By: Christine Morabito – April, 2011
The giant CITGO sign looming over Fenway Park is one of the most recognized landmarks in Boston. But what it symbolizes is as controversial as when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
We have all seen the Citizens Energy commercials where former Congressman Joseph Kennedy II champions his benevolence for the poor by providing discounted heating oil “from our good friends in Venezuela.” Upon closer inspection, such friends leave much to be desired.
CITGO is a Houston based company owned by the Venezuelan government and controlled by Hugo Chavez. As part of its public relations, the company assists America’s poor in 25 states, providing home heating oil at a 40 percent discount. But all that charity comes at a dangerous price.
We should first ask ourselves: since when is Hugo Chavez such a humanitarian? A litany of human rights violations at the hands of the Venezuelan government reads like a bad nightmare and they include unlawful executions, harassment of the media and political opponents, torture of prisoners and support of terrorist groups.
Chavez has nationalized his country’s most vital industries, seizing control of the coffee trade, oil production, banks, utilities, and many radio, internet and television stations. Venezuela’s inflation rate is now over 28 percent, Latin America’s highest. In response, Chavez did what any good leftist would do—he imposed price controls. These, of course, have lead to food shortages and a subsequent spike in crime. Mona Charen, in her article “Joe Kennedy, Hugo Chavez and That Free Heating Oil,” published in the Jewish World Review (January 4, 2008), writes: “It isn’t as if Chavez has improved life so much in Venezuela that he can now look abroad for charitable opportunities.”
Chavez is a sworn enemy of the United States. He celebrated the 911 terror attacks and pals around with terrorist sympathizers across the globe. In 2002, Hugo’s personal pilot defected to the U.S. and testified that Chavez transferred close to $1 million to Osama Bin Laden. Judicial Watch, a conservative foundation, filed a lawsuit against Chavez in 2003 on behalf of the families of those killed on 911 for providing materials and financial support to al Qaeda. The Venezuelan tyrant also proudly hosts al Qaeda and Hezbollah training camps throughout his country.
In his quest to be president for life, Chavez removed those pesky presidential term limits and will now be allowed to run for a third six-year term in 2012. He was also granted authority to rule by decree, eliminating the need to consult his Congress. (Sound familiar?) When the U.S. raised concern over this power-grab, Chavez’s response was “Go to Hell, gringos.”
Unlike Joe Kennedy, I do not have any good friends resembling Hugo Chavez. I find it inconceivable that we are funding such a sinister regime. Congressman Connie Mack (R-FL) has been waging this battle for years. In a fiery speech at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference, he called Kennedy “a low man with a great name” for colluding with Chavez in his oil-for-influence program. Mack has written to Kennedy imploring him to abandon his business relationship with Hugo in the name of national security.
Venezuela has proven itself worthy of being added to the U.S. State Department’s list of sponsors of terrorism. The list includes four other nations, Syria, Cuba, Sudan and Iran, and, not surprisingly, Chavez is chummy with each and every one of them. So, why has Venezuela not been added? Despite congressional attempts to include the South American country, no progress has been made and the Obama administration prefers to look the other way.
Chavez has had many apologists on the American left throughout the years, including Congressmen Edward Markey (D-MA), Jose Serrano (D-NY), John Conyers (D-MI), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and former Congressmen William Delahunt (D-MA) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). These politicians benefited from accepting cheap oil for their districts. While appearing compassionate and charitable, they unwittingly indebted themselves to the Venezuelan despot.
We should applaud the efforts of Rep. Connie Mack, who wrote to Kennedy in 2007 “Millions of Americans understand that Hugo Chavez is the most dangerous man in the Western Hemisphere. As a former member of Congress, you should too.” Mack is calling for the CITGO sign in Boston to be turned off. This would send a message of freedom to the hemisphere’s biggest tyrant.
According to authors General Donald Blaine Smith and Christopher Brown, in their article “Chavez, Joe Kennedy and Oil Math” (January 9, 2008), while Citizens Energy Corporation is in fact a non-profit, it is not the organization directly involved with the oil charity. Citizens Energy is managed by a holding company called Citizens Enterprises Corporation, which is very much for profit. The majority of Kennedy’s $600,000 plus annual salary comes from this organization. Not a bad pay day for helping the poor.
Kennedy responds to critics by asking, “What are we supposed to do in the absence of adequate help from the federal government or any help from other oil companies — turn down fuel for those in need?”
So, Mr. Kennedy, what ARE we supposed to do? Three words: Drill – Baby – Drill.
Greater Boston Tea Party Tax Day Rally
Friday, April 15th from 4-6 p.m.
Boston Common Bandstand
Featuring: Tim Pawlenty
Merrimack Valley Tea Party Meeting
Wednesday, April 20th at 7 p.m.
VFW Hall, 32 Park Street, N. Andover