- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2006

1:55 p.m.

DALLAS (AP) — Convenience store operator 7-Eleven Inc. is dropping Venezuela-backed Citgo as its gasoline supplier at more than 2,100 locations and switching to its own brand of fuel.

A spokeswoman for 7-Eleven said its 20-year contract with Citgo Petroleum Corp. ends next week. About 2,100 of the Dallas company’s 5,300 U.S. stores sell gasoline.

Citgo is a Houston subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, and the foreign parent became a public-relations issue for 7-Eleven because of comments by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Mr. Chavez has called President Bush the “devil” and an alcoholic. The U.S. government has warned that Mr. Chavez is a destabilizing force in Latin America.

“Regardless of politics, we sympathize with many Americans’ concern over derogatory comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez,” said 7-Eleven spokesman Margaret Chabris.

She said a boycott of Citgo gasoline would hurt the 4,000 employees of the U.S. subsidiary, who have no connection to Venezuela.

7-Eleven had been considering creating its own brand of fuel since at least early last year. Company officials said at the time that they had spoken with independent fuel distributors.

The retailer said today it will purchase fuel from several distributors, including Tower Energy Group of Torrance, Calif., Sinclair Oil of Salt Lake City, and Frontier Oil Corp. of Houston.

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