The Venezuelan government appears to be dealing with a shortage of newsprint in much the same way that it has dealt with food and basic good shortages: by accusing businesses of hoarding products in order to create scarcity.
Venezuelan print media are facing a historic shortage of newsprint, which has forced a number of papers in the country to drop circulation and scale back their content. According to the Associated Press, the editors of the country’s two largest papers -- El Nacional and El Universal -- say they have only enough paper reserves to continue publishing for the next month and six weeks, respectively.
Because the country does not produce newsprint, most of it is purchased from Canada and the United States by import companies or the newspapers themselves. However, strict currency controls mean that obtaining dollars from the state to buy that paper can take months. Print media, especially the opposition-aligned El Nacional and El Universal, have claimed that this is evidence of a conscious attempt by authorities to stifle criticism of the government.
The situation newsprint has earned the government criticism from local and international human rights and press freedom groups, as well as the IACHR’s Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
Instead of responding with a solution to expedite the purchase of newsprint, however, the Venezuelan government has blamed the shortage on opportunistic hoarders. In a statement yesterday, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello announced that authorities had found 13,700 spools of newsprint laying untouched in a warehouse in the port city of La Guaira. “Who is buying this? Who brought it and why haven’t they taken it out of the port?” Cabello asked, insinuating that the private newspapers have been exaggerating the shortage for political benefit.
El Nacional, for its part, has denied purchasing the newsprint, insisting that it has not been allowed to acquire dollars from the government to buy paper since May 2013.
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