VHeadline Venezuela News reports: London Mayor Boris Johnson -- who replaced left-winger Ken Livingstone on May 1 this year -- is insisting on returning just over UK£7 million (US$14 million) to Venezuela ... almost half the amount agreed in a Livingstone undertaking to provide discount Venezuelan oil in exchange for British transport, environment and urban planning know-how.
Venezuelan officials had signed a deal with London on February 20, 2007, to send two shipments of diesel (worth $32 million) in exchange for advisory services to deal with traffic chaos in Caracas. But Matt Brown, press officer for the London Mayor's Office says London has returned £7 million pounds = $13.97 million. He explains that Transport for London received £16 million of which £9 million had been invested in low-cost transport program and that the amount reimbursed matches the exact difference.
The agreements signed with Ken Livingstone in London expire in two weeks time and it's obvious that white-haired and outspoken Mayor Boris Johnson wants to get rid of any encumbrance a connection with "the Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez" could imply. A press release says simply that "the financial arrangement between London and Venezuela will end on August 20 this year, when the treatment comes to an end."
The big upset in Venezuela-London relations came when Johnson defeated Livingstone at the polls and suspended the Venezuela agreement the minute he took office saying that Londoners should feel uncomfortable with the fact that their buses operate with discounted fuel from "a country where many people live in extreme poverty."
In a headlined article in Sunday's edition of the national broadsheet El Universal, the Venezuela-London agreement was primarily for London to provide consultation on matters of "transport and planning", "traffic signalling and controls" and "environmental quality issues" ... but Johnson's administration says there are sparse details from the Venezuelan side as to what was the scope of such activities and apart from setting up a Caracas office for Transport for London on Avenida Casanova (Caracas's version of London's seedy Soho red-light district) there was no specifics as to who would work there, any conclusions reached and where such activities should take place. London PR-man Brown insists that "the information is zero." The London Metropolitan Mayor's Office says Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) refuses to shed light on the subject, and that any further queries are "outside of our competence." Meanwhilt Venezuela's Foreign Ministry (MRE) claims to be unaware of the news about $14 million wending its way back from the UK to their balance sheet.
While there was some small degree of publicity last year basically warning 250,000 London commuters that 'The Bolivarian Government of Venezuela' was subsidizing their half-price bus tickets, the program initially intended to provide low-cost travel to pensioners, handicapped and unemployed was essentially forgotten about when former Higher Education Minister, Samuel Moncada took over as Venezuela's Ambassador to London late last year and Venezuela-London relations were thrust suddenly into reverse.
Witnessing Moncada's diplomatic incapacity, no government authority responded to Johnson's decision to curtail the agreement, although without any reference to Venezuela, Livingstone was quick off the starting-block to claim that Johnson was more interested in continuing with his right-wing ideological agenda than in improving standard of living of the poorest people living in London.
VHeadline Venezuela News
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