Last week, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair presented the “Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. While the report notes that Venezuela is “struggling” to deal with the post-2008 drop in oil prices and with production declines, it also outlines a variety of ways in which Hugo Chávez remains a very real threat to U.S. interests in Latin America and beyond.
Start with Iran. The mullahs have identified oil-rich Venezuela as a potential shield against the impact of international energy sanctions. Even if the U.S. and other Western powers further restricted Iran’s access to gasoline, Venezuela (and China) could help soften the blow. As U.S. policymakers evaluate the effectiveness of gasoline sanctions, they must remember that Tehran and Caracas have formed an increasingly close alliance. This past June, after Iran’s stolen election, while government thugs were murdering student demonstrators in the streets, Chávez congratulated Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his “very big and important victory.”