On June 23, 2020, more than a dozen activists braved the extreme heat and held a protest outside Congressman McGovern’s office in downtown Northampton, Massachusetts, to protest the escalation of the deadly sanctions by the US government on Venezuela and the looting of Venezuela’s foreign asset such as CITGO and gold deposits in the Bank of England in the UK.
The protesters drew a parallel between the harmful impact of stealing CITGO, by the US government and the right wing in Venezuela, on the people of Venezuela and poor people in Massachusetts who for years were the beneficiaries of the CITGO heating oil assistance program.
Background – From 2005 to 2016, Joe Kennedy II, through his nonprofit Citizens Energy Corporation, partnered with CITGO to assist tens of thousands of households in Massachusetts with free heating oil. CITGO is a private American company that is owned by the government of Venezuela. Over the years CITGO donated more than 200 million gallons of heating oil worth more than $400 million to 2 million program participants in 25 states including some 240 Native American communities and reached more than 200 homeless shelters. Massachusetts was the program’s second largest state in terms of beneficiaries.
“We are so grateful for this generous donation from the people of Venezuela and CITGO Petroleum Corporation” Kennedy said and added “I have asked every single oil company, and not one of them has given me a gallon to help the poor.”
In Massachusetts there are 160,000 households who together with 20 million other Americans need heating fuel assistance every winter. In recent years, the US government reduced its funding to the federal heating fuel assistance program.
The CITGO heating oil assistance program ended in 2015 because of the hostile policies of the US government toward Venezuela since 2002. These policies culminated in the imposition of devastating sanctions on Venezuela in 2019 which led to the death of more than 40,000 innocent Venezuelans. In 2019, the US government illegally recognized a clownish Venezuelan politician, Juan Guaido, as president who, backed by the US government and US courts, appointed a new board for CITGO, and thereby opened the way to steal CITGO from the people of Venezuela.
The protestors demanded that the US government end the deadly sanctions on Venezuela, end the twenty years long campaign for regime change in Venezuela, return stolen Venezuelan assets such as CITGO to Venezuela, and establish friendly relations between our two countries. The US government’s campaign for regime change in Venezuela costs hundreds of millions of dollars. The protestors also demanded that this money be used to support social services here in the US such as the federal heating fuel assistance program. The protesters also pointed out that the message from the people and government of Venezuela was, and continues to be, one of generosity with a desire for friendship with the people of Massachusetts and the US, and asked shouldn’t we reciprocate in kind?
The protest was organized by the Latin America Solidarity Coalition of Western Massachusetts