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Problems with government currency exchange controls prevent regional opposition daily from publishing

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is concerned over an announcement that the "Correo del Caroní", a regional daily published in the eastern city of Ciudad Guayana, would not appear in newsstands on 12 December 2007 or on subsequent days because it has been unable to obtain US dollars to pay for imported newsprint.

Newspaper editor David Natera blames the government's currency exchange system, which forces private sector companies to address all requests for foreign currency to a single government entity, the Currency Management Commission (CADIVI).

"This case is not the first of its kind and it is rather surprising that media companies are been denied the currency they need to pay for imported newsprint or printing costs," RSF said. "Producing a newspaper is expensive and the authorities must be aware of that. The CADIVI has still not responded to 'Correo del Caroní''s request. We call on the head of the commission, Manuel Barroso, to do what is necessary to get things moving and to allow 'Correo del Caroní' to resume publishing."

The press freedom organisation added: "We hope that the control over currency exchange is not being used to penalise publications for their editorial policies, similarly to the allocation of state advertising."

In a note to its readers posted on its website on 11 December, "Correo del Caroní" said the next day's issue would not be on sale in newsstands but would be available on the Internet. The newspaper's management accused the government of refusing, through CADIVI, to release the amount in dollars it owes to DIPALCA, a company that imports newsprint from Chile.

Natera told RSF he has raised the problem with certain officials but so far without success. Natera is also president of the Venezuelan Press Bloc, an association of some 40 provincial newspapers that support the opposition.

"El Impulso", a daily published in the northwestern city of Barquisimeto, reported in November that it had not received the foreign currency it needed to import newsprint for the previous four months. Its editor, Carlos Eduardo Carmona, accused the government of using currency exchange controls as a "political weapon" against the media.

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