Venezuela Will Sell Cheap Heating Oil to U.S. Poor

Venezuela will soon begin selling heating oil at discount prices to poor communities in Boston and New York, following up on a promise by President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's state oil company announced.

Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company that runs roughly 16,000 gas stations in the United States, will offer fuel at discounted rates in Boston as early as next week, according to a statement posted Friday on the company's Web site.

In Boston, up to 1.2 million gallons of discounted heating oil will be offered, for a total savings of $10 million, the statement said. Heating oil will be sold later in the Bronx, a New York City borough.

The statement said the distribution of the discounted heating oil will be organized with the help of local nonprofit organizations.

Chavez often blames the plight of the poor on unbridled capitalism and strongly criticizes the Bush administration for failing to reduce poverty in the United States.

Although tensions between the United States and Venezuela have increased since Chavez was elected in 1998, the oil-rich South American country remains a major supplier of fuel to the United States.

Chavez offered cheap heating oil for poor U.S. communities in August following a meeting in Caracas with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Venezuela, which has the largest oil and natural gas reserves outside the Middle East, is the world's fifth most important oil exporter and a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.