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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 28, 2006

7-Eleven, Citgo part ways amid outcry

By Steven Mufson
Washington Post

The devil might wear Prada, but will his fellow citizens fill up their tanks with Citgo?

One retail chain won't find out. Faced with a barrage of calls from customers and bloggers calling for a boycott of Citgo gasoline stations, 7-Eleven Inc. said yesterday that the Citgo signs are going to start coming down from its convenience stores on the Mainland. In Hawai'i, 7-Eleven sells Aloha gasoline.

The boycott calls were the result of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's fiery speech at the United Nations last week in which he called President Bush "the devil." 7-Eleven said that the end of its 20-year supply agreement with Citgo Petroleum Corp., owned by the Venezuelan state oil company, was not the result of that speech but rather that it had decided in the spring to launch its own gasoline brand and switch to three new U.S. suppliers.

But the chain moved up the announcement of those plans in response to the outcry over the Chavez speech. "We sympathize with many Americans' concern over derogatory comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez," Margaret Chabris, 7-Eleven public relations director, said in a statement.

She added: "Customers started calling last week and saying that they didn't like what Chavez said. And they wanted to know what we were going to do."

But removing the Citgo signs from 7-Eleven stores and franchises will take until 2008, and Chabris tried to discourage any boycott. She noted that Houston-based Citgo employs 4,000 people and supplies 14,000 retail stations in the United States.