Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chicago Says No to Chavez Offer

[I encourage everyone to pass this story around. This is beyond the pale.]

Around Thanksgiving time, Hugo Chavez was getting some good PR for his offering steeply discounted oil, via Venezuela's CITGO company, to states about to be hit by cold weather and high heating bills. Venezuelan oil first made land fall in Massachusetts and then the Bronx, NY. The offer made to Chicago came in the form of diesel fuel for public transportation, because Illinios does not much use heating oil.

But, apparently, the city of Chicago is refusing the discount fuel offer. cernig at the UnCap Journal has just posted a story found at Chicago local paper The New Standard, which is reporting that the Chicago Transit Authority kept secret an offer from CITGO that the company would provide discounted fuel with the stipulation that the CTA pass on the savings to Chicago's poor commuters in the form of free or discount travel passes.

Instead of jumping at this offer, the CTA not only turned it down but is now proposing a fare hike:
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.

But two months later, despite claims of a looming budget crisis, the CTA president "has no intent or plan to accept the offer," according to CTA spokesperson Ibis Antongiorgi. She gave no explanation.

Most likely because there is no explanation. At least, not a good one. But it gets worse. Not only is the CTA refusing the offer, they don't want residents even knowing the offering was made.

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.
As we might have expected, the ugly realities of politics are likely what is interfering in the Chicago offer. Because the CTA is beholden to the federal government for transportation funding, officials in that agency are probably worried that accepting cheap fuel from Chavez will be met with financial rebuke from Washington. And they are probably right.

Of course, federal officials won't say anything because they know, full well, what a bunch of cruel douche bags they would be made to look like. The thinking in Washington these days is, better to have people only think you're a callous politiking prick rather than actually admit to it.

With the poor expected to suffer in a winter made more brutal by high prices for home heating -- both oil and natural gas -- and fares for public transportation going up due to high fuel prices, Washington can think to do nothing for poor Americans but instead and as usual prefers to play politics. This is brinkmanship of the most callous and petty kind: playing tic-tac-toe with political foes and fucking over the poor while doing it.

Happy New Year, Washington. I am especially looking forward to the day when you fail to make us shake our heads and clench our fists at your childish, pathetic behaviour.


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