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As Venezuela’s crisis of authoritarianism deepens, civil society voices are increasingly coming under attack by the de facto government of Nicolás Maduro. On March 30, the Venezuelan Ministry of Interior and Justice published a new requirement in the Official Gazette for the registry of “natural and legal entities” under the Organic Law Against Crime and Terrorism, obligating all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and non-profit organizations in the country to provide sensitive information regarding their activities, contributions, and beneficiaries. For example, under its broad definition of “beneficiaries,” the measure establishes the alarming requirement that humanitarian and human rights NGOs reveal the identities of the victims and vulnerable communities that they serve. This action is a clear effort to monitor and limit the work of independent civil society organizations, which under Venezuelan law are already required to register with the state.

This measure is the latest in a string of actions intended to restrict and intimidate civil society organizations, especially those that receive support from international donors. In October 2020, the Maduro government issued a resolution requiring international NGOs seeking to operate within Venezuela to register “activities to be carried out in the territory of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” and their intentions. Shortly thereafter, the government’s Superintendency of Venezuelan Banking Institutions (Sudeban) announced on November 20, 2020 that it would require all financial institutions in Venezuela to monitor all business and financial operations carried out by non-profit organizations in the country. The criteria issued on March 30 are an extension of these efforts to restrict, intimidate, and potentially criminalize independent civil society organizations in Venezuela.

We are also concerned by reports that the National Assembly inaugurated in January has introduced legislation that may further restrict the activities of civil society organizations in Venezuela, and the rights of human rights defenders. On April 15, the Committee on Foreign Relations, Sovereignty and Integration proposed a “Law of International Cooperation” in the National Assembly, which has already passed the first round of debate in the Committee. Though the text of this legislation has not been made public, the signing organizations anticipate that this legislation will likely impose additional restrictions on the ability of NGOs in the country to access international funding for their activities, as did a similar “Law on International Cooperation” proposed in 2015.

The threat of these restrictions and registration requirements is very serious given the harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary detentions that civil society and NGO actors in Venezuela have faced in recent months. On January 12, five human rights defenders of the Venezuelan NGO Azul Positivo, which works to provide assistance to those living with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted illnesses, were arbitrarily detained and held for nearly a month under unsubstantiated charges of money laundering and terrorism financing. These charges have yet to be dropped after the defenders’ conditional release on February 10, leading independent United Nations rights experts to call on the Venezuelan authorities to “stop continuous and increasing attacks and intimidation against civil society organizations and journalists in the country.” Dozens of civil society organizations across Venezuela have similarly faced intimidation and threats such as public accusations and defamation, the freezing of bank accounts, arrest warrants, and raids on NGO offices by the security forces. Between January and March 2021, the Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ) recorded 215 instances of persecution and criminalization by the Maduro government. This pattern has also been denounced by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. On February 22, the High Commissioner announced that her office had “documented at least 66 cases of intimidation, harassment, disqualification and criminalization of journalists, media outlets, human rights defenders, humanitarian workers, union leaders and members or supporters of the opposition” since September 2020. Several organizations alerted the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in a public hearing about the criminalization of human rights defenders and civil society organizations and its acceleration in the current context.

As organizations devoted to defending human rights in the Americas, we are deeply concerned by this development and urge the Venezuelan authorities to comply with their international human rights obligations and immediately cease the repression and harassment of independent Venezuelan civil society. We call on the international community and all relevant United Nations bodies and agencies to actively support civil society organizations, human rights defenders, humanitarian workers, and other activists in Venezuela, and to ensure that their steady persecution is not met with indifference. Venezuela urgently needs a peaceful, democratic solution to its political, humanitarian, and human rights crisis, which will not be possible without an active and independent civil society pushing it forward.

