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June 29, 2017

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Venezuela's El Universal daily bought by Spanish investors

CARACAS, Venezuela--One of Venezuela's leading newspapers, El Universal, has been purchased by a group of Spanish investors, the daily announced on Saturday.

The century-old Caracas-based newspaper vowed to maintain the same editorial line under its new majority ownership by Spanish investment firm Epalisticia.

El Universal said it would provide more details about the stock transfer transaction in Sunday's paper.

The Madrid-based Epalisticia said on its website that it specializes in "risk capital" investments in Europe and Latin America.

The editorial management of the daily going forward will be led by Jesus Abreu, a banker and brother of Jose Antonio Abreu, founder of Venezuela's famed "El Sistema" network of youth orchestras.

The sale comes with many of Venezuela's leading media outlets under pressure from the government.

The opposition has accused Caracas of using public funds to purchase television broadcasters it deems hostile, like Globovision, in order to silence dissent.

The new management of El Universal, however, insists it has no ties to Venezuela's government.

In May, the daily reduced the size of its print edition because of a newsprint shortage caused by government currency controls.

El Universal 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.

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

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.

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