Foreign funding of NGOs defending political rights outlawed in Venezuela

National Assembly of Venezuela

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On Tuesday, December 21, 2010, the Venezuelan National Assembly passed (in its second discussion) a new “Law on Defense of Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination.” As a result of the law:

  • Venezuelan NGOs that defend political rights may not receiving foreign funding
  • Venezuelan NGOs may not be represented by non-Venezuelans
  • Venezuelan NGOs may not host individuals who express opinions that offend state institutions

As the Venezuelan government has already utilized ample administrative persecution and blacklisting to scare domestic donors away from funding NGOs perceived as critical of the government, this law eliminates their only remaining source of funding.

Although you won’t find it written anywhere explicitly, it is not acceptable to speak out against the government in Venezuela. This law will make it very difficult for many local NGOs to do so in the future. This law eliminates any remaining traces of civil society’s ability to perform its government oversight role, as is the necessary in any healthy democracy.

Text from a brief by Joel D. Hirst, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (emphasis added):

Several of the proposed laws being debated (and set to be approved before the January 5, 2011 swearing in of the new parliamentarians) affect the rights of individuals to receive information, organize, and participate politically. The new law on “Defense of Political Sovereignty and National Self-determination” forbids organizations and individuals that defend the political rights of Venezuelans from receiving foreign funding, having representation from non-Venezuelans, and even hosting individuals who express opinions that “offend the institutions of the state.” These would include human rights organizations such as Amnesty International‘s Venezuelan chapter (among others). This law will be accompanied by the International Cooperation Law (included in the enabling law), which requires civil society organizations to re-register with the government, declare their plans and financing, and carry out work only in areas approved by the government and its national development plan.

Text from a Reporters Without Borders press release (emphasis added):

Our analysis of these laws concurs with those of the relevant UN and OAS entities. The same goes for the future law on the defense of political sovereignty and national self-determination, which will deprive NGOs of much of their external resources and subject their activities to strict government supervision. This future law, billed as a weapon against “foreign interference,” absurdly assumes that NGOs aim to destabilize the country when they are just exercising civil society oversight and the freedom of assembly. It represents another blow to fundamental constitutional rights and to the 1999 constitution, now betrayed by its promoter.

More translated news articles on the issue coming soon.

Click here to read Google translated articles on the issue.

About Roberto Silvers

Roberto Silvers is a US American living, working and writing about politics, democracy and culture in Caracas, Venezuela. He has a blog and a comedy news show. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
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