"Devil" Burns CITGO Retailers

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"Devil" Burns CITGO Retailers

TULSA, Okla. -- Arkansas Valley, a wholesale fuel distributor which supplies CITGO gas to 30 stations in Oklahoma and Missouri, saw sales fall 10 to 15 percent after Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez insinuated that U.S. President George W. Bush was "the devil" at a U.N. General assembly meeting last month, The Associated Press reported.

"We started losing business at our stores," Arkansas Valley president Weister Smith told Tulsa World. "Some of our independent retailers came to us and asked us to make a change away from CITGO. Some of them actually covered up their CITGO signs."

Several of the 1,900 CITGO stations that are being dropped from CITGO's network come March want the transition to come sooner, afraid that drivers will fill up elsewhere.

Rumors of a boycott also have made some retailers speed up the change. Duff Thompson, president of Fiesta Mart, told the AP that those rumors prompted the company to hasten the rebranding for eight of the company's Tulsa, Okla.-based stores that were formerly CITGO branded. "We have some stores showing declines," said Thompson. "But I wouldn't attribute it all to the Chavez situation."

A boycott would only hurt the independent business owners, according to Vance McSpadden, executive director of the Oklahoma Petroleum Association. "It's not CITGO they're getting back at," he told the AP. "It's that independent businessman who has got his livelihood invested in that business. That's who you're punishing."

The CITGO boycott is one topic that CSNews' Spare Change Blog has been addressing since early October. To read more on the boycott and comments from readers, as well as provide comments or opinions of your own, visit the site by clicking here.