- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s Citgo Petroleum Corp. extended discounted sales of heating oil to Delaware yesterday, the company’s latest effort to provide affordable fuel to low-income families in the United States.

Representatives of Citgo, a Houston subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, have said it plans to provide 55 million gallons of heating oil at a 40 percent discount this winter to low-income U.S. communities that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused Washington of neglecting.

Venezuela’s information ministry announced yesterday that 1.15 million gallons would be available at the reduced rate to 5,000 low-income households in Delaware. Twenty homeless shelters will receive free heating fuel.

“The aid forms part of the social program implemented by Citgo in several American states as a result of the energy crisis in the United States,” according to the Venezuelan statement.

Citgo Chief Executive Officer Felix Rodriguez said the discounted fuel would help poor families escape high energy costs during the cold winter months.

“We have heard horror stories of families forced to heat their homes with their stoves because they have no money for heating oil,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “No one should be forced to sacrifice food, shelter or medicine to stay warm.”

The program, which was introduced two months ago in Massachusetts, has covered at least 1 million persons, according to Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez.

Delaware joins Massachusetts, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut, which are already participating in the Citgo program. Mr. Alvarez said last week that New Jersey also has expressed interest.

The United States is the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan oil despite frequent diplomatic disputes between Caracas and Washington.

Venezuela is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter.

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