CARACAS, Venezuela — 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 Oct. 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."Another of the US Embassy reports, dated Jan. 22, 2010, and posted online 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 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."