Mexican newspapers can now import their own newsprint, free of government control, for the first time in 55 years.
In a move he said would reinforce the independence of the press, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari on Friday opened the border to newsprint. Imports will be subject to a 15% tariff but no other restrictions.
Previously, newsprint could be imported or manufactured only by a government monopoly called Pipsa, for the initials of its name in Spanish.
"This is a very significant decision," said Alejandro Junco, publisher of Monterrey-based El Norte newspaper and for two decades a leader in the fight to break Pipsa's monopoly. "Mr. Salinas has earned himself the respect of those who think it important for Mexican journalism not to have the stigma of government dependence."
In August, 1974, the feisty El Norte's paper supply was cut to 17% of the previous month's level while competitors were allowed an unlimited paper supply, he said.
Nevertheless, when Salinas offered last year to sell the company, publishers objected, saying control by a private monopoly would be worse.
Pipsa will continue to operate as a state-owned company, Salinas said. However, he added, "Now, journalists and publishers can get their paper supplies from the source they consider most appropriate, depending on their location, interests and the (press) size."
Junco predicted that newspapers near the border will begin to import newsprint, while those near Pipsa mills will continue to buy newsprint from the company. "If we see fit, we will (import)," he said.