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January 27, 2014

Paperless Venezuela - News workers raise alarm about lack of newsprint

The inability of Venezuelans to score foreign currency through legal mechanisms has caused all sorts of problems. Toilet paper, flour, chicken, car parts and scores of other items have been difficult - if not impossible - to find as importers say they don't have the foreign cash they need to pay suppliers. Now it's the turn of newspapers. The National Syndicate of Newspaper Workers said Monday that 80 broadsheets and tabloids are facing newsprint shortages. Some have already gone under and more than a dozen others have scaled back production due to the lack of newsprint. On Monday, workers began hanging signs around Caracas like this one, which reads: "Without paper there's no newspapers / jobs." The government is struggling to get its arms around the problem. Last week, they devalued the bolivar and vowed to double the amount of dollars available at weekly auctions. Far too soon to tell if that will work. Here's more on slow-mo economic crisis.



January 21, 2014

TV Violence: Venezuela wants to end it, Colombia exports it to Afghanistan

PabloescobarAs Venezuela tries to crack down on violence by cracking down on violent TV, Colombia continues making a mint with its televised tales of crime and blood.

Still reeling from the murder of beauty queen Monica Spear early this month, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met with broadcasters to get them to tone down the violence. It’s still not clear if the government will force them to do it, but in Venezuela’s restrictive media environment it wouldn’t be surprising.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Caracol TV just announced that its hit series about the life of drug don Pablo Escobar will start airing in Afghanistan this month.

This from Caracol’s release: “Afghan audiences will witness the terrifying moments that changed not only the history of Colombia, but of the entire world and know the details that turned a common man into the lord of the drug trafficking business and one of the richest and most cruel criminals in the entire world.”

Read more about the PE series here.


January 20, 2014

Ecuador Journalist may seek U.S. asylum amid continued media pressure

UPDATE: Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was NOT a fan of our story about increased media pressure. According to this Prensa Latina post, he called The Miami Herald "the worst newspaper on the continent." 


Fernando Villavicencio, an Ecuadorian opposition adviser and journalist, says he may seek asylum in the U.S. after the government last week ratified an 18-month jail sentence and ordered him to pay part of a $140 million fine.

The government is pursuing him on libel charges after he suggested that the National Assembly open an investigation into the 2010 police riot that led to President Rafael Correa briefly being held hostage.

Correa has always maintained it was a coup attempt - his critics say he basically fanned the flames of a police labor dispute by going to the strike and then daring the cops to shoot him.

Additionally, Villavicencio's home was raided just after Christmas on separate charges. Here's a Miami Herald story about that: 

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Two days after Christmas, masked and armed police raided the home of Fernando Villavicencio in the predawn hours, hauling away a lifetime of data and documents.

Hours later, President Rafael Correa said Villavicencio — an opposition advisor who also writes about corruption and the oil industry — was suspected of hacking into the president’s email.

Ten days later, Ecuador’s state-run El Telégrafo newspaper wrote about a proposed online media outlet that is seeking funds in the United States, including with the National Endowment for Democracy — whose Cold War origins and “democracy building” efforts have made it a bogeyman in the Americas.

There was one problem with the El Telégrafo story: According to Martha Roldos, a former legislator and government critic who was pitching the idea, the only way the paper could have had access to the information was by hacking her email.

The twin “hacking” stories shed light on the small Andean nation that has been hounding the independent press even as it builds one of the most sophisticated state-run media apparatuses in the Americas, behind Venezuela and Cuba.

Correa, a U.S.-educated economist, has repeatedly called the media his “greatest enemy” and has leveled multimillion-dollar lawsuits against those who cross him. This week, as he celebrated his seventh year in power, there were no signs of a truce. Read the full story here.


jim wyss

Inside South America is written by Jim Wyss, the South America bureau chief for the Miami Herald and McClatchy Newspapers.

Feel free to send a story suggestion. Read Jim's stories at MiamiHerald.com.

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