Rev. Jackson offers support for Chavez’ proposal to provide low-cost heating oil to US communities

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, issued the following statement today, following his personal meeting with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.  Following conservative Christian Coalition leader Pat Robertson’s recent call to assassinate the  Venezuelan President, the two leaders discussed Venezuela’s role in the world, moving toward diplomacy and dialogue between the US and Venezuela, and President Chavez’s proposal to provide low cost heating oil to poor communities in the U.S.

Members of the Rainbow/PUSH Delegation to Venezuela, including son Jonathan and daughter, Jacqueline; Professor Ron Walters, and Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, held a wide ranging discussion with President Chavez this afternoon.  Rev. Jackson’s statement follows:

“I want to express my sincere gratitude to President Hugo Chavez for granting us an audience today.  I was impressed by his candor, his desire to improve US-Venezuelan political and business relations, and his proposal to provide low cost heating oil to poor communities in the United States.

President Chavez is the democratically elected leader of Venezuela, elected twice by large majorities. 

The U.S. and Venezuela reside in the same hemisphere – we are neighbors, partners and require a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation. 

Conservative Christian Coalition leader Pat Robertson’s remarks were immoral and reprehensible.  They demand an investigation about possible violations by the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice.

But more than that, Venezuela’s role in the world must be understood and respected in all of its dimensions. 

God has distributed the resources in such a way that makes all of us necessary.  Venezuela is the #1 oil producer in our hemisphere and #5 in the world.  It sits on the largest oil reserves in the world; it is endowed to be necessary.  It therefore has a place at the world’s table to discuss the destiny of the world.  So, in my discussion with President Chavez, I suggested a détente on divisive rhetoric, and to use our respective influence to positively influence each other. The US and Venezuela are geographical neighbors and we have mutually beneficial needs, move to the moral and diplomatic norms of international diplomacy and dialogue.

I also appealed to the President to revive its relationship with the Drug Enforcement Agency in order to effectively confront drug trafficking.  I suggested that he reach out to the Catholic Church and Jewish communities.

Dr. King would say, the arc of the universe is long but it always bends toward justice.  We must maintain this momentum to make the world better.  We must use power to reduce tensions, and reduce the rhetoric of idle threats.  42 years ago yesterday, Dr. King led the march on Washington, D.C. to organize around poverty, jobs, health care, and peace.  We stand in that tradition and commit to applying these principles to today’s world.

In my meeting with President Chavez, he proposed a profound and brilliant proposal to use Venezuela’s oil resources to provide low cost heating oil to poor communities, students, and hospitals in the United States.  Such a proposal will certainly generate a positive response in the United States, where oil prices have hit a record $70/barrel, gas prices have broken the $3.00/gallon barrier, and a cold and expensive winter awaits us.  I applaud President Chavez for his vision and sense of social responsibility, and pledged to work with his team and the appropriate persons in the United States to bring this vision to fruition.

I urged President Chavez to seize the opportunity during this moment of tension to forge positive relations with the United States.  Leaders with the most courage and vision will take the most initiative. We are neighbors, trading and business partners, we share culture.  We share baseball, where 75 Major League players are Venezuelan, and the manager with the most wins is Ozzie Guillen of my hometown Chicago White Sox.  Let’s work together in all areas, as we do in baseball, to build stronger bridges between Venezuela and the United States where all can win.”

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization, which seeks to protect, defend and gain civil rights, even the economic and educational playing fields in all aspects of American life and bring peace to the world. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, please visit the organization’s website,, or telephone (773) 373-3366. To interview Rev. Jackson about this topic, please call the numbers listed above.