Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Venezuelan Oil

Today Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, and Hugo Chavez signed a deal that will help low income Londoners get around the city on mass transit. The deal calls for cheap fuel from Venezuela to be used in London's buses and this discount will enable the government to offer half-price bus and tram fares for a quarter of a million residents of the capital, according to the BBC article. In return, Chavez and the people of Venezuela will receive professional advising in the areas of recycling, waste management, traffic, and reducing carbon emissions from the municipal think tank Greater London Authority. This is not Chavez's first experience with selling cheap oil to aid the poor of Western superpowers. Boston and New York already receive oil at significantly reduced prices and offer it to its urban poor at a reduced price. Chavez's Venezuela is the 9th highest oil producing country in the world.

Critics of Chavez have been quite outspoken, just as the Venezuelan president has. The 52 year old president was the leader of an unsuccessful coup, spent time in jail, then decided to work within the system and gained one of the largest majorities in the country for president in 1998. Chavez has focused on social welfare programs, including getting rid of fees for public school. It's no surprise that Chavez's critics hail from the elite classes and the Western superpowers who are deathly scared of Communism. Chavez's chumminess with (gasp) Fidel Castro has unnerved George W. Bush, who continues to enforce a useless and pointless embargo with Cuba. The fact is, Chavez is helping the poor of the United States and England while leaders in both countries continue to chastise him for unproven allegations of human rights abuses. While Chavez's motives may be to irk the US and Britain, he has been a model for Latin America, which has been taken advantage of time and again by the United States. Chavez has the guts to stand up to the bully that the United States has been in the past century and a half to his Latin American people. No matter what Chavez's motives (I personally believe it is a mix of wanting to piss off Bush and actually wanting to help people, for he grew up poor himself), there are people in Boston and New York who can sleep at night without shivering and there are Londoners now who can get around the city at an affordable fare thanks to Mr. Chavez. Peace.

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