CIA chief Michael Hayden recently assured a congressional intelligence committee that the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela is of prime agency concern.

Outgoing intelligence head John Negroponte testified that Washington had a “good position in terms of intelligence” regarding Venezuela and Cuba. He cited the experience of Norman Bailey, who since November has served as “CIA mission manager” for the two countries, a newly created post.

Lawyer Eva Golinger, writing for , estimates a total U.S. outlay since 2001 of $50 million for projects aimed at removing President Chavez. She is the authority for a Prensa Latina report that over three years the U.S. Agency for International Development has spent $11.2 million on 342 projects in Venezuela, plus $7 million paid out annually to anti-Chavez political parties. Laws in both countries prohibit foreign funding of domestic political activities.

Negroponte told the congressional panel that Venezuela “is probably the second country in the hemisphere” for concentrated intelligence activities. Cuba holds the top position.

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