MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — The Nicaraguan government turned over a stock of supplies to independent newspaper La Prensa recently after they were delayed in customs for 18 months, and authorities promised to deliver tonnes of newsprint and ink also held up, the paper said.
The board of directors of La Prensa, Nicaragua’s oldest paper and a critic of President Daniel Ortega’s government, said in a statement that a number of parts and equipment for its printing press had already arrived at its facilities.
La Prensa had announced that the government had agreed to unblock the materials held up since August 2018. It said the Vatican’s top diplomat in Managua, Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, had intervened on its behalf.
La Prensa’s leadership also said authorities had intended to charge “millions” for “storage” during the 500 days the supplies were held up. It did not say whether that dispute had been resolved.
The government never explained why the materials were retained in customs.
Another newspaper, El Nuevo Diario, was similarly affected and shut down last September after 40 years in business.
Leadership of both papers had complained of being subjected to de facto censorship and “economic asphyxiation,” allegedly in reprisal for editorial stances critical of Ortega and in favour of anti-government protests that broke out in 2018.
The lack of paper and supplies prompted La Prensa to shrink its issues from 36 pages to eight pages and let go nearly 300 of its 400 employees.
Last October the paper announced it was fighting to stay in business and preparing a plan to survive with just a digital addition and only some 5,000 subscribers.
Founded 93 years ago by the Chamorro family, La Prensa was a staunch critic of Anastasio Somoza during his 1967-1979 dictatorship. Former newspaper director Pedro Joaquín Chamorro was assassinated in 1978 by presumed regime assassins.
The paper also questioned Ortega’s Sandinista movement, which ousted Somoza, when it was in power first from 1979 to 1990 and again after Ortega, now 74, was re-elected in 2006.
“The retention of all these supplies has tried to suffocate La Prensa, which has been obliged to let go personnel and make substantial changes to its print edition,” the paper said in a statement.
La Prensa recalled that during the 1980s it faced “censorship and harassment” by Ortega’s government.