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Mexico and Venezuela, Latin America's big oil producers, are caught in a squeeze -- declining oil prices and costly development projects. Both nations have relied heavily on soaring oil revenues to fuel ambitious domestic programs: highways, water systems, agricultural and industrialization schemes. But this year, with oil revenues sagging, Venezuela could lose $2 billion in earnings; Mexico could lose more.

Add to this the ravages of inflation that sharply escalate costs for the projects -- an estimated 20 percent increase in the past 18 months -- and the picture is even more ominous .m

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