And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the

     faces of women and children I have seen the marks
     of wanton hunger.
Carl Sandburg

Of wanton hunger and of bitter cold.

In secret negotiations, Chicago, the “tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities,” is turning down an offer from Citgo, the Venezuelan oil giant, of a 40-50 percent discount on diesel fuel for buses this winter. (Only 12,000 homes in all of Illinois use heating oil.)

It’s actually Chicago’s windy bureaucrats who are the “little soft” ones as they tremble in fear of losing federal funding for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) if they’re caught consorting with the radical Hugo Chavez. “Just weeks after Citgo made its offer to the CTA, Congress signed the Federal Transportation Appropriations bill, allocating $89 million in infrastructure project funds the CTA had been seeking for years.”

In a masterfully researched story, New Standard News‘s Jessica Pupovac found out that “[i]nstead of accepting deeply discounted fuel from the Venezuela-owned Citgo Petroleum Corporation, the city is instead raising fares to solve budget shortfalls.”

In an October meeting with representatives from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the city’s Department of Energy and other city officials, Citgo unveiled a plan to provide the Chicago with low-cost diesel fuel. The company’s stipulation, at the bidding of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was that the CTA, in turn, pass those savings on to poor residents in the form free or discounted fare cards. […]

According to Venezuela’s consul general in Chicago, Martin Sanchez, the CTA has yet to inform his office of its decision to decline the discount offer.

In place of the proposed discount, which the CTA apparently does not want Chicagoans to even know about, budget shortfalls will be addressed by fair hikes. Chicagoans who are unaware of the Venezuela offer will be hit with an increase of 25 cents per ride next month, and discounted route-to-route transfers will be eliminated for passengers paying cash.

“I only earn $560 a month and of that, over $200 a month goes to my bus fare,” a mother of two teenagers told Ms. Pupovac. The mother uses CTA to get to her GED classes.

In November, I wrote a story about Rep. William Delahunt engineering a deal between Citgo and the state of Massachusetts to provide heating oil for 45,000 needy residents. The New Standard News story tells us how this program has expanded to other cities and states … continued below …

The offer of discount fuel is not just confined to Chicago. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the first of Venezuela’s “oil-for-the-poor” programs in the US was launched. Citgo struck a deal with three nonprofit organizations in the Bronx to deliver 5 million gallons of heating oil at 45 percent below the market price. The deal will amount to a savings of $4 million for the 8,000 low-income households slated to benefit from the plan.

Citgo has made a similar arrangement with Citizens Energy Corp. in Boston for the sale and distribution of 12 million gallons, saving low-income and elderly residents there a total of $10 million. The company’s website says that it expects to expand the program to other boroughs in New York City and that it is exploring the possibility of offering discounted fuel to residents in Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.


[I]nstead of fuel for heat, Citgo representatives offered the CTA a 40-50 percent discount on diesel fuel for buses to benefit Chicagoans most in need of relief from soaring oil and gas prices this winter.

“We didn’t know how else to reach enough people,” said Consul Sanchez.

Another difference between the Chicago offer and the programs enacted in the Northeast is that Citgo proposed to work with a government agency, rather than nonprofit organizations. The CTA relies on the US federal government – which is in a constant war of words with Venezuelan President Chavez – for much of its funding. … (NSN story)

As for the critics of Chavez’s program to help the poor and needy in the U.S.:

[A]s Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research – another progressive think tank – pointed out, the Venezuelan government has been providing cheap fuel to several countries in Latin America. Weisbrot is a staunch supporter of the Chavez administration.

“It is part of [Venezuela’s] policy to compensate for the impact of the high oil prices on poor people,” he said. “They don’t have any grudge against the American people; it’s just the Bush administration that they don’t like.”

Consul Sanchez echoed this sentiment. “Any corporation that makes a big profit in a community owes that community something in return,” he said. With one of Citgo’s three light-oil refineries located in nearby Lemont, 30 minutes outside the city, Sanchez said, Venezuela has “a special relationship with people and community organizations in Chicago.”

So, not only is Citgo community-spirited — and on an international level — it has businesses that provide jobs in the job-thirsty urban parts of the Midwest. Come on, CTA. Or your citizens will railroad you outta town.

P.S. We’ve talked about New Standard News here before. You can sign up for their daily news stories and RSS feeds. They do solid reporting about stories that the MSM overlooks.

  Hog Butcher for the World,
  Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
  Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
  Stormy, husky, brawling,
  City of the Big Shoulders.

Dear Carl, besides those now-narrowed shoulders, you should know that the stockyards are almost gone. Once a 475-acre spread, there’s only one slaughterhouse left in Chicago, reported the WaPo on July 18, 2005 … all the land “bought up by high-rise condos, coffee shops, five-star restaurants and martini bars.”

Could you have written about “high-rise condos, coffee shops, five-star restaurants and martini bars,” Carl? With their well-heeled habitues who don’t know the cold, the misery, the hunger, the laboring jobs?

No, you would be writing about Dorothy Chew and the other Chicago transit riders — traveling through the bitter cold, the wind, the unfriendly bureaucrats to whom they perhaps are invisible:

“This is going to hurt the poor and the minority people, like me,” said Dorothy Chew, resident of Humboldt Park, where one-third of residents live below the federally recognized poverty level – currently just $16,000 for a family of three. Chew relies on the CTA to get to work and to Chicago Commons, where she attends classes daily in preparation for taking her GED. Since she rarely has money to invest in a fare card, she will be forced to pay for transfers the majority of the time.

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