Chavez Criticizes U.S. Response to Katrina

Richard A Whitenight rum.runner at JUNO.COM
Thu Sep 1 20:21:20 MDT 2005

Chavez Criticizes U.S. Response to Katrina Wires
Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 
CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez offered humanitarian
relief Wednesday in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but sharply
criticized the U.S. government's planning and response to the disaster. 

Chavez focused his criticism on U.S. President George W. Bush, calling
him "the King of Vacations," referring to the fact he was at his Texas
ranch when the hurricane struck. 

"As more information comes out now, a terrible truth is becoming evident:
That government doesn't have evacuation plans," Chavez said during a
He said Bush, "there at his ranch, said nothing more than 'you need to
flee;' he didn't even say how - in cowboy style." 
In contrast to an earthquake or tsunami, the hurricane came "in slow
motion," and U.S. authorities had time to plan, Chavez said. 
"There are many innocent people who left in the direction of the
hurricane. No one told them where they should go," Chavez said. "It's
surprising how in a city that has the ocean on one side, and is below sea
level, there wasn't an evacuation plan." 
He praised Cuba's record of organizing evacuations ahead of hurricanes as
an example. 
"We all saw the long lines of desperate people leaving that city in
vehicles, those who had vehicles," Chavez said, adding that the area hit
by Katrina includes "some of the poorest in the United States, most of
them black." 
"How is it possible that this occurs in the United States and the 'King
of Vacations' says 'flee to high ground'?" Chavez said. "It isn't known
how many dead there are." 
The Venezuelan leader, a fierce critic of Bush, spoke just hours after
Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum Corp. pledged a US$1 million (euro820,000)
donation for hurricane aid, and after his government offered humanitarian
workers and fuel to help. 
"It's a terrible tragedy that our North American brothers are living
through," Chavez said. "We have a battalion from our Simon Bolivar
humanitarian team ready in case they authorize it for us to go there, if
they give us the green light." 
He said Citgo was already giving aid to some 2,000 flood victims in the
area of its refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana. "We have given US$1
million (euro820,000), a modest sum," he said. 
The funds from Citgo - based in Houston and owned by state oil firm
Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. - will be directed to aid organizations in
affected areas, company president Felix Rodriguez said in a statement. 
Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, is a major supplier of
fuel to the United States, though relations have been tense between
Washington and Chavez, a self-proclaimed "revolutionary" with close ties
to Cuba's Fidel Castro. 
"We are willing to donate fuel for hospitals, for public transport,
everything we can do," Chavez said, without specifying how much fuel. 
Meanwhile, Citgo asked for 250,000 to 500,000 barrels of oil Monday from
the U.S. federal petroleum reserves to ensure that its Lake Charles
refinery doesn't run out. 
Chavez said the fierceness of recent hurricanes is a product of global
warming, and blamed in large part "capitalist consumerism" championed by
the United States. He noted the United States hasn't signed the Kyoto
Protocol aimed at reducing so-called "greenhouse gases." 
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