The last independent newspaper in Venezuela under government attack

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s authoritarian government seized the headquarters of one of the country’s last remaining independent newspapers, El Nacional acting on a high court order to take the property as part of a $13 million judgment against the media outlet, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The paper has been exclusively online since 2018 after the government cut the company’s access to imported newsprint. The paper’s website, too, has been restricted by Venezuela’s telecommunications regulator on numerous occasions since then. The headquarters was largely vacant at the time of raid as workers have been contributing from home amid the pandemic.

Free press advocates and human rights activists have slammed the ruling, the Journal reported.

Diosdado Cabello, a leader in Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party who filed the civil defamation suit against the newspaper that led to the Supreme Court authorizing its seizure, has said that he wants to turn the publication’s headquarters into a pro-regime communications school.

The paper’s seizure could hamper Maduro’s attempts to win allies in the Biden administration, as the country is suffering from the result of sanctions levied against it by President Trump for human rights violations, fraud and corruption.

El Nacional’s director said the newspaper would continue its reporting online.