Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Chavez outrage fuels 'boycott Citgo' effort

Chavez outrage fuels 'boycott Citgo' effort
Comments about President Bush, overthrow of U.S., infuriate many

Posted: October 4, 2006
8:00 p.m. Eastern

© 2006

Citgo Petroleum has lost a contract to supply 7-Eleven fuel needs around the nation, elected leaders in two states are considering formal action against the company and dozens of smaller boycotts are being launched because owner Hugo Chavez called President Bush "the devil" and envisions the destruction the United States.

"I can't buy a product from a country that wants to destroy our way of life as we know it," one supporter of the Citgo Boycott website said. "I don't care if Citgo starts selling gas for $.50/gal. I will go to another station and pay $2.50. All Americans must realize that by purchasing gas from Citgo, you're digging your own grave … or your children's graves."

"I think Americans should absolutely boycott Citgo stations. Despite how people may feel about President Bush, it is our right as Americans to offer criticism or praise as we so choose. Not for some foreign clown to use the UN in a U.S. city as a soapbox," concluded another.

Still another was more abbreviated: "Stop funding these morons who hate us and wish to destroy us."

The reaction has been so intense that Citgo itself has launched a campaign to counteract its effects. In a new statement released this week, Citgo said it wanted to correct the "inaccurate and misleading" information about itself.

Hugo Chavez

"The most recent example was how Citgo's decision to allow its supply agreement with 7-Eleven to expire at the end of September was misrepresented as a reaction by 7-Eleven to the remarks recently made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez," the company said.

"In reality a final decision about the contract was made about three months ago," the company announced in a statement dated Sept. 27.

However, its own website included no apparent confirmation of that, and in fact, it had several announcements about that time "three months ago" about realigning the company's "national retail gasoline network footprint" with no mention of giving up 7-Eleven as a customer.

Citgo said its changes would result in a "stronger company presence" in the East and Gulf Coast regions and quoted Citgo President Felix Rodriguez as saying only "less-efficient" markets were being dropped.

The company also said calls for boycotts of its products would ignore the implications of such actions on American businesses and the general public.

Citgo said it is, after all, a U.S. company, even though it is owned by Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) and the most recent board action awarded a dividend of $280 million payable to its parent immediately, bringing the 2006 total of those payments to about $400 million.

"The payment of this dividend reflects the company's strong performance and the continued alignment of Citgo and PDVSA," Alejandro Granado, CITGO chairman, said at the time.

PDVSA, meanwhile, is fully owned by the Venezuelan government, which is run by Chavez.

The company also said its employees "spent countless hours" volunteering after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Cost, and the company donated $2 million.

"Citgo is the largest corporate sponsor of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and we are proud of our 21-year relationship with this organization, to which we have contributed more than $83 million," the company said.

However, those good deeds appear to not be enough to convince many groups in the United States to continue their support for the company, following Chavez condemnation of all things American.

He recently appeared at the U.N. to call Bush a devil, and say the stench of sulfur still lingered from an earlier appearance by Bush.

Months earlier, Chavez, who is pushing a socialist revolution and has close ties to Fidel Castro, had teamed with anti-Bush activist Cindy Sheehan in calling for people to "bury imperialism this century."

Citgo describes itself as a Houston-based "refiner and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals, refined waxes, asphalt and other industrial products."

But the timing of the situation appears to be more than coincidence. The 7-Eleven convenience store chain announced it would stop selling Citgo gas just a week after Chavez' attack on Bush.

Officials for the Dallas-based 7-Eleven confirmed the company disapproved of Chavez' statements, but said politics were not used in the decision-making process.

"Regardless of politics, we sympathize with many Americans' concerns over derogatory comments (from Chavez) about our country and its leadership," 7-Eleven said.

A source quoted in a report on MSNBC said Citgo had supplied 2,100 7-Eleven locations and wanted to renew a contract to supply stores in some states, but not others, but 7-Eleven officials rejected the plan.

Despite characterizing the United States as a slaveowner in its relationship with Venezuela, Chavez has not made the decision to stop selling oil to the U.S., which is his largest customer.

The end result is that 7-Eleven said it is taking down Citgo signs and will sell under its own brand of fuel, and Citgo will be selling elsewhere.

Taking down Citgo signs was a popular subject among others, too.

Florida state Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, said he wants Florida to strip Citgo of its contract to run gas stations on Florida's Turnpike. In a letter to the state secretary of transportation he said Chavez' attack was "more than the normal anti-American rhetoric."

He told the St. Petersburg Times that ending the contract would send a message that Florida will not support "institutions that seek the destabilization of America."

The state's 312-mile toll road has seven rest areas about 45 miles apart, each one limited to the sale of Citgo gas, officials said.

Chavez' comments were condemned by both Democrats and Republicans, including some of the strongest critics of Bush and his policies.

And a city councilor in Boston has issued a call that a large Citgo sign visible from the famed Fenway Park, be removed. Councilor Jerry McDermott said the sign would be replaced with an American flag.

Apparently the first group to issue a call for a boycott of Citgo was American Family Association, which was the subject of an earlier report by WND.

"Sales of products at Citgo stations send money back to Chavez to help him in his vow to bring down our government," said AFA founder Don Wildmon in a statement early in 2006.

AFA noted Chavez had told a television audience: "Enough of imperialist aggression; we must tell the world: down with the U.S. empire. We have to bury imperialism this century."

Chavez also had met with American entertainer Harry Belafonte, who called President Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world" while in Venezuela.

"Regardless of your feelings about the war in Iraq, the issue here is that we have a socialist dictator vowing to bring down the government of the U.S. And he is using our money to achieve his goal!" warned Wildmon.

Another weblog writer said he had stopped shopping at Citgo months ago. "Basically it has to do with not wanting one cent of my money finding its way into the grubby little hands of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez."

Other boycott calls reportedly have been issued by "The Jawa Report" and "Hyscience," bloggers said.

Online reports show that the Citgo brand was launched in 1965 by Cities Service Company, but that was acquired by Occidental in 1982. The next year it was sold to Southland Corp., and the Venezuelan company bought a 50 percent interest in 1986, obtaining the rest in 1990.

Bloggers at say radio talk show host Michael Savage also wants listeners to boycott and some other companies also will refuse to buy Citgo products.

"It's simple; Chavez hates America, what we stand for and has been critical to the point of blasphemy about our lifestyle patterns and our government. Yet, he still controls one of our nation's most productive companies," bloggers there said.

"This is America and if we can recover from the loss of Eastern AirLines, Enron and half of Silicon Valley, we can do without CITGO."


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