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Citgo Boycott/Buycott

Claim:   E-petitions urge Americans to buy/not buy Citgo brand gasoline.

MIXTURE OF TRUE AND FALSE INFORMATION

Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, 2006]

Looking for an easy way to protest Bush foreign policy week after week? And an easy way to help alleviate global poverty? Buy your gasoline at Citgo stations.

And tell your friends.

Of the top oil producing countries in the world, only one is a democracy with a president who was elected on a platform of using his nation's oil revenue to benefit the poor. The country is Venezuela. The President is Hugo Chavez. Call him "the Anti-Bush."

Citgo is a U.S. refining and marketing firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Money you pay to Citgo goes primarily to Venezuela — not Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. There are 14,000 Citgo gas stations in the US. (Click here to find one near you.) By buying your gasoline at Citgo, you are contributing to the billions of dollars that Venezuela's democratic government is using to provide health care, literacy and education, and subsidized food for the majority of Venezuelans.

Instead of using government to help the rich and the corporate, as Bush does, Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor in Venezuela. A country with so much oil wealth shouldn't have 60 percent of its people living in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. With a mass movement behind him, Chavez is confronting poverty in Venezuela. That's why large majorities have consistently backed him in democratic elections. And why the Bush administration supported an attempted military coup in 2002 that sought to overthrow Chavez.

So this is the opposite of a boycott. Call it a BUYcott. Spread the word.

Of course, if you can take mass transit or bike or walk to your job, you should do so. And we should all work for political changes that move our country toward a cleaner environment based on renewable energy. The BUYcott is for those of us who don't have a practical alternative to filling up our cars.

So get your gas at Citgo. And help fuel a democratic revolution in Venezuela.
 

Venezuela Dictator Vows To Bring Down U.S. Government

Venezuela government is sole owner of Citgo Gasoline Company Venezuela Dictator Hugo Chavez has vowed to bring down the U.S. government. Chavez, president of Venezuela, told a TV audience: "Enough of imperialist aggression; we must tell the world: down with the U.S. empire. We have to bury imperialism this century."

The guest on his television program, beamed across Venezuela, was Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar activist. Chavez recently had as his guest Harry Belafonte, who called President Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world."

Chavez is pushing a socialist revolution and has a close alliance with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Regardless of your feelings about the war in Iraq, the issue here is that we have a socialist dictator vowing to bring down the government of the U.S. And he is using our money to achieve his goal!

The Venezuela government, run by dictator Chavez, is the sole owner of Citgo gas company. Sales of products at Citgo stations send money back to Chavez to help him in his vow to bring down our government.

Why should U.S. citizens who love freedom be financing a dictator who has vowed to take down our government? Very important. Please forward this to your friends and family. Most of them don't know that Citgo is owned by the Venezuela government.
 

Origins:   Dueling Citgo e-mails reached our inbox in early 2006, one urging Americans to buy only Citgo brand gasoline in order to support "Venezuela's democratic government" and avoid sending more U.S. dollars to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, and the other urging Americans to boycott Citgo over remarks by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.

The television incident referenced in the second message occurred on 29 January 2006, when anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan appeared on Chávez's weekly TV broadcast, following a similar recent meeting between the Venezuelan president and entertainer Harry Belafonte:
Cindy Sheehan, who gained international fame when she camped outside President Bush's ranch in an anti-war protest, plans to pitch her tent again, Venezuela's president said Sunday as he urged activists worldwide to help bring down "the U.S. empire." Hugo Chávez, an arm around Sheehan's shoulders, told a group of activists that she had told him "she is going to put up her tent again in front of Mr. Danger's ranch."

In some of his strongest recent comments aimed at Washington, Chávez condemned the Bush administration and said his audience should work toward ending U.S. dominance. "Enough already with the imperialist aggression!" Chávez said, listing countries from Panama to Iraq where the U.S. military has intervened. "Down with the U.S. empire! It must be said, in the entire world: Down with the empire!"

