Venezuela Yanks Free Fuel for Poor Americans

Plunging price of oil forces Chavez to freeze fuel aid program
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2009 3:07 AM CST
Citizens Energy Corporation Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II announces that Citgo has suspended its free heating oil program for the poor at a news conference in Boston yesterday.   (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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(Newser) – Venezuela has halted its gifts of free fuel to America's poor, the New York Times reports. The controversial foreign aid project supplied heating oil to 200,000 low-income households in 23 states and on Indian reservations, but the plunge in the price of oil has hit Venezuela hard and President Hugo Chavez is slashing his budget.

Chavez's foreign aid program has long irritated the Bush administration but was welcomed by many anti-poverty groups, which are now scrambling to keep their clients from being left out in the cold. "I was depending on that oil to help our clients," said the chief of a heating assistance program for the Northern Cheyenne in Montana. "It will be hard on them."