CASA de Maryland set to accept $1.5 million from Venezuela-owned Citgo

This news item was discussed on the Chris Plante radio program as I drove through the area.

So I looked it up and there is apparently much more to the story.

There apparently a “multi-cultural center” that one caller said had posters of Che Guevara.

Montgomery County, Maryland, is funding CASA de Maryland with $2 million, apparently.

CASA of Maryland - Central American Solidary Association

The comments by readers of the article get a little inflamed, but some are interesting.

There is apparently a counter-CASA group:

and here:

And a blog that is up-to-date:

This donation is only the latest of Citgo’s efforts to court poor persons in the US.

Citgo began its advocacy efforts in 2005 by offering a 40 percent discount on heating oil for poor households in Massachusetts through the nonprofit Citizens Energy Corporation, founded by former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II. Citgo expanded to other states, including in the Washington area two years ago, partnering with CASA of Maryland to help distribute the oil. Last winter, Citgo said it provided about 112 million gallons of discounted fuel to more than 224,000 households in 23 states.

The program received considerable media attention last year, when Citgo began running advertisements for the program, some of which featured Kennedy. Citgo has stepped up its advocacy efforts in other ways, particularly in New York’s South Bronx, where it is funding social and economic development programs through nonprofit groups there.

Here are two articles that Chris Plante used in show prep for this radio program:

[There were no URL’s, so I can only post the whole articles. Thre may be some overlap with the original post.]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Citgo gives $1.5 million to Casa
Gillian Gaynair

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Immigrant-advocacy group Casa de Maryland on Monday received a $1.5 million donation from Citgo Petroleum Corp., a subsidiary of Venezuela’s national oil company that is controlled by President Hugo Chavez.

The funds will be used to strengthen Casa’s $4.4 million social-service, small-business and vocational-training programs over the next three years. Kim Propeack, advocacy director for the Montgomery County-based organization, said it’s the largest corporate gift Casa has received.

“Like many nonprofits, Casa has been trying to grow its corporate investment,” she said. “Citgo is very committed to ensuring that the profits they earn through their business are shared by low-income people. We applaud their sense of corporate responsibility.”

A Monday news conference to announce the donation was postponed because of a personal emergency of Citgo President Alejandro Granado, who was to attend with the Venezuelan ambassador. Ms. Propeack said the contribution would still be finalized Monday.

Casa, which has several locations in Maryland, also will receive $1.9 million in 2009 from Montgomery County, according to county spokesman Patrick Lacefield. The funds will help operate Casa’s five day-laborer centers as well as health, education and housing programs for low-income immigrant families.

About 45 percent of Casa’s $6.3 million budget in 2009 comes from the state and county, Ms. Propeack said.

In 2007, the Venezuelan government expressed interest in helping fund some county programs. But Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett declined to get involved, Mr. Lacefield said.

“I think he felt that we really didn’t need assistance from the Venezuelan government to run Montgomery County,” he said. “Our attitude was thanks, but no thanks.”

Communities served by Casa have already benefited from Citgo programs. Since 2006, Casa has partnered with Citgo in a program that provides heating oil at a discounted rate to families in the area. Citgo began the national program in 2005 with the Venezuelan government and Boston-based Citizens Energy Corp.

CASA de Maryland set to accept $1.5M from Venezuela-owned Citgo Petroleum
Sarah Raymond, The Examiner
2008-08-04 07:00:00.0
Current rank: # 858 of 5,155

Immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland announced Friday that it will accept a $1.5 million donation from Citgo Petroleum Corp., controlled by a Venezuelan government led by strongman Hugo Chavez.

“We are thrilled that we have corporate partners like Citgo that recognize that there is poverty in this country and human needs,” said Kim Propeack, director of political action at CASA.
Though private, CASA receives state and county funds for assisting low-income immigrants in Maryland. The group has come under fire for its policy of not checking immigration status when it helps clients find jobs.

“This is just incredible that they would even accept this gift from Venezuela,” said Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, an anti-illegal immigration group. “We call on Gov. O’Malley and also Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett to repudiate CASA.”

Originally, CASA intended to announce the donation at a news conference Monday with Citgo officials and the Venezuelan ambassador. The news conference has been indefinitely postponed due to scheduling conflicts, according to a CASA spokesman.

Maryland officials have refused to interact with Venezuela in the past. In October 2007, Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich, D-at large, withdrew an invitation to the Venezuelan ambassador to visit Maryland and potentially fund local social programs, after Leggett frowned on the idea.

“Montgomery County can take care of its own problems. Thank you. No thank you,” Leggett stated at the time.

Leggett’s office does not object to CASA’s acceptance of the donation. “As a government, Montgomery County did not feel the need to receive anything from the government of Venezuela or make any efforts, but obviously private organizations can do what they want,” said Patrick Lacefield, Leggett’s spokesman.
CASA’s constituents have benefited from Citgo donations in the past. Since 2006, the Citgo-Venezuela Heating Oil Program has provided discounted oil to 12,000 low-income families in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Citgo began the national program in 2005 when it donated heating oil to the Citizens Energy Corp., whose chairman is former Massachusetts Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II. Media outlets and congressional representatives repudiated Kennedy, saying Chavez was using the program to highlight poverty in the U.S. while he ignored his own country’s struggles.

CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres visited Venezuela in November 2007 to lecture on youth leadership. A CASA spokesman said he did not know whether Torres met with Citgo representatives then.


Personally, I think I would walk before I would buy Citgo and give any of my hard earned dollars to someone who hates the US so much.

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