Sheehan also noted that singer and activist Harry Belafonte recently called Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world," and said, "I agree with him. George Bush is responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent people."
Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, is certainly no fan of the U.S., and his trading rhetorical political barbs with U.S. government officials (and others) has been common news fodder for several years now. (Chávez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, and after a failed coup in 2002, he won a referendum over whether he should serve out the remainder of his term. The war of words reached a Hugo Chávez new peak in August 2005, when Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested to viewers that the U.S. should assassinate Chávez.)

In 2006 U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice labeled Chávez a "challenge for democracy" and a danger to Latin America and announced the establishment of contacts with government officials in other South American countries for the purpose of creating a united front to oppose Venezuela. Chávez responded to Rice's comments in a television appearance by blowing her a screen kiss and announcing, "Don't mess with me, girl," as well as warning that he would consider suspending Venezuela's oil exports if the U.S. went "too far with the Venezuelan government." (Venezuela is the fourth-largest supplier of crude oil to the U.S., sending the states about 1.5 million barrels daily.) Chávez also denounced President George W. Bush as "the devil" in a September 2006 speech before the U.N. General Assembly and called Bush an "alcoholic" during a visit to Harlem the following day.

U.S. attitudes towards President Chávez in early 2006 tended to be polarized along political lines, with one side declaring him a dangerous dictator who supported America's enemies, while the other side defended him as a democratically-elected leader who was the target of the Bush administration's enmity primarily because he dared to stand up to the U.S. Excerpts from two U.S. newspaper Op-Ed pieces of that period illustrated this dichotomy:
[Corrales, 2006]

Hugo Chávez [was] elected president of Venezuela in December 1998. The lieutenant colonel had attempted a coup six years earlier. When that failed, he won power at the ballot box and is now approaching a decade in office. In that time, he has concentrated power, harassed opponents, punished reporters, persecuted civic organizations and increased state control of the economy.

[W]hen it comes to accountability and limits on presidential power, the picture grows dark. Mr. Chávez has achieved absolute power over all state institutions that might check his power. He controls the legislature, the Supreme Court, two armed forces, the gigantic state-owned oil company PDVSA — the only important source of state revenue, which comes in handy at election time — and the institution that monitors electoral rules. As if that weren't enough, a new media law allows the state to supervise media content, and a revised criminal code permits the state to imprison any citizen for showing "disrespect" toward government officials.

By compiling and posting on the Internet lists of voters and their political tendencies — including whether they signed a petition for a recall referendum in 2004 — Venezuela has achieved reverse accountability. The state is watching and punishing citizens for political actions it disapproves of rather than the other way around. If democracy requires checks on the power of incumbents, Venezuela doesn't come close.
 

[Weisbrot, 2006]

Venezuela is a democracy — despite the best efforts of the Bush team to use President Hugo Chávez's close relations with Cuba's Fidel Castro as evidence to the contrary. Its elections are transparent and have been certified by observers from the Organization of American States, the Carter Center and the European Union. Freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly and of association prevail, at least as compared with the rest of the hemisphere.

In fact, most of the media remains controlled by the opposition, which attacks the government endlessly on all the major TV channels. It is the most vigorous and partisan opposition media in the hemisphere, one that has not been censored under Chávez.

Like all of Latin America, Venezuela has governance problems: a weak state, limited rule of law, corruption and incompetent government. But no reputable human rights organization has alleged that Venezuela under Chávez has deteriorated with regard to civil liberties, human rights or democracy, as compared with prior governments. Nor does the country compare unfavorably on these criteria with its neighbors in the region. In Peru, the government has shut down opposition TV stations; in Colombia, union organizers are murdered with impunity.

