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Maduro Threatens NGOs in Venezuela


March 04, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro is keeping up its assault on civil society, this time focusing its attacks on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and threatening to put an end to nonprofit organizations, which continuously question the actions of the regime. In mid-January, the Venezuelan National Assembly, with a pro-regime majority, approved the Law for the Control, Regularization, Performance, and Financing of Nongovernmental and Related Organizations which, civil society representatives say, seeks to “annihilate” NGOs.

According to Spanish daily El País, the regime has been debating for years various legal instruments to limit or bankrupt Venezuelan NGOs, dating back to the time of Hugo Chávez. NGOs have been known to closely monitor the violations and excesses of the regime in matters such as human rights, transparency, corruption, environmental management, freedom of expression, and much more.

Lawyer Darrin Gibs, from NGO Defiende Venezuela, which brings together human rights defenders dedicated to denouncing human rights violations in Venezuela, told Diálogo that the bill provides for the creation of an entity to control NGOs and includes among the prohibitions to receive contributions destined for organizations with political purposes, to carry out political activities, and to promote or allow actions that threaten national stability.

The bill also requires for NGOs to register with the control body and declare the identity and origin of donations. Failure to comply with any of the law’s requirements could result in the loss of the NGO’s legal personality and fines. For Génesis Dávila, president of Defiende Venezuela, the rigorous monitoring and inspection proposed will make the work of NGOs unviable, “by assigning and subjecting [them] to a set of abusive obligations and interdictions.”

“Civil society will be seriously affected by the limitations or closures of these organizations that have created spaces that have allowed them to fulfil charitable, social, or general interest purposes, as well as the promotion and defense of human rights, the preservation of the environment, health, scientific, technological, artistic, literary, religious, educational development, or other areas of general use,” Dávila told Diálogo.

For Gabriela Buada Blondell, a journalist, researcher, and university professor, director of the NGO Caleidoscopio Humano, dedicated to defending human rights in Venezuela, the bill constitutes a threat to freedom of association and expression and a way of criminalizing work in defense of human rights.

“If this bill is approved, the possibility of freedom of expression would be completely eliminated; victims would be left helpless and many workers from humanitarian organizations, civil associations, the media, and human rights organizations would be unemployed,” Blondell told Diálogo. For the journalist, the regime seeks to obstruct the work of NGOs that have time ang again denounced Maduro’s actions and human rights violations.

The Venezuelan regime’s objective with this bill “is to eliminate dissent, silence voices, and put an end to democracy and those who denounce human rights violations in the country,” Blondell said.

“The whole process has intimidated NGOs and defenders, but also victims. The persecution that has taken place in recent month […], the threatening discourse, and arbitrary arrests have left their mark on society. Fear and indignation at the lack of protection are latent every day,” Blondell added, recalling that on February 15, the Maduro regime ordered the suspension of the work of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and that the staff leave the country. The decision came after the High Commissioner condemned the arrest of Rocío San Miguel, a lawyer and human rights activist specializing in military issues. The day before, U.N. experts released a report claiming that Maduro’s anti-hunger program is inefficient and susceptible to political influence.

“All media and international actors must follow what is happening in Venezuela, since the fear and censorship promoted by the law and abuses of the authoritarian regime impose a normalization of human rights violations in the country […],” Blondell concluded.


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