VIENNA, Austria – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that he wants to provide cheap heating oil for low-income Europeans, proposing a plan similar to the one he carried out in parts of the eastern United States.
"I want to humbly offer support to the poorest people who do not have resources for central heating in winter and make sure that support arrives," Chavez said at a gathering in Vienna of activists and representatives of social movements and non-governmental groups.
The so-called alternative summit was held in parallel to a three-day summit of leaders from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean that concluded earlier Saturday in the Austrian capital.
This past winter, Venezuela delivered cut-rate oil to low-income Americans through Citgo, the Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Some Chavez critics charged the heating aid program was an attempt to embarrass President Bush and was more an attempt to score political points than it was an act of charity.
In other comments during his speech that lasted more than two hours, Chavez — known for his anti-American rhetoric — said that the "final hours of the North American empire have arrived."
"So now we have to say to the empire: 'We're not afraid of you. You're a paper tiger," he added.