Venezuela’s Paper Monopoly

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryVenezuela’s last independent newspaper, El Nacional, stopped printing its newspapers. Why? Because the Venezuelan government, under dictator Nicolas Maduro, has a complete monopoly on the country’s paper supply. Any and all paper used for print is in the hands of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Because of this, any independent organization or newspaper cannot get paper to use for any print editions of any news or even such things as posters or billboards. The complete paper monopoly by the government gives it a powerful tool to control not only information but also put out what they want the people to see and read while denying it to any and all opposition.

We Americans cannot conceptualize how a government can have control of any and all paper in the country. Since any and every industry in Venezuela has been nationalized, the paper industry in the country is therefore under the Venezuelan government’s firm control. Since the government also controls any and all currency and capital moving in and out of the country, then paper—including paper imports—are also under the firm control of the government. Add to this the government’s secret police and intelligence apparatus spying on its people, and you can be sure that if any people who have print paper as well as a computer and laser machine for printing will be known to the government and all those people involved will be arrested and locked up. Because of this, El Nacional cannot print its newspapers.

The best it can do is to put its issues online. That is what the staff at El Nacional is doing. The problem is that like the paper monopoly the Venezuelan government also has control of Internet access throughout the country. Because Venezuela has the poorest Internet access of any country in South America, and because the Venezuelan government heavily censors the Internet, most Venezuelans will not be able to access El Nacional’s website. One other tactic that El Nacional is using to get around the government censors is using text messages. It may not be the best method of getting the word out, but it is better than nothing at all. At least with the phone service the Venezuelan government cannot catch everything. Still another method is to send information and text messages to Venezuelans outside the country who can relay the information back to the people in Venezuela. As a writer and someone who loves to read a newspaper every week, I am thankful of being in a country where anyone and everyone has access to print paper for the very newspapers they read.

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