LIMA, Peru (AP) — The Massachusetts-based nonprofit run by Joseph P. Kennedy II that has distributed nearly a half billion dollars' worth of Venezuela-donated home heating oil in the U.S. since 2005 has not yet received this winter's shipment.
In recent years, the first shipments from Venezuela would have arrived in late November or early December and have been delivered by now.
A spokesman for the Kennedy's Citizens Energy Corp., Brian O'Connor, said thousands of people had called inquiring about the oil.
"We very much hope that the Venezuelans will come through as they did for so many years under President (Hugo) Chavez's leadership," Kennedy said in a statement Friday issued by the nonprofit.
The former congressman and son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy said, however, that "every indicator so far has been that they will help out."
Chavez died last March after a long battle with cancer. Venezuela, despite having the world's largest proven oil reserves, has in recent years suffered steady production declines.
A spokesman for Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA reached in Caracas had no comment, while a spokesman for the company's U.S. subsidiary Citgo, Fernando Garay, did not immediately return a voicemail message.
The Kennedy statement was issued in response to a query from The Republican newspaper of Springfield, Mass.
Citizens Energy says it has distributed the home heating oil to some 200,000 low-income and elderly households annually in 25 states including the entire Northeast, Alaska and parts of the Midwest.
The program was launched after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 damaged U.S. refining capacity and Chavez responded to an appeal from Kennedy to help out.
In the first year, it provided eligible households 200 gallons of heating oil at a 40 percent discount, said O'Connor. Then it switched to 100 gallons of free oil.
O'Connor said Kennedy, 61, was recovering from a broken pelvis suffered in a bike accident and was unavailable for comment. He would not say when or where Kennedy became injured.
Associated Press Writer Jorge Rueda in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.