Venezuelan daily cuts back because of currency controls

A leading Venezuelan daily, El Universal, said Monday it has reduced the size of its print edition because of a newsprint shortage caused by government currency controls.

The daily said a shipment of paper used for news publications has been tied up in the port of La Guaira since January because the government has held up the release of hard currency needed to pay for it.

Over the past year President Nicolas Maduro has responded to declining foreign reserves by blocking the availability of dollars for "non priority" imports.

The strict currency controls have led to widespread shortages of basic goods as well as industrial products.

More than a dozen newspapers have been forced to close or slash the size of their print editions because of the lack of newsprint.

El Universal's edition on Monday was 16 pages, down from 24 pages.

Three other newspapers -- El Nacional, El Nuevo Pais and El Impulso -- were bailed out a month ago with a shipment of newsprint trucked into Venezuela by Colombia's association of newspaper and news media editors.

The Inter-American Press Association has repeatedly accused the government of withholding hard currency to drive the independent press out of business, calling the practice an attack on the free press.

Venezuela boasts the world's largest oil reserves, and exports $100 billion worth of crude each year, but owes importers and service companies $13 billion in hard currency.