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Heating help available

PORT HENRY President George Bush views Hugo Chavez as an enemy of democracy. For some North Country residents, the Venezuelan leader is a generous soul. I dont care about his politics, Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said of Chavez. All I know is that this program can help people who need help. Scozzafava was making reference to the Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program. Operated by Citgo, the program has provided home heating oil to poor and elderly households since 1979. The program is available in Moriah. Applications can be obtained at the town hall and online at www.citizensenergy.com/pages/Oil HeatProgram People can also call toll free 1-877-563-4645. One of the USAs largest refiners, Citgo is a subsidiary of Venezuelas state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA). As such, it ultimately belongs to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an avowedly anti-American leader who counts Fidel Castro among his closest friends and mocks President Bush as a genocidal murderer. Chavez critics believe his aid to Americans suffering from high heating costs is a slap in the face of President Bush, who has close ties to the American oil industry. But with home heating oil prices nearing $4 a gallon, Scozzafava and others arent thinking about politics. The Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program helps protect needy families from volatile heating oil prices, which often leave households having to choose between heating the home and paying for other life essentials, such as food, health care, or clothing. In partnership with Citgo, Citizens Energy works with thousands of oil heat dealers and local fuel assistance agencies in 16 states to provide deliveries of home heating oil to those in need. This year the Oil Heat Program will provide eligible families a one-time delivery of 100 gallons of home heating oil. Assistance is available based on income. A Moriah family of four with an annual income of $43,302 qualifies. Home heating oil prices have increased by more than 120 percent since 2000, yet the wages for low-income families and individuals has remained stagnant, according to Citgo officials. The federal government provides some help to low-income families struggling to stay warm during the winter through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), but this assistance reaches only 16 percent of eligible families. And many other working poor families who do not qualify for federal assistance programs still need help from time to time. Chavez is a controversial leader. Supporters view him as a socialist liberator, hailing him for promoting Latin American integration, fighting imperialism and neoliberalism, empowering Venezuela's poor and indigenous communities, and reducing poverty and unemployment. His opponents see him as an authoritarian or a totalitarian communist, militarist and demagogue who has failed to deliver on his promises, violated fundamental rights, meddled in the affairs of other Latin American countries, threatened Venezuelas economy and democracy, illegally silenced opponents, and destabilized global oil prices. President Bush has described democracy in Venezuela as in grave peril with unchecked concentration of power in the executive. He said Chavez has turned his back on the Venezuelan electorate, suffocated the democratic debate, resisted external efforts to support democratic political activity and committed an assault on Venezuelas democratic institutions.

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