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Venezuela inflation at 25.1 percent in 2009
By FABIOLA SANCHEZ
Associated Press
2010-01-08 02:45 AM
Venezuela ended the year with 25.1 percent inflation, the Central Bank said Thursday, down from 2008 but still the highest rise in consumer prices in Latin America for the fourth straight year.

Venezuela's economy also slid into recession in 2009, which has led experts to say the oil-producing country is experiencing "stagflation." The Central Bank said month-to-month inflation in December stood at 1.7 percent, slightly lower than the 1.9 percent rate in November.

Annual inflation last year was lower than the 30.9 percent rate in 2008, but higher than the 2007 inflation of 22.5 percent and the 2006 rate of the 17 percent.

Economist Jose Guerra, a former manager at the Central Bank, said inflation slowed due to the recession. The economy shrank 2.9 percent last year, affected in part by lower oil prices, after five years of growth.

Consumer prices were pushed higher in December in particular by increases in clothing, transportation, recreation and miscellaneous goods and services, the Central Bank and the National Statistics Institute said in a statement.

The price index rose by 26.9 percent in the capital of Caracas last year, according to the figures, driven in part by a 50 percent rise in prices for miscellaneous goods and services, a 47.7 percent rise in prices for alcohol and tobacco and a 34 percent increase for health care.

President Hugo Chavez's government has maintained price controls on many basic goods and food products since 2003 in an attempt to hold back inflation.

The government has estimated inflation of 20 percent to 22 percent this year, but some Venezuelan analysts estimate prices could rise by more than 35 percent.

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