Caracas: US officials detailed declining conditions in Venezuela`s oil industry in memos released by WikiLeaks, saying the country`s growing economic problems are taking a toll on President Hugo Chavez`s popularity.
In one confidential document dated October 15, 2009, the US embassy said "equipment conditions have deteriorated drastically" since the government expropriated some 80 oil service companies earlier that year. It said safety and maintenance at the now state-owned oil facilities were in a "terrible state”.
The documents report on then-Ambassador Patrick Duddy`s talks with business leaders in oil-producing Zulia state.
Another of the US embassy reports, dated January 22, 2010, and posted online on Thursday, said that "mounting economic problems have contributed to a decline in Chavez`s popularity", a view supported by Chavez`s lower approval ratings in polls, though he remains the country`s most popular politician.
The latest documents add to a growing list of critical assessments that US officials have made privately while examining the leftist leader`s standing at home.
The January report noted that Chavez was looking to increase spending and "is betting that short term measures can delay the long term consequences of his ill-conceived policies”.
The embassy also reviewed the government`s seizures of private companies, concluding that "the mostly negative economic consequences of nationalisations ... will continue to play out in 2010”.