Sat, Feb 12, 2011 - Page 7 News List

US intel report highlights Cuba, Venezuela woes

AFP, WASHINGTON

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will face increasing protests as the Venezuelan economy deteriorates and the opposition strengthens, while political instability is also possible in Cuba, a US intelligence report said on Thursday.

The dire news for the two leftist Latin American regimes came in the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, a report issued by the office of US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“Facing an energized opposition in the coming year, Chavez may have to deal with more popular protests over his continued push to implement 21st Century Socialism,” the report said.

Venezuela “currently suffers from nearly 30 percent inflation and negative growth,” and Chavez will “struggle to improve his country’s poor economic performance,” it added.

Chavez’s hold on power however “remains secure, despite his party’s lackluster performance” in legislation elections in September last year, the report said.

As for Cuba, “the economic situation is dire,” the report read.

Foreign revenue coming from nickel exports and tourism have decreased, resulting in a foreign currency reserve drop that has “forced dramatic cuts to imports, especially food imports, and we have seen increases in the price of oil, food, and electricity,” it said.

“As a result, Havana has become even more dependent on subsidized oil shipments from Venezuela and earnings from over 40,000 health workers, teachers and advisers in that country,” the report read. “We doubt that the Cuban economy can quickly absorb all the dismissed state workers given the many bureaucratic and structural hurdles to increased private sector employment.”

Cuban President Raul Castro has announced sweeping reforms that include slashing half a million government jobs and making it easier for private entrepreneurs to work.

The report said there was “little organized opposition to the Cuban government, and Cuba’s security forces are capable of suppressing localized public protests.”

However, it said that “a heavy-handed Cuban put-down of protests could spark wider discontent and increased violence which could lead to a level of political instability.”

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