Talking with Pedro: No Paper for Newspapers in Venezuela

Carrying a giant Venezuelan flag, thousands of anti-government protesters march during a mass demonstraiton on March 2, 2014 in Caracas, Venezuela. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

One of the big reasons things have come to a head in Venezuela is the scarcity of goods. I’m not even talking about luxury goods. I’m talking about staples like rice, coffee, fish, flour etc. I could go on and on.

Over the weekend I talked with Pedro, a 21-year old student who lives just outside of Caracas but attends school in Caracas. Since Saturday there been bigger rallies and more protests, Venezuelans not listening to the government to take a break for Carnival.

Pedro told me today that more people from the barrios are joining in on the protests, a direct conflict on labeling this an exclusively “middle- and upper-class movement”.

“Some western zones have protested but they’re quickly put out by colectivos and National Guards,” Pedro said. “The students’ movement comprehends every class. Most of the ‘poor’ kids you see protesting in the east do so cause they feel safer. I’ve known many kids from the west who are there with us.”

From video I’ve been watching, it looks the movement is gaining traction. Just seeing this rally below blew me away.

But not everything is going smooth. You see included in the shortages is paper stock for newspapers. Pedro told me that the more established news organizations can probably keep running until mid-month. “Approximately 16 regional newspapers have disappeared as of 2014. The most important ones have paper enough to go until March 16th.”

The government doesn’t interfere too much with internet restrictions, although some reports are there have been some restrictions on Twitter as it deals with the organization of protests. So why not just transfer everything online?

“Venezuela is a traditional country,” Pedro said. “People likes their news in physical media. That’s the issue.”

The other problem? “People in the slums get their newspapers daily and not many have internet at home.”

Like I said before, this is not as easy as left vs. right, rich vs. poor. You have to remember that this is an oil-rich OPEC nation that can’t provide goods to its citizens. And by provide, I mean to make available to purchase, not just to be made available for free. Since I’m not an economist, I don’t know what will fix this. All I know is something is really broken.

The students in Venezuela also know something is broken and they want answers and accountability. It will be interesting to see how this plays out through the month as newspapers are forced to figure out how to deal with the shortage of paper stock.