Saturday, March 30, 2013

Warming Up the Bronx: Citgo Venezuela Heating & Social Development Program

It was the fall of 2005, and the cold months were beginning to roll in on the South Bronx, New York City's poorest area. The dilapidated streets of the South Bronx, which has a history of being neglected by the city, might be the last place one would expect to receive a visit from a famous world leader.

However this leader was different.

 On September 20th, 2005, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a champion of the poor and a vocal critic of the United States government, (having called George Bush “the devil”), came to the notorious urban neighborhood. Hosted by Congressman Jose Serrano, Chavez spoke to a round table of community groups at The Point, a community organization that promotes social and environmental justice[i]. On that day the Venezuelan president made a charged promise to the people of the South Bronx.

 Five years later—with the help of a people-friendly oil company, a progressive congressman, the generosity and political acumen of a foreign leader, and local grassroots participation—that promise has turned into a significant heating oil assistance and social-development program for low-income residents of the Bronx.

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