4 villages shun gift of free oil


Diamond Member
Jul 11, 2004
WESTERN ALASKA: Patriotism led to a rejection of the Venezuelan handout.

Anchorage Daily News

Published: September 29, 2006
Last Modified: September 29, 2006 at 03:05 AM

Leaders from four Western Alaska villages have rejected an offer of free heating oil from a Venezuelan- owned company because that nation's president this month called President Bush "a devil" and made other inflammatory comments about the United States.

"Despite the critical need for fuel in our region, the Unangan (Aleut) people are Americans first, and we cannot support the political agenda attached to this donation," read a statement from Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association released late Thursday.

Under a program from Texas-based refiner Citgo, which is owned by the Venezuelan government, that is giving cheap and free heating fuel to poor people across the country, more than 12,000 rural Alaska homes in about 150 villages are scheduled to receive 100 free gallons this winter.

Valued at about $5 million, the gift to Alaska is welcome by people in many poor, remote villages. Heating fuel exceeds $7 a gallon in the remotest villages.

But that gift has been criticized by some as politically motivated. They say Chavez is trying to make President Bush and the U.S. government look as if they don't care for their own people. Chavez also supports Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Nelson Lagoon, Atka, St. Paul and St. George face heating fuel costs between $5 and $6 a gallon, the press release said. They were the only four villages in the region scheduled to receive fuel.

Atka Mayor George Dirks said he didn't like the decision.

"How stupid that is," he said. "We can use the fuel."

He said heating fuel is more than $5 a gallon in the village of 90, located 1,200 air miles southwest of Anchorage, "and some people are just getting by."

But tribal leaders and board members with APIA, the Native regional nonprofit, decided that supporting President Bush and the U.S. government was more important than free fuel, said Dimitri Philemenof, APIA president.

Philemenof called the decision strong and unified.

"When you look at the desperation in our region, especially with the fishing seasons poor and high unemployment, I take my hat off" to representatives of the four villages who made the decision, he said by phone from Tucson, Ariz., where he is on leave.

Officials with the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, a nonprofit representing Alaska's tribal governments, are organizing the effort in Alaska. Under the program, Citgo will provide cash to Native regional nonprofits. The nonprofits will then purchase fuel for each qualifying village.

Steve Sumida, acting director of Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, said at the end of the work day Thursday that he had received no notification of the APIA rejection. He has not heard of any other organization or village backing out, he said.

"I haven't heard it, so I don't really want to comment," he said.

The program is scheduled to begin Nov. 1, he has said.

Philemenof said he had refused to attend a Citgo press conference in Harlem, N.Y., last week announcing plans to expand the company's fuel offer around the country. Some Alaska Native leaders had been invited to the event. After providing about 40 million gallons of discounted fuel to needy households along the East Coast, Citgo wants to distribute 100 millions gallons of cheap and free heating fuel to 1.2 million needy people in 17 states this winter.

Philemenof also cringed when he heard media reports that Chavez, speaking before the United Nations on Sept. 20, called Bush a racist dictator.

"Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world," he said.

Philemenof said he was personally offended and decided to seek input from other leaders in the region.

About 290 households in the four villages were scheduled to receive the fuel, an APIA official said Thursday night. The rejection would be posted in each community, she said.

Philemenof said he's confident the right decision was made.

"People will say whatever they might want to say, but I feel from my heart and (others feel) also that this was the right choice because there's a lot of loyalty to the U.S. here," he said.

And if you asked those same people if we should drill in ANWAR, they would probably say yes.

They have the resources in their own back yard but cannot use it.
And if you asked those same people if we should drill in ANWAR, they would probably say yes.

They have the resources in their own back yard but cannot use it.

You said it...75% of the people up here would like to drill...This whole thing is the biggest bunch of BS...:bangheads
Thats coming from Alaska, the furthest away from the 48 states and in a very harsh climate. The patriotism just gushes from those people. Yet in NY, the morons drink the oil like a cocktail and throw away their allegiance all for a slightly lower electric bill in a few months.

Says alot, eh.

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