that destitute nation already more than $3.50 a gallon, the Chavez plan means more than half a million dollars a day in savings for Jamaica on oil imports.
Chavez also announced his government will provide $60 million in foreign aid to Jamaica and finance the upgrading of that country’s oil refineries.
The agreement is part of a broader Chavez plan called Petrocaribe, which he unveiled at a Caribbean summit in Venezuela last June.
At that conference, Chavez offered the same kind of deal to the leaders of more than a dozen other neighboring nations, including Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
Fernandez jumped at the offer because his government is nearly bankrupt from oil prices. Last year, the Dominican Republic spent $1.2 billion on oil imports; this year, it expects to fork out more than $3 billion. The price of gasoline in Santo Domingo has zoomed past $4 a gallon in recent days.
Pat Robertson looks at Chavez and sees a devilish danger. He wants our government to “take him out.” Over at the White House, Bush and his aides may use more restrained language, but their goals are not much different.
But there’s a whole different view down in Latin America, where a half-dozen nations have seen liberal and populist governments swept into office in recent years.
Down there, Chavez has become the new miracle man of oil. Unlike Exxon/Mobil and the Big Oil fat cats, who wallow in their record profits while the rest of us pay, Chavez is spreading the wealth around.
A dangerous man, indeed.
Chávez Taunts US with Oil Offer
Duncan Campbell /www.guardian.co.uk/venezuela/ story/0,12716,1555970,00.htmlGuardian
(August 25, 2005) — President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela hit back vigorously at calls by an ally of President George Bush for his assassination by offering cheap petrol to the poor of the US at a time of soaring fuel prices.
In a typically robust response to remarks by the US televangelist Pat Robertson, Mr Chávez compared his detractors to the “rather mad dogs with rabies” from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and unveiled his plans to use Venezuela’s energy reserves as a political tool. “We want to sell gasoline and heating fuel directly to poor communities in the United States,” he said.
Mr Robertson’s remarks have threatened to inflame tension between the US and one of its main oil suppliers. Yesterday the religious broadcaster apologised for his remarks. “Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologise for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the US is out to kill him,” he said.
In a TV broadcast on Monday, he said: “If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.”
Yesterday Mr Robertson initially said his comments had been misinterpreted, but went on to add that kidnapping Mr Chávez might be a better idea. “I said our special forces could take him out. Take him out could be a number of things, including kidnapping.”
The Bush administration tried to distance itself from Mr Robertson’s views without upsetting the large Christian fundamentalist wing which the veteran evangelist represents.
A State Department spokesman said assassination was not part of government policy. “He’s a private citizen,” Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, said of Mr Robertson. “Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time.” But Mr Robertson’s remarks are seen as an embarrassment at a time when the US is calling for a united front against terror.
Democrats have challenged the Bush administration to be more outspoken in its response to Mr Robertson’s remarks on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Venezuela’s ambassador to the US, Bernardo Alvarez, said: “Mr Robertson has been one of this president’s staunchest allies. His statement demands the strongest condemnation by the White House.”
The Venezuelan government is asking for assurances from the US government that Mr Chávez will be adequately protected when he visits New York for a special session of the UN next month.
Venezuela’s vice-president, José Vicente Rangel, said the possibility of legal action against Mr Robertson for incitement to murder should also be considered.
Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest crude exporter, supplies 1.3m barrels of oil a day to the US. It remains unclear how poor Americans might benefit from the cheap petrol offer, but Mr Chávez has set up arrangements with other countries for swapping services in exchange for oil. Cuban doctors are working in the poorer areas of Venezuela in exchange for cheap oil going to Cuba.
Jamaica yesterday became the first Caribbean country to reach an agreement with Venezuela for oil at below-market terms. The Petrocaribe initiative is a plan to offer oil at flexible rates to 13 Caribbean countries. Jamaica will pay $40 a barrel, against a market rate of more than $60.
Mr Chávez said oil importers such as the US could expect no respite from the oil market, predicting the price of a barrel would reach $100 by 2012.
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