Annual Threat Assessment of the
Intelligence Community for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Dennis C. Blair
Director of National Intelligence
25 February 2009 http://www.dni.gov/testimonies/20090225_testimony.pdf
President Raul Castro’s record since formally taking power in February 2008 indicates
his primary objective in the coming year will be to make Cuba’s dysfunctional socialist economy
more efficient. His task has been made more difficult, however, by the extensive damage to the
country’s already weak agricultural sector and infrastructure by three major and successive
hurricanes last year. The global economic downturn will further slow growth, diminishing the
regime’s options for addressing public dissatisfaction with living conditions.
Havana’s competent and immediate response to the hurricanes underscores the
effectiveness of regime controls and indicates that it remains capable of preventing a
spontaneous mass migration. Nevertheless, we judge that at a minimum the annual flow of
Cuban migrants to the United States will stay at the same high levels of about 35,000 legal and
illegal migrants annually that have prevailed over the past several years.
Raul almost certainly will continue to proceed cautiously on any reforms to the economy
in order to maintain elite consensus and avoid raising public expectations beyond what he is able
or willing to deliver. We have seen no indication in the modest changes he has implemented that
he intends to abandon core Communist economic principles, such as state ownership of
production. On the political front, all indications are that Raul will continue to deny elements of
civil society and pro-democracy dissidents the exercise of free expression.
Venezuela’s preferential terms for oil sales and payments for Cuban medical personnel
and other technical specialists will remain Cuba’s economic lifeline, despite Cuba’s efforts to
attract other sources of foreign investment from countries such as China and Russia. President
Chavez probably will prioritize aid to Havana over other foreign policy commitments.
We assess Raul will continue his efforts to bolster Havana’s international legitimacy by
projecting a more moderate political image. Nevertheless, Cuba almost certainly will remain
heavily involved behind-the-scenes in counseling and supporting authoritarian populist
governments in Latin America and otherwise seeking to undermine US influence across the
Cuba, though an economic basket case, can still influence the Latin American left because of its socalled “anti-imperialist” stance.
Venezuela and Cuba have been particularly adept at parlaying provision of charitable
medical services to nationals of other countries into support in international forums such as the