Venezuela-London agreement to help the poor

Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro and London Mayor Ken Livingstone signed an agreement on February 20 for Venezuela to provide discounted oil to London authorities. In return, London will assist with city management and environmental protection in Caracas.

A February 20 AFP report stated that Venezuela — the world's fifth-largest supplier of oil — agreed to provide oil via the European arm of its state-run oil company at a 20% discount. This would allow the London authorities to grant 50% discounts for up to 250,000 London bus and tram users from July. The cheap fares would go to London citizens who receive income assistance.

Under the agreement, London authorities would assist Caracas with recycling, waste management, overcoming traffic congestion and reducing carbon dioxide emissions, all of which are major problems in the Venezuelan capital.

Venezuela's socialist president Hugo Chavez had made the offer during a visit to London last year, along with offers to provide cheap oil for the poor in other European countries. In 2005, Venezuela developed agreements with community groups and local authorities in the US to provide the poor with discounted heating oil over winter, at a time when oil corporations were making massive profits through record oil prices. In 2006, Venezuela doubled the amount of discounted oil it provided in the US, agreeing to deliver heating oil at up to 40% discount to 400,000 people in 16 states.

These programs are part of internationalising the gains of the Bolivarian revolution led by the Chavez government that is seeking to use Venezuela's oil wealth to abolish poverty and rebuild Venezuela. In particular, Venezuela has sought the increasing political and economic integration of Latin America along the lines of pro-people cooperation to challenge US domination of the region.

After the failure of US-backed attempts to overthrow the Chavez government, the Bush administration has pursued a policy of attempting to isolate Venezuela in the region. Although these attempts have not succeeded, the US has indicated it will continue its attacks. reported on February 15 that Chavez responded to comments from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that his government was leading an "assault on democracy" and was destroying Venezuela "economically and politically" by claiming this was evidence that the US had now developed an "economic plan against Venezuela". Chavez argued, "we have decided to be free and no force will be able to stop us on our chosen path".

According to a February 25 Associated Press report, US President George Bush is planning a tour of Latin America that will encompass Brazil, Uruguay, Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico, his most extensive tour of a region during his presidency. AP reported that Chavez argued Bush's trip was "without a doubt" aimed at dividing the region and working to isolate Venezuela.

Chavez claimed: "The strategy of the US government has always been ... to divide Latin America." Chavez said he respected the decision of other Latin American countries to "receive this little gentleman", but in Venezuela, "we will never receive him. Never. Because we know what he is."