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Across much of Latin America, inflation is the top issue

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Denting presidential support

In the past five years, inflation across Latin America has been largely under control. Even in Argentina, the current, unofficial rate – estimated by economists to be as high as 25 percent – is not catastrophic, but could undermine the presidency of Ms. Fernandez de Kirchner, says Federico Thomsen, an economic analyst in Buenos Aires.

(Officially the number stands at 9 percent, but the statistics are widely discredited by independent economists. "The official number doesn't mean that people aren't paying more in the supermarket," Mr. Thomsen says.)

Fernández de Kirchner's approval rating fell from 42 percent to 30 percent in her first four months in office. Pollsters say her move to raise the tax on soybean and sunflower seed exports ­to more than 40 percent – which sparked massive, nationwide strikes – is to blame. It hurt her government, too: Economy Minister Martin Lousteau resigned in the midst of the crisis.

"Every time we buy less and it costs more," says Patricia Maldonado, a nurse in Buenos Aires, carrying her baby on her hip. "[Fernández de Kirchner] doesn't have to worry about food bills, but we do."

In Venezuela, rising prices – the average inflation rate from March 2007 to March 2008 was 29.1 percent – have also hurt President Hugo Chávez's popularity. One poll by Keller & Asociados showed Mr. Chávez's support fell to 37 percent in February from 50 percent in the middle of last year, though other polls show greater support.

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