Livingstone signs oil deal with Venezuela

After a delay caused by the “intense pressure” of Venezuela’s presidential campaign, Mayor Ken Livingstone has signed a deal with Venezuela’s state oil company which will, according to the mayor, mean a 20 per cent reduction in the price of fuel for London’s bus fleet.

According to a press release:

After discussion between Petróleos de Venezuela Europa and the Mayor this benefit will be targeted on Londoners receiving income support who will be able to receive a 50 per cent discount on bus and tram travel – up to 250,000 Londoners will be eligible. London will provide specialist technical assistance to Venezuelan cities in areas such transport, protection of the environment, development of tourism, and town planning.

Minister of the Popular Power [!] for Foreign Affairs Nicolas Maduro said:

‘This agreement will strengthen relationships between the peoples of London and Venezuela. It is a win-win strategy that fits within the policy of integration and the character of the Bolivarian Government of President Hugo Chavez.’

Alejandro Granado, PDVSA’s Vice-President of refining and PSDV Europa’s Chairman of the Management Board said:

‘Venezuela is very rich in energetic resources while London has great expertise in successfully managing the infrastructure services that characterise a modern city. It is, therefore, very fitting that this co-operative initiative, proposed by President Chavez, focuses on these two areas of complementarity. This agreement, I am sure, will promote solidarity and bring forward mutual benefits for both the people of Venezuela and London.’

Manuel Rosales may have lost December’s presidential election to Chavez, but I think he had a reasonable point when he criticized the proposed oil deal with Livingstone.

“That is political corruption,” [Rosales], the opposition candidate, told foreign journalists. “I ask the (London) mayor not to commit that injustice to Venezuela, because he is taking a part of our wealth and doing grave harm to the country.

“It is not just the person that commits the crime, but the accomplice ends up becoming a part of the crime.”

Rosales said Venezuela should not subsidise London and cities in the United States when schools and hospitals at home languish. Apparently it was enough of a sore spot to force Chavez to delay the deal until after the election.

And I have to wonder how much good the promised “specialist technical assistance” will do Venezuela. With so much oil wealth, couldn’t Chavez have hired the needed specialists years ago? And won’t it be diverting necessary resources from London itself?

But I can’t blame low-income Londoners for taking advantage of the travel discount. As I wrote about about a similar Chavez-backed program to provide discounted heating fuel for low-income customers in Boston through the Venezuelan-owned oil company Citgo:

[I]t would be disgusting for anyone who can comfortably afford to heat his home to criticize anyone who can’t for accepting Citgo’s help.

(Hat tip: publicansdecoy.)

Update: Is it wrong to be skeptical that everything will happen exactly as described in the press release?