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    CITGO Accuses 7-Eleven of Using Politics to Justify End of Deal

    Expiration of the contract was decided months before Chavez's remarks were made.

    DALLAS -- CITGO Petroleum Corp., the U.S.-based subsidiary of the Venezuelan government-controlled oil company, criticized 7-Eleven for using politics as a cover during its exit from contracts it held with CITGO, reported Reuters.

    CITGO chief executive, Felix Rodriguez, commented this week that the U.S. media and Chavez's opponents in Venezuela falsely reported that 7-Eleven was ending the contract because CITGO has ties to the state-run oil company and its president, Hugo Chavez, who has made negative remarks against U.S. president George W. Bush. CSNews Online reported yesterday that although 7-Eleven's decision to go unbranded was made weeks earlier, the retailer suggested it was not happy about Chavez's continuing anti-American rants.

    "Now they want to exploit all this for political gain, but this is a commercial relationship that is about to end on Sept. 30 as laid out in a contract," Rodriguez told Venezuelan television.

    CITGO stated that the decision to end contracts with 7-Eleven was made long before Chavez's comments against the U.S. "We announced it with a news conference in Venezuela, back in July," Rodriguez said.

    The convenience chain's former CEO Jim Keyes told shareholders in April that the retailer was considering going unbranded. 7-Eleven originally announced plans to switch oil suppliers in August when CITGO announced that it would cut 14 percent of its 13,000 service-station network across 10 states.CSNews Online reported.

    Earlier this week, 7-Eleven issued a statement regarding the contract expiration and contained remarks that 7-Eleven sympathized with Americans' concern with Chavez's remarks against the U.S. leader.

    The comments, from 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris to The Associated Press, included: "Regardless of politics, we sympathize with many Americans' concern over derogatory comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez."

    She added, "Certainly Chavez's position and statements over the past year or so didn't tempt us to stay with CITGO."

    Chavez is currently running for reelection in Venezuela against an opponent who he claims is backed by the U.S. He also claims that political leaders are undergoing a campaign to discredit him because of his "anti-U.S." policies on things like free-trade, Reuters reported.

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