Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chavez drags Venezuela backwards part II

According to local and international media, Hugo Chavez is blocking the publication of newspapers critical of his regime, see below. Other related news include the soaring inflation, which has led to scarcity of basic food items like milk, and now, toilet paper. So here, we get ridiculously wealthy museum patrons endowing a (formerly radical alternative) museum's new building by having the "named bathroom" (see post below) while in Venezuela, people cannot afford to buy toilet paper.

By Fabiola Sanchez

12:22 p.m. December 11, 2007

CARACAS, Venezuela – A newspaper critical of President Hugo Chavez's government said Tuesday it is being forced to stop printing because officials have failed to authorize U.S. dollars it needs to buy newsprint. Publisher and editor David Natera said the government has a clear political motivation for not cooperating with his regional daily, Correo del Caroni, which has long taken a critical stance.

The paper in the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz said its print edition will not be published Wednesday because of the lack of newsprint, though it will continue to post news to its Web site. Chavez's government imposed currency exchange controls in 2003, requiring Venezuelans and companies to request state authorization to trade local currency for dollars at the official rate – which holds the Venezuelan bolivar steady at nearly three times the black-market rate.

The head of the government commission that handles requests for dollars acknowledged on Tuesday that there had been delays in processing applications. Manuel Barroso blamed computer problems, but he did not address the newspaper's situation. Natera, who is also a leader among Venezuelan newspaper publishers and has repeatedly accused the government of trying to push aside critical news media, said, “This regime does not allow dissidence,”

An official at Venezuela's information ministry said no response was immediately available. Chavez's government has consistently denied violating press freedoms, noting that most news outlets remain in private hands and many newspapers and radio stations take an anti-Chavez line. Natera said he believes the government is getting back at him for reports he has prepared for the Inter American Press Association warning of threats to press freedom.

The Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders expressed concern, calling on Barroso to “do what is necessary to get things moving and to allow the Correo del Caroni to resume publishing.”“We hope that exchange controls, like the allocation of state advertising, has not been turned into a way of penalizing publications for their editorial policies,” the group said in a statement.

Natera said three other regional newspapers are facing a similar shortage of newsprint and have only a few weeks' worth in stock because they have been unable to obtain dollars through the government to buy more.

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