Caracas, Venezuela Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez strengthened his Latin American ties with generous oil deals that he is now extending north to the United States, with plans to ship cheap heating oil to low-income people in New York and Massachusetts.
Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum Corp. made a symbolic first delivery to a Boston-area family this week. Shipments are due to reach tens of thousands families starting next month, and hospitals, homeless shelters and other facilities in needy communities also are in line to get oil.
Chavez's critics call it a political stunt aimed at needling President Bush, a constant target of taunts from the leftist leader. Others say Chavez is likely to win praise from some Americans with a clever approach that bypasses Washington to make his point.
Awash in oil profits, Chavez says he is leading a socialist "revolution" and calls his program an act of justice for poor Americans, whom he says have been neglected by their government.
He has called Bush a "madman" and said Venezuela must be prepared to repel a U.S. attack if necessary. Washington denies such plans but has accused Chavez of endangering Venezuelan democracy and destabilizing the region.