Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm
Asif Rana, chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Rana Enterprises Group, owns nine gas stations in the Milwaukee area. Six of them are Citgo stations. In addition, by the end of March, he plans to close on a purchase of four more gas stations, all of which are Citgo stations.
But Rana plans to re-brand all of those Citgo stations, converting them to BP or Mobile stations. Rana said he now refuses to do business with Citgo after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez spoke to the United Nations earlier this year and made disparaging comments about President George W. Bush.
“The devil came here yesterday,” Chavez said to the U.N. in September, referring to Bush’s speech to the U.N. “He came here talking as if he were the owner of the world.”
In his remarks, Chavez also accused the United States of “domination, exploitation and pillage of peoples of the world. We appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our head.”
Houston-based Citgo is owned by PDV America Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela S.A., the national oil company of Venezuela.
Rana, 37, was born in Pakistan. His mother is Pakastani, and his father is Indian. He moved to Canada when he was in high school and he moved to the United States after he was married.
Rana is a strong supporter of Democratic politicians. The walls in his Milwaukee office, located on the second floor of a gas station at 122 W. Capitol Drive, feature pictures of Rana with prominent Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Hilary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, U.S. Sen. John Kerry and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.
However, Rana said he also supports some Republicans, including new state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. He said he voted for President Bush the first time, but not the second time.
Still, Rana said he appreciates the freedom and opportunities available in American and said he takes great offense to Chavez’s comments about Bush.
“For any country’s president or leader to go on a platform at the United Nations and use that rubbish language about our president,” Rana said. “We buy his gas and support him (Chavez). His country’s whole progress, economy is based on (doing business in) Midwest states. I want to teach him a lesson.”
Rana said he will have to pay a $60,000 penalty for each re-branded station. But he wants to send a message to Chavez. The re-branding of his stations means Chavez will lose 9 million gallons of annual gas sales, Rana said.
“I’m very patriotic,” he said.
Rana said he hopes to talk with Citgo’s regional sales manager about the situation. He wants to make about $130,000 in improvements to each of his Citgo stations, including exterior improvements with “patriotic symbols.” If Citgo agrees to help pay for those improvements, Rana said he might maintain the Citgo affiliations at the stations until his contracts with them expire. Then, Rana said, he will switch the affiliations to BP or Mobile.