Venezuela gives oil to help poor people in the U.S. stay warm in the winter. Pictured here, CITGO CEO Alejandro Granado and Joseph Kennedy III, chair of the Citizens Energy Program.
On Jan. 2, a World Bank arbitration panel ordered the Venezuelan government to pay oil giant ExxonMobil $907 million. The money is meant to “compensate” ExxonMobil for the nationalization of company assets by the Venezuelan government.
Venezuela and the rest of South America have for decades been victims of imperialist exploitation. The start of the 21st century saw the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution reject the neo-liberal globalization paradigm. Hugo Chávez was elected president in 2001 under the promise to put the needs of the Venezuelan masses first.
As part of that revolution, Venezuelans attempted to rein in the power of foreign oil companies by requiring them to enter into joint ventures with the Venezuelan government. This raised the ire of the companies, particularly ExxonMobil. In response, ExxonMobil discontinued all operations in Venezuela in an attempt to hamper the Venezuelan economy, leaving its assets behind. The Venezuelan government, in turn, nationalized the company’s assets in order to continue oil production—by and for the Venezuelan people.
The “international community” now expects the Venezuelan people to compensate ExxonMobil for the assets. ExxonMobil is the norm within the context of capitalism—an entity that exists only to make money. This is in sharp contrast to the actions of nations that are attempting to build socialism.
Through CITGO, a wholly owned subsidiary of the country’s national oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, Venezuela has heated the homes of hundreds of thousands of poor and low-income U.S. residents. Since the Venezuela Heating Program began seven years ago, Venezuela has provided over $400 million in energy services to Americans who would have otherwise been literally left in the cold by our capitalist economy.
Joseph P. Kennedy II, founder of Citizens Energy Corporation and partner in the program, has said that he approached every major U.S. oil producer asking them to assist poor communities with the rising cost of energy to no avail. Kennedy reflects: “They all said no, except for CITGO and the people of Venezuela.”
It is no surprise that American oil companies would say no, while a considerably less wealthy Venezuela would say yes. The oil companies of these two nations epitomize the capitalism/socialism dichotomy. Capitalists are only concerned with individual accumulation of wealth. Socialists are primarily concerned with the well-being of their fellow human beings.
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