Several newspaper printing presses have screeched to a halt in Venezuela as the South American nation continues to deal with a crippling paper shortage.
According to national newspaper El Nacional, at least 5 regional newspapers have ceased printing in the past month. The lack of printing paper is also expected to soon affect another 25 papers that are quickly using their reserves.
Due to the nation's currency controls and small amount of U.S. dollars, both importers and editors can't get the currency needed to pay for newsprint that is manufactured abroad, reports The Global Post. The shortage is even forcing some editors to have to request the product from rival companies in order to keep their presses running, reports ABC News.
“We’ll have everything for the December holidays: presents, hallacas [a traditional Christmas food that resembles tamales], and whisky, but we won’t have newspapers,” said Rogelio Díaz, a spokesperson for Bloque de Prensa Regional de Venezuela -- an association of independent regional newspapers.
In 2003, Venezuela's government -- lead by former President Hugo Chavez -- introduced currency controls monitored by the government created agency Cadivi. Cadivi was responsible for making dollars available to people who wanted to travel outside the country as all as importers at the currency's official rate. But dollars now can sell not he black market for close to six times their value.
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The methods used by the government have ultimately led to shortages of several goods like food and toilet paper.
Newsprint importers have to obtain a certificate of non-domestic production from the nation's Ministry for Commerce. But according to the editors and paper importers, these requests are being denied.
“The certificates aren’t being delivered and therefore the media is in crisis, because of the lack of paper,” said Diaz. “If they don’t have certificates, they don’t get paper.”
It is now estimated that more than half the country's local press will be out of print within weeks due to the shortage. So far, the government has not commented on the shortage. But opponents of Nicolás Maduro blame the government for the stalled imports, citing that Maduro wants papers critical of him out of circulation.