From a Latin American point of view, Venezuelans should have the right to choose their own president — even one who sometimes insults the American president — without interference from the United States. And Chávez's anger at Washington, from Latin Americans' point of view, appears justified. U.S. government documents released under our Freedom of Information Act indicate that Washington not only supported but was involved in the military coup that temporarily overthrew Venezuela's elected government in April 2002.
Neither a "buycott" nor a boycott was likely to accomplish much beyond the symbolic. In the first case, the Citgo brand (marketed by Citgo Petroleum Corporation, which has been owned by Petróleos de Venezuela,
the national oil company of Venezuela, since 1990) doesn't have nearly the capacity and presence in the U.S. to satisfy demand and wean American consumers from Middle Eastern oil supplies; in the second case, boycotting a gasoline brand over political issues is problematic for a number of reasons (not least of which is the notion that threatening not to buy gasoline from someone who is threatening not to sell it to you doesn't sound like an effective ploy for either side).

Many different oil companies buy crude oil from Venezuela, so even Americans who shun CITGO brand gasoline have no guarantee that they aren't still sending their money to that country. And although Citgo may be owned by Petróleos de Venezuela, it is a formerly American company which is still headquartered in the U.S. (in Houston, Texas), employs 4,000 people, and supplies 14,000 independent retailers with gasoline and other petroleum products — Americans with no substantive connection to Venezuela who would be economically harmed by such an action. (Citgo also provides free or discounted heating oil to low-income communities and tribal reservations within the United States.) And, of course, in a tight oil market Citgo could likely find alternative buyers for its products far more easily than the U.S. could make up the shortfall created by a cut-off of Venezuelan oil.

As we've noted in many other articles discussing various schemes regarding where and how people should purchase gasoline, the global and fungible nature of the world oil market doesn't really provide consumers with many effective opportunities to influence political issues through their buying patterns.

Since the original e-petitions cited above originally appeared in early 2006, they have gone through a number of changes that added and dropped additional claims about Citgo. In September 2006, the following addendum to one of the Citgo-related e-mails began circulating:
Friends, I asked you earlier to boycott Citgo Gas Stations in response to the actions of Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan Government. I am coming to you again and asking you to take this a step further.

Many 7-11 Stores sell Citgo gas. I ask you to boy cut these stores and notify the Southland Corp. & the store managers of your action and be sure they know that it is because they sell Citgo Gas Products.

You may think this is an extreme step but Hugo & other American haters count on Americans not to have the stomach to do anything.

Prove them wrong!

One by one we can make a difference. Please forward this to others if you believe in taking a stand against the thugs of our century.

God Bless America!
Shortly afterwards, 7-Eleven Inc. announced it was dropping Citgo Petroleum as its gasoline supplier, although the convenience store chain also stated the move was not motivated by political issues: 7-Eleven's contract with Citgo was due to expire at the end of September 2006, and the company had already made plans to market its own brand of gasoline.

In October 2006, the following e-mail about Citgo and Petro Express began circulating:
CITGO, BEING AWARE THAT GASOLINE SALES ARE DOWN DUE TO U.S. CUSTOMERS NOT WANTING TO BUY FROM "CHAVEZ".... HAVE BEGUN CHANGING THE NAME OF SOME OF THEIR CIRCLE K STORES IN TEXAS & OKLAHOMA...AND POSSIBLY OTHER PLACES AS WELL, TO: "PETRO EXPRESS"

THEREFORE, DO NOT BUY FROM "PETRO EXPRESS", ...NOR CITGO....

"PETRO EXPRESS" IS ALSO 100% OWNED BY "CHAVEZ" ....
Both Circle K and Petro Express are privately-owned chains of convenience stores, the former an international property of Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard, and the latter owned by The Pantry, Inc., which is headquartered in Sanford, North Carolina. Neither chain is owned by Citgo or the Venezuela government.

