The enemy of my enemy is my friend?
By John D. Turner
27 Sep 2006

Did you know that Citgo gas is owned by Venezuela? I didn’t, but the Left does, and it is the latest weapon in their arsenal to express their disapproval of George W. Bush.

Yes, the left has come up with a new champion in their fight to unseat the administration of George W. Bush; Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela. You know Mr. Chavez, the man who stood on the floor of the U.N. recently and stated “the Devil was here,” referring to President Bush who had given a speech on the floor of the U.N. the day before. [1]

What does the left in this country know about Mr. Chavez? Well, he’s a fellow leftist, making him a “man of the people”, and he doesn’t like Mr. Bush. What else is there to know?

An article, posted in USA Today in January 2006, revealed that Citgo, one of the largest refiners of oil in the United States, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA). Citgo owns six refineries in the United States (and 14,000 gas stations), with a refining capacity of 1.1 million barrels/day - over 6% of the U.S. total refining capacity. As USA Today puts it, quoting Antonio Szabo, a former PDVSA official and the president of Stone Bond Technologies, a Houston energy software firm, “the only difference between Citgo and other companies is that Citgo has only one shareholder," referring to the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

It’s not that there is anything secret about this. The PDVSA purchased 50% of Citgo in 1986. In 1990, they purchased the remaining 50%. This was well before Mr. Chavez came to power. No big deal. It isn’t as if there aren’t other foreign-owned oil companies doing business in the United States. Shell Oil (Royal Dutch Shell), and BP (British Petroleum) spring to mind. It’s not as if it is unusual for a company in the U.S. to be owned by a foreign country.

The left, always in search of a good cause to bash Bush, seized upon this news, and with it formulated a strategy to protest the foreign policies of the Bush administration, and at the same time “help to alleviate global poverty”; buy your gas from Citgo service stations. According to an article on, Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor in Venezuela.

A worthy effort to be sure, if that were actually what Mr. Chavez was doing. But is it?

Mr. Chavez began his career in the military, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1992, he orchestrated a failed coup attempt against the government of Venezuela, and spent the next two years in jail, being pardoned in 1994. In 1998 he was elected to the presidency, taking office in 1999. He was elected again under the country’s new constitution in 2000. In 2002, there was a coup attempt made against him by the Venezuelan military. It ultimately failed, and Chavez blamed the attempt on the United States, although exactly why the U.S. would attempt to overthrow the government of Venezuela remains a mystery.

Since then, Mr. Chavez has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. and George W. Bush in particular. Announcing that the United States had a plan to invade Venezuela, Mr. Chavez has been pouring money into building up his military. In addition to the purchase of 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and other assorted small arms and ammunition for his army, he has recently announced the purchase of 24 Sukhoi SU-30MK2s and 30 Mi-35 assault helicopters that were part of an arms order worth about 1 billion dollars that he placed in July during a visit to Russia. He has also placed orders for military aircraft with Spain as well, and has stated that he plans to have 1 million well-armed men and women, standing ready to repulse an American attack.

On the oil front, Chavez has been cultivating his image as a humanitarian, by ordering Citgo to donate heating oil to the poor in New York and Massachusetts last winter. In an interview, Felix Rodriguez, the President and CEO of Citgo, said Chavez, “ordered the giveaway so poor Americans wouldn't have to choose between food and heat.” He also volunteered oil supplies in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

However, the velvet glove hides beneath it an iron fist. He has also stated that if the Bush administration wished to cut diplomatic ties to Venezuela, he would have no second thoughts about closing all the Venezuelan refineries in the US. "Let's see what'll happen to the price of crude oil then", Mr. Chavez told his audience. [2]

Venezuela is the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, and supplies the U.S. with 1.5 million barrels/day. Proven reserves total some 75 billion barrels. Recent finds in the so-called “Orinoco Belt” may contain up to 275 billion barrels of recoverable oil. If so, Venezuela’s reserves may rival those of Saudi Arabia.

