You might remember hearing about the toilet paper shortage facing Venezuela earlier this summer, and now there is another kind of paper shortage facing the South American nation. According to ABC News today, the scarce supply of printing paper available is threatening Venezuelan newspapers, even causing some shutdowns.
Foreign exchange controls are reportedly a major factor in the paper shortage. The government agency known as Cadivi has been regulating the currency exchange market for 10 years now and limits the amount of U.S. dollars that corporations can buy in order to import essential and non-essential products. Printing paper was an item on the list of essential products up until September of last year, when it became a non-essential item.
Once the switch was made, newspapers were required to face further bureaucracy and apply for permits stating they could not obtain the paper within Venezuela and needed to instead import it. The permits are then reviewed by the Ministry of Commerce before a decision is made on whether or not the product should be imported and how much of it. These strict regulations and the lag time often encountered when newspapers re-apply for the licenses are being cited for the shortage that is being called "dire."
Five regional newspapers have been forced to end circulation over the shortage and nearly 25 others are currently using up the rest of their paper supplies. A similar shortage occurred back in 2007, and ABC notes that many of the affected newspapers were critical of then-president Hugo Chávez. Similar to the 2007 shortage, opponents of the current government headed by Nicolás Maduro contend that the government is trying to block imports in order to suppress critical newspapers as well.