TURNER – A selectman said he will withdraw his motion calling for a boycott of local Citgo gas stations after critics said a boycott would only hurt local businesses.
Selectman Charlie Mock made a motion last week proposing that the town stop doing business with Citgo because Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had insulted President Bush during a speech at the United Nations last month. Citgo is a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.
After the motion was tabled, the board voted 3-2 to instruct the town manager to find out where the three local Citgo stations get their gas.
But the owner of a store in Turner that sells Citgo gas said she was stunned when she learned of the proposal. Joan Bryant-Deschenes, who has owned B&A Variety store for 23 years, said a boycott wouldn’t hurt Chavez – but it would hurt businesses such as hers that sell Citgo gas.
“All it’s going to do is hurt small, local businesses,” Bryant-Deschenes said. “We don’t need more problems.”
Mock submitted a letter to the Sun Journal of Lewiston last Tuesday saying he would withdraw his motion at the selectmen’s next meeting.
Other communities have stopped doing business with Citgo as a result of Chavez berating the president and calling him the devil at the United Nations last month, he said.
“The discord created in this community by this well-intentioned, but obviously not well-thought-out motion, is not worth any message that would be sent by its passage,” Mock said.
Dennis Richardson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said selectmen don’t have any right to ask businesses where they get their product. Richardson voted against Mock’s motion and resigned as chairman in protest.
“Turner should not boycott local people who pay taxes and employ town people,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Bryant-Deschenes said what Mock and the other selectmen did was “irresponsible.” She said she doesn’t agree with Chavez calling Bush names, but that he has a right to free speech.
Furthermore, she asked, what’s worse – buying oil from Venezuela, or from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or some other Middle East country? The United States, she said, should become “independent of any source, conserve and develop ways of better using the supply.”
Stores that sell Citgo gasoline are independently owned businesses and are not owned by Citgo, said Denise McCourt of the American Petroleum Institute in Washington.
The other two Turner stores with Citgo brand gas are the Big Apple and Schrep’s Corner Store. C.N. Brown Co., the owner of the Big Apple, said selling Citgo gas is like having Coca-Cola in their soda coolers – it’s simply another product.
The stores “are independently owned and operated by folks who live here in Maine, family businesses like C.N. Brown,” said Jinger Duryea, company president.
There is no way to determine where a station’s gasoline even comes from, store owners said.
All of Maine’s gasoline comes to terminals in South Portland and is mixed, they said, so there’s no way to know if it came from Canada, Venezuela or the Middle East.