To cover his bets, he has sought energy deals with China, India, and France. On 24 August, he inked a deal with China to supply 300,000 barrels/day by 2007, rising to 500,000 barrels/day by 2010.

Smart business, or deliberate strategic planning? Chavez claims that the deals he is seeking will not impact this oil flow, as they will come from new exploration and production. [3] However it is a fact that increasing his suppliers would soften the economic impact of an embargo by Venezuela on the U.S.; an embargo he threatens whenever the opportunity arises.

It is said that one can tell a person by the friends he keeps. And who are the friends of Hugo Chavez? Al Jazeera considers him a friend of Iran. In a recent article, al Jazeera reported that “Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has defended Iran's right to pursue a nuclear energy program, and vowed to back the country in its continuing disagreements with the United States.“ Sounds like a friend to me.

Other friends of Hugo Chavez include Fidel Castro of Cuba, whom he describes as “one of my best friends”, and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, whom he describes as a “great guy” and a “close friend.”

Saddam Hussain was one of his friends (he once referred to Saddam as his “brother” and business “partner”). However, while that friendship may still be operative, its significance has become overcome by events.

So other than a mutual dislike of George W. Bush, what does Iran have that Hugo Chavez might want? And what does Chavez have that might be of benefit to Iran?

Well, Iran has also inked a deal with Venezuela for a $2 billion investment fund to help Venezuela develop oil fields. And new mosques are being opened in Venezuela as well, for the Muslim faithful there. While it is unlikely that Iran is too terribly interested in Venezuelan oil (they have 133 billion barrels in proven oil reserves of their own), they are interested in any help they can get in their on-going dispute with the United States over the production of nuclear weapons. And an ally in the U.S.’s own backyard is a coup indeed. The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” is a concept well understood in Persia.

As for Venezuela, Chaves has been angling for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, an initiative that is backed by China, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. Such a seat would give Venezuela much prestige, and allow him to be an even bigger gadfly in the side of the United States.

Then there is the fact that Iran is a leader in the production of ballistic missiles. AK-47’s, long range attack aircraft (SU-30s), and attack helicopters - would perhaps some Shahab-3 MRBMs, with a range of 1300 km and a payload of 1200 kg be just the thing to hold off the supposed invasion of Venezuela by the U.S.? And suppose they could later be fitted with Iranian nuclear weapons that he claims Iran is not attempting to produce?

Of course, the Shahab-3 doesn’t have the range to strike the U.S. mainland from launching sites in Venezuela. The most destructive attack, however, would not be dropping a nuke on a major U.S. city, as bad as that would be. Even worse would be a nuclear air burst, 50-200 miles up, designed to create a large-scale EMP effect. Such an event would fry electronic components over a wide area, and potentially kill many more people than simply attacking a city. It would also have an immensely greater effect on the U.S. economy as well. This can be accomplished by launching the missile from a ship, a freighter or oil tanker for example. Extreme accuracy is not required.

Then again, perhaps this is all a ruse. Maybe Chavez really wants to carve off some pieces of his neighboring countries, and is using the pretext of an impending U.S. attack as a cover to amass the military power to do so. Maybe he is really doing this just to keep the price of oil high; Venezuelan oil is of the type known as “heavy sour” which is more expensive to refine. If the price drops too low, his oil becomes less cost-effective to buy.

Perhaps. In any event, none of this seems to worry the American Left, who sees nothing wrong with pouring money into the coffers of those who are not friends of this country. If you are going to have to buy gas anyway, best to buy it from those who share your dislike of George Bush, no matter what the potential consequences.

After all, what’s really important is getting the Republicans out, the Democrats in, and “ending Bush’s genocidal war in Iraq.” All else is secondary; at the end of the day, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, right? At least for now.

[1] “Hugo Chavez speech at the United Nations”,, 20 Sep 2006
[2] “Venezuela to buy more weapons“, BBC News, 5 Feb 2006.
[3] “Venezuela-China joint oil, gas investment to reach $5 billion”, China Institute, 15 Sep 2006

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