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Venezuelan papers struggle with newsprint shortage

September 9, 2013

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The president of Venezuela’s largest newspaper association said Monday that government currency controls have forced five provincial newspapers to stop printing because they could not import paper.

Bloque de Prensa President David Natera accused the government of strangling critical newspapers by restricting their access to the dollars needed to buy newsprint.

“The government is interested in limiting the circulation of newspapers,” Natera said in a telephone interview. “This is a new obstacle the government has erected.”

However, many other businesses complain about problems importing materials. Many private health clinics say they have trouble getting drugs and medical equipment. The government controls access to hard currency to try to limit devaluation of the local bolivar.

Government officials have rejected similar accusations from newspaper owners in the past, saying authorities have no intention of undermining the independent media.

Natera listed the papers forced to stop circulating as El Sol de Maturin in the eastern state of Monagas, Anzoategui state’s La Antorcha and the papers El Caribazo, La Hora and El Caribe on Margarita Island.

The Miami-based Inter-American Press Association, an organization of newspapers that promote press freedoms throughout the Americas, has said that the Venezuelan government’s limit on newspapers’ access to U.S. dollars weaken freedom of expression.

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