HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan daily newspaper La Prensa, in circulation for 95 years, announced on August 12th that they were halting their print edition. The decision is due to the fact that the Customs office, under orders from the Ortega government, arbitrarily refuses to release the paper’s imported newsprint. The newspaper “Hoy”, owned by La Prensa, stopped circulating on Wednesday, August 11. La Prensa issued its final print edition the following day.
“La Prensa has been left without enough paper to circulate on a national level, since the Customs Office has once again seized the raw materials belonging to this company and is holding them in a warehouse,” the newspaper denounced in its final edition.
According to La Prensa, the Customs Office’s refusal to release their paper comes at a time when the company doesn’t have the capacity to maintain large inventories of raw materials. That “has brought us to the point where this Thursday, August 12, the last copies of this Newspaper are circulating, until the newsprint paper is released. This action also affects the newspaper Hoy, which will no longer circulate starting this Thursday.”
La Prensa’simported components enter the country through the Pacific port of Corinto, then go to a tax warehouse. The company must then request a legal tax exemption for this specific import, after which it can be transferred to the newspaper’s storage facilities.
“As a media outlet that fulfills a social function, La Prensa’s right to a tax exemption is established in Article 68 of the Constitution. That article states: ‘the importation of paper, machinery, equipment and spare parts for the written, radio and television media, as well as the import, circulation and sales of books, pamphlets, magazines, school and scientific materials for teaching, dailies and other newspapers will be exempt from all municipal, regional and revenue taxes,” a note in the final edition explains.
The company further noted that Juan Lorenzo Holmann, secretary of La Prensa’s Board of Directors, sent two formal letters, on the 3rd and 11th of August, and an e-mail to Customs Director Eddy Medrano Soto, advising him of the situation. These have remained unanswered, as have the WhatsApp messages that the Customs official has marked as “seen”.
On February 6, 2020, the regime freed up several tons of paper belonging to La Prensa, after holding on to it for over 500 days, causing the newspaper company sizable economic losses. At that time, the paper was sequestered with no explanation and released in the same way – with no explanation.
“This time, the response from the Customs has been more delayed, forcing La Prensa to halt circulation. The newsprint paper belonging to La Prensa is in the country, and only the dictatorship’s blockade is keeping the newspaper from utilizing it to print their editions,” they denounced.
La Prensa stated that they would continue informing the public through their website, and that “Once the Customs authorities approve the release of the paper, editions will once more begin circulating nationally.
[Editor’s Note: A similar tactic of the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela has been used to force numerous print newspapers off the stands.]