Organizaciones firmantes:

  1. Acceso a la Justicia, Venezuela
  2. Acción Solidaria, Venezuela
  3. Alerta Venezuela, Venezuela
  4. Asociación Civil Fuerza, Unión, Justicia, Solidaridad y Paz (FUNPAZ), Venezuela
  5. Asociación Civil Más Ciudadanos, Venezuela
  6. A Todo Pulmón, Venezuela
  7. Aula Abierta, Venezuela
  8. Aquí Cabemos Todos, Venezuela
  9. Centro de Estudios Sociales y Culturales (CENSO-C), Venezuela
  10. Civilis Derechos Humanos, Venezuela
  11. Comité de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de los Adultos Mayores, Pensionados, Jubilados y Discapacitados, Venezuela
  12. Coordinadora de Lucha Vecinal Lara, Venezuela
  13. DefiendeVenezuela, Venezuela
  14. DPR-Lara, Venezuela
  15. Epikeia Derechos Humanos, Venezuela
  16. Espacio Público, Venezuela
  17. Fundación Iribarren Lucha, Venezuela
  18. Fundación Lucelia, Venezuela
  19. Fundación para el Debido Proceso (Fundepro), Venezuela
  20. Movimiento Ciudadano Dale Letra, Venezuela
  21. Observatorio Electoral Venezuela (OEV), Venezuela
  22. Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de los Andes, Venezuela
  23. Observatorio Hannah Arendt, Venezuela
  24. Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones, Venezuela
  25. Organización StopVIH, Venezuela
  26. Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA), Venezuela
  27. Promoción, Educación y Defensa en Derechos Humanos (PROMEDEHUM), Venezuela
  28. Proyecto de Extensión Visibilización y Educación en DDHH de la Face, Venezuela
  29. Red de Activistas Ciudadanos por los Derechos Humanos (REDAC), Venezuela
  30. Una Ventana a la Libertad, Venezuela
  31. Unión Cívica Nacionalista, Venezuela
  32. Urgent Action for Democracy and Development, Venezuela
  33. Venezuela Diversa AC, Venezuela
  34. Asociación Nacional de Familiares de Secuestrados, Detenidos y Desaparecidos del Perú (ANFASEP), Perú
  35. Asociación Por la Vida y la Dignidad Humana (APORVIDHA), Perú
  36. Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos, Perú
  37. Asociación Servicio Educativo para el Desarrollo y la Solidaridad (SEDYS) de Trujillo, Perú
  38. Asociación Servicios Educativos Rurales (SER), Perú
  39. Centro Loyola Ayacucho, Perú
  40. Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (PROMSEX), Perú
  41. Comisión de Derechos Humanos (COMISEDH), Perú
  42. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Alto Huallaga (CODHAH), Perú
  43. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Ica, Perú
  44. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Moyobamba, Perú
  45. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Pucallpa, Perú
  46. Comisión de Justicia Social de Chimbote, Perú
  47. Comisión de Solidaridad Desarrollo y Justicia (COSDEJ), Perú
  48. CooperAccion, Perú
  49. Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Perú
  50. Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente (DHUMA), Perú
  51. Fundación Ecuménica el Desarrollo y la Paz, Perú
  52. Instituto de Defensa Legal, Perú
  53. Instituto Runa de Desarrollo y Estudios sobre Género, Perú
  54. Instituto Sur Andino de Derechos Humanos (ISADH) de Puno, Perú
  55. Lesbianas Independientes Feministas Socialistas (LIFS), Perú
  56. Movimiento Manuela Ramos, Perú
  57. Movimiento JATARISHUN, Perú
  58. Paz y Esperanza, Perú
  59. Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, Colombia
  60. Fundación Brisas del Norte, Colombia
  61. Venezolanos en Barranquilla, Colombia
  62. Abogadas y Abogados para la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos, México
  63. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, México
  64. Revista Digital Inalienable, Ecuador
  65. Venezolanos en Guayaquil, Ecuador
  66. El Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL), Argentina
  67. Oficina Jurídica para la Mujer, Bolivia
  68. Conectas Dereitos Humanos, Brasil
  69. Asociación Pro-Búsqueda, El Salvador
  70. Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación, Honduras
  71. Activados Panamá, Panamá
  72. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Suicia
  73. Canada Venezuela Democracy Forum, Canadá
  74. Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL), Internacional
  75. Comisión Internacional de Juristas, Internacional
  76. Human Rights Watch, Internacional
  77. Instituto Internacional sobre Raza, Igualdad y Derechos Humanos, Internacional
  78. Red Jesuita con Migrantes LAC, Internacional
  79. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Internacional
  80. Women’s Link Worldwide, Internacional
  81. América Diversa, EE.UU.
  82. Coalición por Venezuela, EE.UU.
  83. Derechos Humanos con DR, Corp., EE.UU.
  84. Fe en Venezuela, EE.UU.
  85. La Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA), EE.UU.
  86. Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid, EE.UU.