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October 7, 2006

Citgo, Chavez, and Unanswered Questions

After a hiatus due to our fundraising drive, we're now picking up on where we left off with our reader responses.

In response to the article on Citgo’s indictment for environmental crimes in Corpus Christi (9/1), reader Jim Pavonka wrote that he was:
… astonished… that an article this detailed would not mention that Citgo is owned by PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company; or that relationships between Venezuela, the Chavez administration in that country, and the Bush administration in the US are a bit strained, and have been for some time. It seems possible that the indictment of Venezuela's oil refinery before and instead of any other refinery might be a reflection of the current state of relations between the governments of the two countries.

We acknowledge that our article gave short shrift to what might have been a significant factor in Citgo’s indictment. Certainly, some more careful querying of observers of Venezuela’s geopolitical position might have offered valuable insight that was forgone for this article.

The possible Chavez connection was not totally lost on us, and others have speculated on it as well. On the other hand, Citgo’s unauthorized benzene emissions are pretty egregious, according to refinery watchdog groups; the Department of Justice insisted that the indictment was the product of years of investigating Citgo; some of the violations date back as early as 1994, which suggests that the tracking of Citgo began before Chavez came to power; and in recent years, other companies, like Encycle and Koch, have also been cited by federal authorities for pollution violations.

But the main crucial point that I left out of the article was the information that led to our speculation in the first place – that Citgo is owned by Hugo Chavez, a Bush administration rival. That would have at least given readers the information that we had and helped them draw their own conclusions. Thanks to those who wrote in to remind us how such information is so important.

NOTE: This blog entry was edited after initial posting, adding more information about our reporting process and excluding information that we later decided was extraneous.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.