HOUSTON -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has never been a fan of U.S. President George W. Bush. But following his speech before the United Nations in late September, during which he derided Bush as an alcoholic and referred to him as the devil, retailers are thinking twice about whether they want to work with CITGO Petroleum Corp., a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil company.
By a split of nearly 4-to-1, respondents to a Kraft/CSP Daily News Poll last week said they were less likely to work with CITGO Petroleum Corp. following Chavez's comments before the United Nations; more than 79% of the 316 respondents agreed with that statement, and nearly 21% disagreed.
CSP Daily News' inquiries to CITGO's public relations team about plans to deal with this issue went unanswered as of presstime.
Discussion on the issue continued on the CSP Discussion Board, where current CITGO retailers longed for the end of their contract:
I am a single-store owner in Northwest Wisconsin. Right now, I would give anything to get out of my CITGO contract, wrote one Discussion Board member. [The past] year has been a total nightmare. [We've received] no instructions to address the political comments coming into the store and some employees quitting because of the hassle they are getting. My personal prayer each night is that Wisconsin is the next state they pull out of!
Another CITGO retailer from Wisconsin wrote: I am averaging about two customers a week stopping just to tell us how sorry we are for dealing with a Commie dictator. It has been store policy to keep political views out of the store, but it is failing right now. People will come in just to buy $2 worth of gas and vent their opinion, call us a commie and inform us now they will go and buy fuel from an American'.
Still another view: It boils down to this: Chavez doesn't trust our president. He sees what has been going on in the Middle East and fears the same could happen in his country. I can't say that I blame him. After losing two very dear family members in this war over oil, I, too, have my fears and doubts over how our president is handling foreign affairs.
To read these posts in their entirety or to join the discussion, click here.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts independent gubernatorial candidate and convenience-store retailer Christy Mihos said late last week that he is negotiating to cancel his business contracts with CITGO over Chavez's comments, reported The Boston Herald. Mihos said his lawyers are in contact with CITGO about terminating distributor deals with nine of his 14 Christy's Markets on Cape Cod.
Mihos said he just wants to make sure he's not sued by Citgo before pulling the termination trigger. He may have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to break his agreements, but it's worth it, he told the newspaper.
Mihos sold the bulk of his Christy's Market empire in New England to 7-Eleven in 1999, said the report.