Reacting apolitically at the right moment to capitalize on a political situation can be brilliant business acumen if properly timed.

Some conservative groups are applauding a recent announcement by the 7-Eleven corporation saying that the company would be dropping the Venezuelan-owned Citgo as their gas supplier. Chavez was at the United Nations in New York recently and called President Bush “the devil,” a “sick man,” and an alcoholic.

7-Eleven says the move wasn’t political and has been in the works for months, as the company is going to be offering their own brand of gasoline. Then they said it was partly political. All bases are indeed covered.

From the A.P.:

7-Eleven officials said Wednesday that the decision was partly motivated by politics.

Citgo Petroleum Corp. is a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-run oil company and 7-Eleven is worried that anti-American comments made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez might prompt motorists to fill-up elsewhere.

Oh, so it is a political move. Oh wait, then there’s this from Reuters:

A week after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called George W. Bush “the devil,” convenience store chain 7-Eleven Inc. said on Wednesday it will stop selling gasoline from Venezuelan-controlled Citgo Petroleum, but both companies denied the actions were linked.

The Dallas, Texas-based company said in a statement it disapproved of Chavez’ comments, but a spokeswoman insisted politics were not part of the decision to end its 20-year agreement with Houston-based Citgo Petroleum Corp., a position supported by Venezuelan and Citgo officials

So, it’s not a political move?

The real answer is most likely ”both.” It’s actually pretty smart business politics.

7-Eleven has been planning the switch for months, but timing the announcement to co-incide with Hugo Chavez’s swing through New York to bash Bush while leftist Americans clung to him like communist lampreys on a Marxist shark couldn’t have been an accident.

Now, people are patting 7-Eleven on the back and encouraging others to patronize the company while singing “oh thank heaven for 7-Eleven” all the way to the gas pump, and may even buy a giant Slim-Jim for further support. There’s little downside for 7-Eleven in the timing of their announcement. Chavez knows it had been in the works for quite a while, and, to American consumers, it looks as if 7-Eleven is putting the smackdown on a loon.

In all reality, who will boycott 7-Eleven as a result of them dropping Citgo? Will Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover take their Slurpee business elsewhere? I’m sure 7-Eleven will survive any low-impact pro-Chavez backlash.

For 7-Eleven, it’s all upside.

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