Washington — U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte has appointed a new acting mission manager for Cuba and Venezuela to collect “timely and accurate intelligence” on which U.S. policy-makers can base their decisions affecting the two Latin American nations.
In an August 18 statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said such efforts to collect intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela are “critical today” because “policy-makers have increasingly focused on the challenges”? that the countries “pose to American foreign policy.”
The ODNI said the new acting mission manager, J. Patrick Maher, will be “responsible for integrating collection and analysis on Cuba and Venezuela across the intelligence community, identifying and filling gaps in intelligence, and ensuring the implementation of strategies, among other duties.” No decision has been made whether Maher will serve in the job on a permanent basis, said the ODNI.
Maher, a 32-year veteran intelligence officer, also will continue to serve in his present role as the national intelligence officer for the Western Hemisphere. Maher fills that position at the National Intelligence Council, a separate entity that reports to the ODNI’s Negroponte.
The ODNI chief of media relations, Carl Kropf, told the Washington File August 21 that, during the tenure of Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela, that nation and Cuba “have deepened their relationship and both countries continue to stifle opposition and constrict democracy.”
Kropf said the establishment of the new mission manager for Cuba and Venezuela preceded the reported recent hospitalization of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for intestinal surgery.
“Against this backdrop,” said Kropf, “increased focus on Cuba in the intelligence community symbolized by the appointment of a mission manager is an appropriate step to ensure that U.S. policymakers are as well informed as possible about changing realities” in Cuba.
The Cuban government said July 31 that Castro had undergone surgery and temporarily handed over power to his younger brother, Raul Castro. A Cuban government newspaper published pictures August 14 showing Chavez at the Cuban dictator’s bedside.
The creation of a mission manager for Cuba and Venezuela is “not just a snap reaction” to the reports of Castro being sick and that the position “has been planned for awhile,” according to the ODNI.
The agency said the U.S. intelligence community now has six mission managers to focus on various policy issues of concern to the United States. Besides the acting manager for Cuba and Venezuela, there are mission managers for counterterrorism, counterproliferation, counterintelligence, and one each for Iran and North Korea.
Negroponte, as ODNI director, serves as the principal adviser to the president and U.S. security agencies for intelligence matters related to American national security.
The U.S. State Department has voiced serious concerns about the security problems posed to the Western Hemisphere by increasingly close relations between Cuba and Venezuela. In its Country Reports on Terrorism covering the year 2005, the department said Cuba remained a “state sponsor of terrorism, while Venezuela virtually ceased its cooperation in the global war on terror.”
The report, released April 28, charged Venezuela with “tolerating terrorists in its territory and seeking closer relations with Cuba and Iran,” another state sponsor of terrorism.
The Western Hemisphere overview of the report (PDF, 16 pages) is available on the State Department Web site.
Additional information about the ODNI is available on the agency’s Web site.
For more on U.S. policy in the region, see The Americas.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)