• AP Photo/Fernando Llano
  • Hugo Chavez

The news of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s death got me thinking about his distant connection to Chicago.

This goes back to 2005, when Mayor Daley was mayor and Frank Kruesi was president of the CTA.

Working through Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Alderman Billy Ocasio, Venezuelan officials let the CTA know that they’d wanted to give Chicago what amounted to $15 million worth of free gas for its buses.

The offer was intended to help the CTA keep fares low so that Chicago’s poor people could avoid fare hikes, Venezuelan officials said.

There were two ways of looking at this. Chavez was trying to embarrass President George Bush—his ideological rival. Or he genuinely cared about the poor people of Chicago.

Or maybe both.