Petro Express outlets (which the parent company has been converting to their Kangaroo Express brand) were known for selling Citgo-branded gasoline. The Pantry stated in October 2006 that the chain would be phasing out sales of that brand by 2007, and soon after The Pantry's acquisition of Petro Express in 2007, the new parent company announced that gasoline sales at those outlets would be converted to Chevron's Texaco brand. However, The Pantry's 2010 annual report indicates that Citgo is still one of their fuel suppliers, with a contract running through August 2013:
As of September 30, 2010, Marathon, BP® and CITGO® supplied approximately 68% of our fuel purchases. On July 26, 2010, we entered into a new fuel supply agreement with Marathon. Our contract with Marathon for unbranded fuel and distillate expires on December 31, 2017, and our contract with Marathon for branded fuel and distillate expires on June 30, 2013, with an option for the Company to renew until December 31, 2017. As a result of this new fuel agreement with Marathon, we now have three principal suppliers for the majority of our fuel. On September 1, 2010 we entered into a Marketer Franchise Agreement, including an Addendum to Marketer Franchise Agreement, with CITGO®. Our contract with CITGO® expires August 31, 2013 and our contract with BP® expires September 30, 2012.
It is not uncommon for independent stations and chains to switch fuel suppliers from time to time. Occurrences of independents' dropping Citgo in favor of other suppliers are often misinterpreted by the public as attempts on Citgo's part to "switch names" in order to fool consumers into continuing to purchase Citgo gasoline.

An addendum about AK-47 factories and Iranian-run oil refineries was also later appended to this piece:
NEWS FLASH:

Chavez is NOW getting a Russian Weapons Factory built by Putin.

The RUSSIANS are building an AK-47 Kalashnikov Assault Rifle factory in Venezuela to give armament support to Communist Rebel groups throughout the Americas.

Chavez NOW has IRANIANS operating his oil refineries in Venezuela for him. It is likely only a matter of time, if not already, before Chavez has Iranian built LONG RANGE missiles, with a variety of warhead types aimed at: Guess Who?
According to news reports, Russia's Izhevsk Mechanical Plant (IMP) has already manufactured and supplied about 100,000 AK-103 assault rifles to Venezuela under an earlier contract, and they have also signed a contract for two arms plants in Venezuela (one to produce AK-103a and the other to produce 7.62-mm ammunition for those rifles), with construction to begin at the end of 2007 and be completed by 2010.

Also in 2007, Venezuela and Iran signed a $4 billion deal to develop Ayacucho 7, a block of the lucrative Orinoco Reserve in Venezuela which is believed to hold more than 30 billion barrels of oil. Under the deal, Iran will build four oil rigs off the shore of Venezuela by the end of the year.

Last updated:   8 January 2012

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Sources:

    Cooper, Helene.   "Iran Who? Venezuela Takes the Lead in a Battle of Anti-U.S. Sound Bites."
    The New York Times.   21 September 2006   (p. A14).

    Corrales, Javier.   "Hugo Chávez Is Part Robin Hood, Part Oil Mogul, Part Electoral Wizard."
    The Dallas Morning News.   12 February 2006.

    Douglass, Elizabeth.   "7-Eleven Dumps Venezuela-Backed Citgo to Pump Own Brand."
    Los Angeles Times.   28 September 2006   (p. C1).

    Gentile, Carmen J.   "Venezuela, Iran Team Up on Oil."
    United Press International.   17 July 2007.

    Kirkpatrick, Christopher D.   "Petro Express Nixing Citgo Gas."
    The Charlotte Observer.   17 October 2006.

    Padgett, Tim.   "Chavez: 'Bush Has Called Me Worse Things.'"
    Time.   22 September 2006.

    Sieff, Martin.   "Defense Focus: Venezuela's Kalashnikovs."
    United Press International.   15 August 2007.

    Stock, Sue.   "Petro Express Stores to Get Name Change."
    The Charlotte Observer.   3 February 2010.

    Weisbrot, Mark.   "The Failure of Hugo-Bashing."
    Los Angeles Times.   9 March 2006   (p. B13).

    Associated Press.   "Chávez Hosts Peace Activist."
    Miami Herald.   31 January 2006.

    The Australian.   "US Brushes Off Chavez Barbs to Rice."
    22 February 2006.

    BBC News.   "Profile: Hugo Chavez."
    13 October 2005.

    Diario El Universal.   "US Calls Empty Rhetoric President Chávez' Threats of Cutting Oil Supply."
    21 February 2006.