Aw: Chavez's influence starting to wane in Latin America

Ever so quietly, some of the Venezuelan populist’s biggest projects have been abandoned or mothballed, or have yet to take flight, including a pipeline from Venezuela to Argentina, a South American development bank, housing, highways and a continental investment fund.

It is unclear exactly why some projects have been discarded. Venezuelan government spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

But Chavez’s retreat in the region has come as Venezuela’s economy, dampened by dwindling oil production and hampered by state nationalizations of farmland and companies, contracted 3.3 percent in 2009 and 1.6 percent last year. Billions of dollars in capital have left the country, according to recent U.N. economic data for Venezuela, and the heavy consumer spending of the past has dried up.

The country’s golden goose, the oil industry, is producing 30 percent less oil than it did a decade ago, industry analysts say.