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Civic space in Venezuela is in serious danger following Chavismo threats

Civic space in Venezuela is in serious danger following Chavismo threats

Venezuelan flag during a march called by Juan Guaido in Anzoategui, Venezuela (Reuters/Carlos Jasso)

Regional networks of civil society organizations Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information, CIVICUS, IFEX-ALC And Voices of the South We urge We repeat the public rejection To advance the legislative initiative allowing the criminalization of legitimate organizations and activities of Venezuelan civil society protected by the human right to freedom of association, which is fundamental to ensuring civic space.

by spacepublico.ong

After its passage in the first debate almost a year ago, on 12 January, the parliamentary review process of the “Act on the Control, Regulation, Performance and Financing of Non-Governmental Organizations and Related Organizations” resumed with the start of public consultation, although the draft is not yet publicly and officially available. .

Since its presentation before Parliament, a stigmatizing discourse has been raised that places civil organizations working in the social, humanitarian, and human rights fields as “enemies of the country,” accused of using “illicit funds” to “finance terrorism.”

The legal proposal grants powers to the executive authority to supervise, inspect, control and punish obligated organizations and persons, through legislative and supervisory powers. Such capabilities subject the existence of organizations to the discretion of the interests of the government in power, which violates autonomy and independence.

The project imposes the obligation to provide “data on the constitution, the laws, the activities implemented, the origin, management and destination of its resources, with a detailed identification of the sources of their financing,” in a context in which information of this kind is used to prosecute and criminalize vital sectors of the government.

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Transparency is a fundamental pillar of civil society work and is practiced as good practice, but the obligation enshrined in law is not framed in clear institutional guarantees that effectively respect and protect freedom of association.

Venezuela is experiencing a structural crisis that has a negative impact on the guarantee of social, economic, civil and political rights, and has consequences at the regional level due to the displacement of millions of people in critical condition to other countries on the continent. Thousands of people within the country are benefiting from the social and humanitarian assistance programs needed to address the complex humanitarian emergency; If this law is approved, business will be severely restricted. Likewise, under this legislation, any independent initiative independent of government interests will be banned and automatically suspected of crimes, this includes social, religious, trade union, educational, community, environmental, neighborhood organizations, groups, movements, among others. .

Venezuelan organizations undergo a series of registrations and comply with their financial obligations. There is a restrictive regulatory framework, such as the Organic Law against Organized Crime and the Financing of Terrorism or Administrative Provision No. 002-2021, which, among other practices, effectively prohibits For new organizations to register or update their documents. In this scenario, arbitrary interference by civil associations was facilitated and defenders and activists were subjected to criminal persecution; The situation is gradually worsening in the face of the electoral process scheduled to take place this year.

We urge the international community to provide its support With measures that prevent this legislation and other similar legislation in the region from progressing, because it only seeks to diminish freedoms in our countries.. Such initiatives fuel stigmatizing discourses and encourage more restrictive and undemocratic measures. If this law is approved, the work of NGOs in Venezuela will be more limited and threatened, which could unleash An increase in criminal persecution of defenders and activists.

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Restoring democracy requires the active defense of civil society: people, organizations, groups, initiatives and movements that, through their diverse and irreplaceable mandates, may contain restrictive and illegitimate practices, and which distort institutions in order to maintain and concentrate unlimited power, at the expense of rights and dignity. All people.