Boycotting El Loco

Your friendly neighborhood Citgo station is really the branch office of Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez’s government: The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of El Loco’s state oil company. Having recognized the connection, 7-Eleven Inc. has is dropping Citgo as its gasoline supplier at more than 2,100 of its stores. Here’s hoping the boycott catches on.

While denying any explicit linkage between the company’s action and Chavez’s policies, Margaret Chabris, a 7-Eleven spokesperson, said: "Regardless of politics, we sympathize with many Americans’ concern over derogatory comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez."

Alex Baker, chief executive of AIG Baker Shopping Center Properties LLC, said that his company would no longer patronize Citgo. Florida state Rep. Adam Hasner is exploring banning Citgo gas stations from the Florida Turnpike.

Chavez recently called President Bush the "devil" at the United Nations; he said the lectern smelled of sulfur after Bush used it for his own speech to the General Assembly. But, more to the point, El Loco is trying meddling in elections across Latin America – hoping to create more anti-American allies.

In Nicaragua, he is backing former Sandinista dictator Daniel Ortega for president in the presidential election – and Ortega is likely to win. In Ecuador, he’s funding the presidential candidacy of Rafael Correa, the frontrunner in recent polling.

Chavez sponsored and funded the election of leftist Evo Morales in Bolivia. And his endorsed candidates for president of Mexico and Peru – Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and Ollanta Humala – narrowly lost at the polls in elections this year. He has lent more than $1 billion to the leftist government in Argentina after it was shut off from IMF financing because of its default.

On top of all this, the government of Colombia says Chavez has been sheltering and aiding FARC – the leftist guerillas besieging that nation in alliance with druglords.

Chavez has traveled to Iran and Belarus where he was seen hobnobbing with the most repressive and anti-American regimes on the planet and to Russia with whom he has explored ongoing arms dealings.

At home, he has gradually eroded civil liberties and now threatens to run the nation for the next 20 years.

He buys popularity in Venezuela by distributing massive amounts of oil revenues to the poor. While careful to keep them in poverty by repelling business and deterring foreign investment, he uses his petrol wealth to distribute free food and to pay for imported Cuban doctors in the barrios.

Yet a goodly proportion of his revenue comes from us when we buy our gasoline at a Citgo station. Why continue to subsidize the Chavez regime and its anti-American activity? That is a question each of us must answer each time we gas up.

Eileen McGann coauthored this column.