Venezuela expands low-cost fuel sales in U.S.

| Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Venezuela has expanded its controversial program for subsidizing cheap heating oil in the U.S., adding Connecticut to the growing list of participating states.

As part of the program, Venezuela will provide 4.8 million gallons of heating oil at a 40 percent discount to Connecticut homes that qualify for state home heating assistance, according to Reuters.

About 15,000 low-income citizens in Connecticut will benefit from the program. 

Six other states – Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Vermont – have already joined the program. The Bronx in New York City is also participating.

Reuters reported that the program, which is described as humanitarian aid by Venezuelan officials, has drawn praise from some and harsh criticism from others.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal praised the program, saying that it “fills an unfortunate, profoundly important need” for Connecticut citizens.

Others, including Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX, and Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-KY, questioned the motives behind the program.

Barton said that, given the tense state of relations between the Venezuelan and U.S. governments, he wondered if the sales were “part of an unfriendly government’s increasingly belligerent and hostile foreign policy,” Reuters reported.

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