Wall Street Journal looks askance at Delahunt-engineered oil deal with Venezuela

... in an editorial today under the headline,
"Oil for Friends" -  Hugo Ch?vez repays his Congressional amigo

"Money can't buy love, unless you're Anna Nicole Smith. But these days a little heating oil can buy friends in Washington, especially if they come as cheap as Democrat William Delahunt. Massachusetts wants bargain oil prices to help it through the winter. Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez wants influence in Washington. Leave it to the Congressman from the Commonwealth and a Kennedy to close the deal," the editorial states.

" ... 'To Citgo (a US-based subsidiary of the nationalized Venezuelan oil industry), to the people of Venezuela, our debt,' the Congressman pledged. Mr. Delahunt should rightly feel a debt to the people of Venezuela, whose per-capita income is perhaps one-tenth that of Massachusetts and whose sole source of hard currency is the oil that their leader is now giving away to the second-richest state in the union. But Mr. Delahunt has no unpaid debt to Mr. Chavez. For some years now the Congressman has been lobbying hard for the Venezuelan despot, whom he paints as a misunderstood humanitarian. How French."

"Mr. Chavez came to power in 1999," the editorial further states. "In seven years he has a domestic record of human rights abuses, election fraud, property confiscations a la Zimbabwe's (Robert) Mugabe, erosion of the independent judiciary, limits on press freedom and militarization. His best friends include Fidel Castro, the Iranian mullahs and Colombia's FARC terrorists ."

"The Bush Administration is worried about all this, but Mr. Delahunt has no qualms. After Mr. Chavez was briefly deposed in 2002 because of his use of violence against dissent, Mr. Delahunt visited Venezuela and proclaimed, 'I think he's learned from this. I think he understands that healing and reconciliation are the true qualities of leadership, not division.' Mr. Chavez's attacks on critics have since worsened. "

"Mr. Delahunt returned to Caracas to dine with Mr. Chavez in August and was asked if he might be working in opposition to U.S. policy. 'I don't work for Condoleezza Rice. I don't report to the State Department. I report to the people who elected me in the state of Massachusetts. I belong to an independent branch of government,' " the editorial goes on to say.

"Which would be more accurate if it were possible for Massachusetts to have a separate foreign policy. Mr. Delahunt's lobbying for the dictator undermines any official U.S. pressure on Mr. Chavez to behave more humanely, which is precisely why Mr. Chavez is returning the favor by plying Mr. Delahunt with cheap oil."

"For less pliable Americans," the editorial concludes, "el jefe Caracas has a different policy. On Monday a U.S. Congressional delegation led by House International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde and ranking Democrat Tom Lantos was barred from entering the country and held aboard their aircraft for two hours (blogger's note - Delahunt serves on the same committee).  The delegation's itinerary had been known to Venezuelan officials for weeks. For a little more discount oil, perhaps Mr. Delahunt will explain to his colleagues how this was all just one big misunderstanding." See original editorial (after one-time registration) here.

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