Thursday, December 29, 2005

keeping poor people from riding public transport to serve neoliberal foreign policy objectives

According to an article in the New Standard, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is turning down the offer of Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, to aid those most affected by rises in gas and oil prices - an offer apparently dismissed out-of-hand, sticking with the Bush Administration's (and, more generally, that of the U.S. government as a whole) desire to ignore poor people. Excerpts below:

The Chicago Transit Authority is refusing an opportunity to alleviate commuting costs for hundreds of thousands in the Windy City's low-income neighborhoods. Instead of accepting deeply discounted fuel from the Venezuela-owned Citgo Petroleum Corporation, the city is instead raising fares to solve budget shortfalls.

In an October meeting with representatives from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the city's Department of Energy and other city officials, Citgo unveiled a plan to provide the Chicago with low-cost diesel fuel. The company's stipulation, at the bidding of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was that the CTA, in turn, pass those savings on to poor residents in the form free or discounted fare cards.

But two months later, despite claims of a looming budget crisis, the CTA president "has no intent or plan to accept the offer," according to CTA spokesperson Ibis Antongiorgi. She gave no explanation.


Chew's classmate, Linda Cox, works a minimum-wage job and has been a Public Aid recipient for 15 years. She also relies heavily on public transportation.

"I only earn $560 a month and of that, over $200 a month goes to my bus fare," Cox told The NewStandard. "I have a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old who also need to get to school. If they change the prices and take away transfers, there are going to be a lot of days missed. I already see no money at the end of the month."

The offer of discount fuel is not just confined to Chicago. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the first of Venezuela's "oil-for-the-poor" programs in the US was launched. Citgo struck a deal with three nonprofit organizations in the Bronx to deliver 5 million gallons of heating oil at 45 percent below the market price. The deal will amount to a savings of $4 million for the 8,000 low-income households slated to benefit from the plan.

Citgo has made a similar arrangement with Citizens Energy Corp. in Boston for the sale and distribution of 12 million gallons, saving low-income and elderly residents there a total of $10 million. The company's website says that it expects to expand the program to other boroughs in New York City and that it is exploring the possibility of offering discounted fuel to residents in Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

However, in all of Illinois, only about 12,000 households use heating oil.

So instead of fuel for heat, Citgo representatives offered the CTA a 40-50 percent discount on diesel fuel for buses to benefit Chicagoans most in need of relief from soaring oil and gas prices this winter.


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