Venezuela: National Assembly Moves to Regulate NGO Activities

Caracas, January 28, 2023 ( – The Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) has introduced a bill to oversee non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the country.

A parliamentary majority of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) approved a project during the January 24 AN session to legislate the “supervision, regularization, administration and financing” of NGOs.

The draft was passed at first discussion. Now moving into a “consultation phase” for possible amendments, some lawmakers will hold street rallies in their constituencies.

PSUV Vice President Diosdado Cabello, an AN member who introduced the bill, said the goal was to hold NGOs accountable to Venezuelan authorities.

“This helps bring order to a sector that has absolutely nothing,” he said. Cabello claimed that more than 60 NGOs had been identified as having “political, not social, purposes.” He cited a handful of individuals reportedly associated with opposition political parties, including Súmate and Futuro Presente.

The official continued, adding that these organizations have often been used to “destabilize” the country.

AN president Jorge Rodríguez said the new legal instrument would help clarify the activities and goals of NGOs. He also pointed to ties with opposition groups.

“Everyone is asking, where does the money for this NGO go? How did some politicians fund their recent campaigns?” he asked.

A preliminary text of the law has been published online. It cites the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and his USAID, as well as the Open Society, as key drivers, showing that these figures are increasingly inclined to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

The bill, which also applies to civil society and non-profit organizations, requires organizations to register with Venezuelan authorities, identify their goals and disclose their funding sources. Likewise, you must submit regular financial reports and disclose any changes in legislation or field work.

A new NGO registry will be created for Venezuela-based groups, while foreign groups will come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The text proposes his three-month period to set the regulatory architecture under the Vice President’s jurisdiction and his one-year period for the organization to meet its requirements.

Under the new law, NGOs are expressly prohibited from “receiving funding for political organizations” and “organizing political activities.” Organizations that violate the code can be fined up to US$12,000, and courts have the power to dissolve NGOs found to be in violation of the law.

The legislative proposal has been challenged by opposition factions. Lawmakers from Justice First (PJ) issued a communiqué rejecting “threats to NGOs.” Notably, the Fermintoro Congressional Institute pointed out that Cabello has ties to foreign funding and political parties, and he is one of those groups.

Tamara Adrián of the far-right Popular Will (VP) party said the law could create a “feeling of helplessness” in the country’s human rights protection, likening similar efforts in Nicaragua. Popular Will, Justice First, and other mainstream opposition groups have boycotted the 2020 parliamentary elections, with pro-government overwhelming majority.

Human Rights Watch and related organizations published a letter expressing “deep concern” over initiatives that “could seriously undermine and criminalize the work of civil society organizations,” and foreign organizations were also proposed. complicit in the law. The signatories repeated unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was “widely contested.”

Amnesty International called for action, arguing that the bill aims to “control, restrict, potentially criminalize and shut down NGOs operating in Venezuela.” Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been accused of being biased towards Venezuela.

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