CITGO, a Venezuelan owned company with corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas, caused wide-spread anger in the city when it lowered all flags, U.S., Texas and Venezuela, to half-mast to honor the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, reports Click2Houston.com.
United States flags are normally only lowered to half-mast on executive order from the President of the United States when one of the nation’s political leaders or principal figures dies.
Chavez, long an opponent of U.S. imperialism and capitalism, was not considered by the federal government to be a friend of the United States. In 2006, Chavez called President George W. Bush, a Texas native, the devil in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, remarking that the podium still smelled of sulfur one day after Bush’s address.
On Wednesday, after some Houstonians got wind of CITGO’s move, they called into Matt Patrick’s afternoon radio show, The 9-5-0, to complain:
“I gave them a call, and the operator told me that it was in observance and respect of the death of Hugo Chavez,” Teddy told Patrick.
“I told the person that answered the phone that if she had a problem with raising the flag back up that I could come down and do it for her,” he said.
A caller named ‘Doc’ told Patrick, “I called their facilities manager and led a march of about 800 patriots from one of my Facebook pages.”
Doc also said he would head down to the corporate headquarters and take matters into his own hands if necessary.
“I’m ready to go down there. Eldridge isn’t far from my house. I’ll either remove the flag or I will put it at full mast,” he stated.
CITGO released the following statement which explains the move:
“We at CITGO Petroleum Corporation are deeply saddened by the news of his passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of Venezuela in this time of grief,” a statement from the company read.
Everyone did not protest the show of honor. Houstonian Elvis Escobar said he supports the company’s decision because [America] really shouldn’t think that we’re superior in any way, even if we don’t have a good relationship with them.”
Venezuela has been without a U.S. ambassador since July 2010 and expelled another U.S. military officer in 2006. Chavez also insisted that the U.S. government was behind a failed attempt to overthrow him in 2002. Some in his inner-circle have even hinted that the U.S. government may be behind his death.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell denied the accusations.
“Notwithstanding the significant differences between our governments, we continue to believe it important to seek a functional and more productive relationship with Venezuela based on issues of mutual interest,” he said. “This fallacious assertion of inappropriate U.S. action leads us to conclude that, unfortunately, the current Venezuelan government is not interested an improved relationship.”
After announcing the expulsion of one attache, Maduro — addressing the media in a lengthy statement — asserted that someday there will be “scientific proof” that Chavez was somehow infected by outsiders.
“An assertion that the United States was somehow involved in causing President Chavez’s illness is absurd, and we definitively reject it,” Ventrell said.
It isn’t the first time that a Venezuelan government official has implied that a plot could be behind Chavez’s cancer.
Chavez made the assertion himself in 2011, saying at a military event in Caracas that he wondered whether the United States could be infecting Latin American leaders with the illness.
One would think it “absurd” that the United States government would, from 1946 to 1948, deliberately infect nearly 700 Guatemalans — prison inmates, mental patients and soldiers — with syphilis to test the effectiveness of penicillin. It would be equally “absurd” to believe that it would allow 399 Black sharecroppers in Macon County, Alabama to die from syphilis after lying to them about treatment and secretly using them as human guinea pigs. One could call it “absurd” that from “1929 until 1974, an estimated 7,600 North Carolinians, women and men, many of whom were poor, undereducated, institutionalized, sick or disabled, were sterilized by choice, force or coercion under the authorization of the North Carolina Eugenics Board program.”
In a moving statement, actor Sean Penn shared a little-known perspective of the fallen president:
“Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion,” says Penn in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “I lost a friend I was blessed to have. My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela.”
“Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of Vice President Maduro,” adds Penn.
Film-maker Oliver Stone also weighed in:
”I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place,” says Stone in a statement to THR. “Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history.”
“My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned,” he adds.
In 2005, Chavez was in talks with former U.S. Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) to arrange a program that would “supply subsidized heating oil to thousands of low-income and elderly residents in Massachusetts;” he is also loved and respected for giving millions of dollars to the economically disenfranchised South Bronx.
Though propaganda would have Americans believe that Chavez should be universally hated, that is far, far from the truth.
President Barack Obama, who Chavez initially supported before their relationship grew contentious, is sending an official delegation to the state funeral being held in Caracas for Chavez on Friday.