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Venezuela’s oldest daily shuts over paper shortage

December 29, 2016

Venezuela’s oldest daily newspaper, El Impulso, a sharp critic of President Nicolas Maduro, is halting production because of a paper shortage, its publisher said Thursday.

Founded in 1904, the paper will suspend publication from Saturday because the state company charged with importing paper has stopped delivering its orders, publisher Carlos Eduardo Carmona said.

“The government… is blocking us from publishing daily, leaving us no choice but to suspend publication,” he said in a statement.

The paper’s editor-in-chief, Juan Carmona, told AFP it would give employees a holiday through mid-January.

If no paper is received by then, the company will shut its print edition and maintain only its website — but will not back off its critical line on the socialist government, he said.

El Impulso is a regional paper based in the western city of Barquisimeto.

It has complained about paper shortages since 2013 and warned several times it would be forced to halt publication if no supplies arrived.

The situation only worsened as shortages became the norm amid a deepening economic crisis in Venezuela, where food, medicine and basic household goods are all scarce.

“This year has been one of suffering,” Carmona said. “We run out of paper, we call, they deliver it at the last minute. Last month, another newspaper lent us a few spools, but now the (import) company isn’t even answering our calls.”

Just one company, run by the state, is authorized to import paper in Venezuela. Critics accuse the government of abusing it for political ends.

Maduro, whose popularity has plummeted during the crisis, denies accusations of censorship. But he has repeatedly accused private media of supporting the opposition.

Seven Venezuelan newspapers have axed their print editions in the last three years.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.