Strong oil prices are powering Venezuela's economy ahead. The economy grew 5.6% in the fourth quarter of 2000 and should reflect 5.2% growth in the first quarter of this year. Venezuela posted 3.4% growth in 2000 after a short but severe recession in 1999, when GDP contracted by 7.4%. Venezuelan assets have performed strongly this year. The main Caracas stock market index rose by over 20% in dollar terms this year through April. Venezuelan bonds also did well with a similar return over the same period. The economic recovery is being led by an expansion in public spending, fueled by growing oil revenues. Venezuela's oil exports were worth $28.7 billion last year, more than 70% more than i

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