VENEZUELA The last six months have been particularly difficult in Venezuela, with a deteriorating political situation combined with an economic crisis. Faced with this disturbing panorama, President Rafael Caldera has chosen to impose economic measures, the so-called Plan of Stabilization and Economic Rehabilitation, which has included currency controls in a bid to prevent capital flight - a Currency Exchange Administration Board was set up to determine priorities in the allocation of dollars. This action is affecting the entire business sector, including the newspaper industry, which must rely on foreign currency to import newsprint. Although the only obstacle encountered thus far has been the slowness of the authorization process, the measure potentially could be used as an instrument of pressure by the govemment on the media. Restrictions and attacks on joumalists have decreased considerably - although they have not disappeared entirely - and joumalists can generally carry out their tasks in aclimate of respecto In February, a group from the Venezuelan]oumalists Colegio presented a proposed amendment to the press law (Law Regulating the Practice of Joumalism). The communications industry as a whole regards the proposal as a violation of freedom of expression provisions in the Venezuelan constitution. On October 6, the president of the Venezuelan Chamber of the Broadcast lndustry, Marietta Hemández, reported that the bil! had passed its first reading and was likely to be approved in the second, making this threat to press freedom imminent. Venezuelan Chamber of Television President Héctor Ponsdomenech called on the IAPA to take "energetic action" to avert passage of the bill. He provided a lengthy legal brief in support his request. For its part, the Venezuelan Press Bloc, comprising editors of newspapers and other print media, on April 20 filed a petition seeking repeal of nine articles of the 1972 law regulating the press. The articles deal with licensing of joumalists and other exclusionary practices. The petition filing coincided with an April 21-22 lAPA mission to Venezuela, led by Germán Omes, which held a series of meetings with a variety of people representing multiple views on the proposed amendments. The steps by the IAPA mission upset those advocating changes to the law. In a special session of the Assembly, the lAPA mission was even characterized as "foreign intervention." The bil! is now under debate, and there are indications that articles conceming the role of the colegio in regard to photographers and commentators, as well as those restricting foreign joumalists, may be modified. However, the trend seems to be in favor of keeping the most forceful aspects of the proposed reforms. Reports of infringements of press freedom have decreased considerably. In mid-]uly, El Universal of Caracas reprinted an article written abroad criticizing President Rafael Caldera's handling of the economic crisis. The article, bylined by Venezuelan-bom, Florida-based journalist Carlos Ball, provoked an immediate reaction from the govemment, which was quoted in the local press as calling Ball "a traitor to the country, a criminal liar and a mercenary" interested only in discrediting the efforts of the president. Ball subsequently asked the lAPA to protest this attack on him. Media outside the capital have also been subject to violations of their freedom of expression. On October 4, a radio program anchared by journalist Raquel Marcano and broadcast on Radio República AM in Maturín, Monagas state, was pulled from the airo She had broadcast complaints about alleged carruption in regional government . The news director of the radio station, however, contended that the program was canceled far strictly administrative reasons. Javier Mavarez, a reporter for the newspaper Oriente, was arrested on orders from a judge assigned to a drug case involving the so-called Pereira Cartel, recently discovered operating out of Maturín. In another incident, the premises of the newspaper El Sol were ransacked. Journalists from Monagas state have participated in protest actions and asked the Permanent Congressional Media Committee to investigate recurrent violations by Monagas state officials. Another matter of concern is that none of the members of the board of the Journalists Colegio, which is spearheading press law revisions, is a working journalist, and abstentism in the internal elections of the colegio is extremely high - facts that could cast doubt on how ceridible the group's representation is.