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Tough Times Ahead In Post-Chavez Venezuela

Jorge Roig, vice president of the Fedecamaras business chamber, said the rules for bidders were late in coming, overly complicated and discouraged small and medium-size firms from participating. At least $1 billion more is needed to keep companies rolling, Roig told Caracas' Union Radio on Wednesday.

The Venezuelan Association of Medical, Dental and Laboratory Equipment says its members collectively owe $300 million for past imports, which were suspended in November because they couldn't pay.

"There are no test tubes to collect blood samples. There are no colostomy bags. No electrocardiogram paper. No X-ray plates," said Anerlin Garcia, the group's executive director.

Simon Nobile, president of the Venezuelan Association of Pasta Foods, says more dollars alone won't help. The government also must raise its official prices on hundreds of products because they don't reflect the effects of inflation, he said.

Eleven manufacturers in Nobile's association employ 5,000 people but are close to shutting down because the price of pasta has been frozen for two years. The official selling price of 68 U.S. cents per kilogram (2.2 pounds) makes up only half the production cost, Nobile said. He said firings could happen at his company as early as April.

"If the government doesn't make a decision," he said, "this is the end."

___

AP writers James Anderson and Christopher Toothaker contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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