A day after he called President Bush "the devil" from the podium at the U. N., Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stood on the altar...
NEW YORK — A day after he called President Bush “the devil” from the podium at the U.N., Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stood on the altar of a Harlem church and presented himself as an angel, offering 100 million gallons of subsidized heating oil to the community.
“It makes us feel good to give,” he said Thursday to a crowd of mostly Harlem residents and Latin American immigrants waving Venezuelan flags and chanting his name.
The move more than doubles the 40 million gallons in heating oil Chávez donated to eight Northeastern states last year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated refineries and caused the price of oil to spike. This winter, the program should reach about 1.2 million people in nine additional states, he said.
Chávez, speaking at the Mount Olivet Baptist Church, acknowledged that it may seem odd for a developing country to be sending charity to one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Most Read Nation & World Stories
- As thousands of athletes get coronavirus tests, nurses wonder: What about us?
- Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud
- Some 2-week coronavirus quarantines can be cut to 10 or 7 days, CDC says
- U.S. probing potential bribery, lobbying scheme for pardon
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
“Some Venezuelans criticize me. … Some say I should be in the barrios of Caracas,” he said. “Apparently, I am giving away all over the world what belongs to Venezuela.”
Harlem is the latest place where Venezuelan oil has created warm feelings toward the outspoken leftist leader. Venezuela exports 1.5 million barrels a day to the United States.
It is able to use its oil wealth to bolster ties and influence in other countries in the region. That could prove useful in the current U.N. contest between Venezuela and Guatemala to represent Latin America in the Security Council for the next two years. Washington, wary that Chávez will use the U.N. bully pulpit to rally opposition to U.S. interests, has been lobbying for Guatemala.
In Harlem, he received not only a warm welcome, but the symbolic echo of Cuban President Fidel Castro’s visits to the same neighborhood in 1960 and 1965, signaling that he is taking on Castro’s mantle of anti-Americanism as the aging Cuban leader’s health falters. Chávez, encouraged by a rousing response after he made another reference to Bush as the devil, played to the crowd, calling the president “an alcoholic and a sick man,” and imitating what he called Bush’s cowboy swagger.
“He doesn’t have an idea of politics. He arrived where he is because of his father,” Chávez said.