Two Nicaraguan newspapers shutting down as political crisis drags on

MANAGUA, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Two Nicaraguan newspapers abruptly announced they were shutting down on Friday, citing “adverse economic” conditions after previously complaining that the government of President Daniel Ortega had blocked newsprint imports amid a grinding political crisis.

One of the dailies, El Nuevo Diario, has been in circulation since 1980 and is viewed as the second most important newspaper after La Prensa in the impoverished Central American country.

The other, Metro, is free. Both publications are owned by Promerica, a private consortium that is one of Nicaragua’s most prominent business groups.

Friday’s print edition will mark the final run for both and neither plans to keep publishing news online.

“We thank our subscribers for their loyalty and we will now be in a process of reimbursing the outstanding balance of the subscriptions,” El Nuevo Diario wrote in an editorial published on its website.

Both El Nuevo Diario and La Prensa have denounced Ortega’s government for blocking paper and ink imports. El Nuevo Diario cited “adverse economic and logistical circumstances” for the closure in its editorial.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nicaragua has been gripped by a political crisis since demonstrations broke out against Ortega early last year over planned cuts to welfare benefits. The demonstrations spread into broader protests against what critics see as Ortega’s increasingly authoritarian-style rule along with his wife, who he named vice president.

Clashes between pro-government forces and protesters have claimed more than 300 lives and prompted thousands of Nicaraguans to flee into exile since the national protests erupted in 2018, human rights groups say.

At least one journalist has been murdered since the protests began while another three have been jailed on terrorism charges. Dozens more have been forced into exile, rights groups and press freedom advocates say.

Ortega has been in office since 2007 but also served as president in the 1980s when he was a sharp Cold War critic of the United States during Nicaragua’s civil war.

He has dismissed the protests against him as nothing more than an attempt to topple his government. (Reporting by Ismael Lopez Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Tom Brown)