Newsprint Shortage in Cuba: Granma Now the Only Daily Newspaper

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Newsprint shortage in Cuba

Cuba's biggest daily newspaper, Granma, has just become its only one, following a decree by Fidel Castro that slashes the consumption of newsprint drastically.

The decree, reproduced in a Sept. 24 article in Granma itself, reflects the dwindling supply of newsprint received from the Soviet Union, Cuba's main benefactor. Besides reducing the country's two other nationwide dailies, Juventud Rebelde and Trabajadores, to weeklies, it also raises the cover price of Granma from 10 centavos, the fixed price since the paper's founding in 1963, to 20 centavos.

In addition, except for Bohemia, all other magazines including Bastion and Olivo Verde have been canceled.

This further limits availability of real news for the information-starved Cubans, who are prohibited from buying foreign papers - even though tourists and Havana-based diplomats and tourists may now purchase the International Herald Tribune, Newsweek and other publications at specially designated U.S. dollar shops.

Despite a sense of increasing political repression in Cuba, foreign diplomats who live here agree with the Cuban position that the newspaper cutbacks are a result of economic difficulties and are not a deliberate attempt to restrict the flow of information.

"The uncertainty with respect to the levels of supply of newsprint we can count on in the near future, and the instability in deliveries of this paper during 1990," said Granma in a front-page editorial, "has created a deficit, making inevitable the adoption of this decision even before we reach a state of crisis."

Eugene Kusnetzov, second secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Havana, said "supplies of paper from the U.S.S.R. were fine for the first nine months of the year," though he acknowledged that Soviet deliveries of newsprint to Cuba are in trouble now. He added that Cuba's most likely alternate supplier for newsprint would be Canada, though the country would have to pay hard currency for Canadian newsprint as well.

In an interview in Havana, Granma's international editor, Oscar Ferrer Carbonell, said he is uncertain about Cuba's economic future.

"The Soviets are changing their whole economic system," he said. "In 1991 they will begin demanding payment in hard currency. Before, Cuba and the U.S.S. …