Hugo heating oil program: keeping prices down in U.S. neighborhoods

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Last week, facing pressure from falling petroleum prices, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez suspended the Citgo-Venezuela Heating Oil Program. Now entering its fourth year, the program provides low-cost heating oil to over 200,000 impoverished households in 23 states. Not coincidentally, it also puts the Bush administration in the difficult position of receiving foreign aid from one of its harshest critics.

Begun in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Chavez's program was designed to offset the price spike caused by the closing of America's Gulf coast refineries. While the recent drop in the cost of petroleum has helped make heating oil more affordable, the recession has more or less maintained the status quo for many of the country's poorest families.

With this in mind, Chavez announced his plans to reinstate the program. While the political impact of Venezuela's foreign aid is certainly painful to many American politicians, there is no question that it provides vital help to some of the country's neediest citizens. With winter scratching at the door, it's nice to know that some political ploys CAN keep you warm at night!




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