It looks like people facing high heating bills in the state of Massachusetts will not have to pay so much this winter, courtesy of a humanitarian gesture by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has often been critical 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.
It will be distributed by two nonprofit organizations, Citizens Energy Corp. and the Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance.
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.
If you are poor and are looking at an explosively higher heating bill this winter, then you probably will be happy to pay less, no matter who is helping with the bill. And it isn't even like Chavez won't make money; he is simply cutting out the middleman and selling directly to the two nonprofits who will be distributing the oil, and 40 percent below market price this winter is still comparable to full price last winter.
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.
Keep in mind, that Chavez is the democratically elected leader of his country, and then when a recall election was attempted in the middle of his term, he won that by an overwhelming margin. So, the protestations of Washington that he is essentially a dictator are absolutely false.
The biggest story here is that after five years of the Bush administration, the poor in America are in the position where they need foreign aid just to survive.