LONDON, England (AP) — The British capital’s new mayor, Boris Johnson is ending a deal that has provided cheap Venezuelan fuel for London’s transport network. Johnson was a critic of the oil deal struck by his predecessor, Ken Livingstone.
The agreement, signed last year by the Conservative Johnson’s predecessor and Labour Party rival, Ken Livingstone, provided discounted gas for London’s iconic red buses in exchange for advice on urban planning in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.
Money saved on gas was put into a program providing half-rate bus fares for low-income Londoners. Livingstone said the anti-poverty initiative was the idea of Venezuela’s left-wing leader, Hugo Chavez, whom Livingstone said he has long admired.
Conservative critics said the deal allowed one of the world’s richest cities to exploit a lesser developed country and handed a propaganda coup to a man they called “a third-rate South American dictator.”
Johnson echoed those criticisms in a statement announcing he would not renew the agreement when it expires in August.
“I think many Londoners felt uncomfortable about the bus operation of one of the world’s financial powerhouses being funded by the people of a country where many people live in extreme poverty,” he said.
The statement said poor Londoners could continue to take advantage of the reduced fares until the program ran its course.
A spokesman for the mayor said there were no plans to offer low-income residents advantageous bus fares beyond that point.
Mr Livingstone has attacked the decision not to renew the deal and close the Venezuelan office.
He said: “It shows that he is more interested in pursuing his right-wing ideological agenda than improving the living standards of the most deprived people in the capital.
“The fact that the first significant action by Johnson’s Tory regime is against the poorest people in the capital is highly significant as is the cowardly way he has made the announcement on bank holiday Sunday without any consultation with the organisations representing the thousands of carers, single parents and others affected.”
Mr Livingstone added: “The suggestion that Johnson is motivated by any concern about the people of Venezuela is just a lie shown by the fact that he is withdrawing all technical support and advice provided by London under this agreement.”