Venezuela’s troubles put US heating oil charity in limbo

The Venezuelan program was launched after Hurricane Katrina

(AP) – Venezuela’s economic turmoil has placed in limbo that country’s participation in a free heating oil program run by a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that has helped hundreds of thousands of people.

This marks the second consecutive winter that Venezuela’s Citgo has not contributed to the program, signaling that it may be kaput.

The program is part of the nonprofit Citizens Energy created by businessman and former Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II.

The Venezuelan program was launched after Hurricane Katrina damaged U.S. refining capacity in 2005. Then-President Hugo Chavez responded to an appeal from Kennedy to help out.

Over the years, the program has provided $500 million in heating assistance to 25 states and the District of Columbia. Without Citgo’s participation, the heating oil program may cease to exist.