| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Dec 14 Venezuela's president, Hugo
Chavez may be a pariah in Washington, but on Friday the U.S.
arm of the country's state oil company loaded up a truck of
heating oil for poor Americans in New York City.
The shipment to New York's South Bronx section follows a
similar giveaway in Boston earlier this week, in the third year
of U.S. heating oil assistance by Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum.
The program has grown even as tensions have mounted between
Caracas and U.S. oil companies and their allies in Washington.
Former U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy and Alejandro Granado,
president of Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum, climbed atop a fuel
truck to fill it up at a fuel terminal in the South Bronx Hunts
Granado and Kennedy, head of a nonprofit group called
Citizens Energy, gave a thumbs up to a small crowd of residents
and Citgo employees wearing red jackets.
"This is a gift coming from the heart of the Venezuelan
people to the heart of the American people," Granado told the
crowd, some of whom held bright yellow, blue, and red
Venezuelan flags handed out by Citgo staff.
The heating oil program, which provides a one-time heating
oil delivery of 100 gallons to low-income Americans, will
donate 45 million gallons, or more than $100 million worth, of
heating oil to more than 200,000 families in 23 states this
winter, according to Citgo.
"This is going to help us out especially now since the oil
prices are so high," said Gloria Colon, a South Bronx resident
who will be receiving the Venezuelan fuel assistance for the
first time this year.
By the end of this winter, the program will have donated
100 million gallons of Venezuelan oil to low-income Americans,
even as the leaders of the two nations continue to trade jabs.
Chavez called U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil" in
an address to the U.N. last year. Earlier this month, Bush
cheered Venezuelans who voted to reject reforms that would have
eliminated term limits for Chavez.
Bronx residents at the event dismissed the political spat
and said the Citgo program served a good purpose.
"We can't get $1 for anything from an American oil company,
let alone for heating oil," said Vicente Alba, the Chairman of
For a Better Bronx, a local environmental organization,
praising the donation of Citgo fuel.
"When you're low-income and you have to struggle, wherever
you can get help from, you're going to take it," Colon said.
Colon, her mother Tomasa, and her grandson Steven, held
Venezuelan flags, but Colon said she didn't have much to say
about U.S.-Venezuela relations.
"I don't listen to much politics," she said.
(Reporting by Rebekah Kebede)