In an attempt to control the sources of financing of Venezuelan civil society organizations,
the Permanent Commission of Foreign Policy, Sovereignty and Integration of the
Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) began this May 4, 2022, the discussion of a new bill on
This bill not only represents a serious restriction to free association, but also imposes
measures that seek to nationalize international financing, limiting any activity related to civic
space, from the private sector.
If this instrument is approved, non-governmental organizations working in the
defense of human rights in Venezuela run the risk of seeing their activities paralyzed,
not only due to lack of resources to cover all administrative requirements, but also due to the
risk of criminalization, intimidation and persecution of their leaders.
On December 23, 2010, the Law for the Defense of National Sovereignty and Self-
Determination was approved “with the purpose of preventing foreign States from intervening
in the internal affairs of Venezuela through economic contributions destined to organizations
or individuals that carry out political activities in the country (Article 1)”.
Already with this legal instrument they managed to greatly limit the work of the Venezuelan
civil society, not only because of the excessive control that was imposed, but also because
of the amount of administrative requirements that were established.
Similarly, a State of Exception and Economic Emergency was declared in May 2016 and the
National Anti-Terrorism Corps was created in 2020, which establishes among its powers: “To
determine the origin, the origin of the emerging capitals of natural and legal persons linked to
terrorism”, an argument also set forth in the International Cooperation Bill that was not
approved in 2021 and the Draft Bill presented before the NA last May 4.
As stated in a joint statement by three Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations
Organization, in November 2021, in view of the threat of the closure of civic space, there are
reasons for concern due to the indiscriminate control that can be imposed on non-
profit organizations of profit in Venezuela, the following aspects:
- The paralyzing effect that these measures may have on NGOs that provide
humanitarian support to the most vulnerable populations, which may lead to
worsening violations of the economic and social rights of the people these
- The criminalization of the exercise of the defense of human rights and the free right
of association whose objective is to help under a lawful purpose that should no
longer be pointed out as acts of terrorism, criminal, “mercenary” or “enemies of the
State” by figures affiliated to the National Government.
- The use of money laundering control and the fight against terrorism as a pretext to
undermine the credibility of NGOs.
- The requirement of registration in the Special Automated Registry of Non-Domiciled
Non-Governmental Organizations, a mandatory requirement for both national and
foreign NGOs with activities in Venezuela, which is not only an obstacle for the free
exercise of the activity of defense of human rights, due to the amount of information
requested, but also due to the difficulties to comply with all the administrative
- This authority also has the power to deny or reject the registration on grounds of
public order and sovereignty, which is incompatible with the standards applicable to
the restriction of rights, which require that the rule be precise and exhaustive in order
to limit the discretion of the authorities.
- No guarantees are established that registration procedures are “transparent,
accessible, non-discriminatory, expeditious and inexpensive, allowing for the
possibility of appeal and avoiding the need for re-registration, in accordance with
national law” and that they are in conformity with international human rights law.
- Expansive reporting requirements can drain already limited budgets from small
organizations and detract from their capabilities.
- Grassroots organizations, led mostly by women, may be particularly overburdened,
limiting their ability to provide services in a potential violation of women’s equal rights.
- Inspection and follow-up mechanisms represent an overlapping of functions that may
also give rise to intimidating behavior on the part of the Administration, including the
review of private documents or documents containing confidential information.
- Sanctions for non-compliance with the obligations imposed are omitted, which may
lead to arbitrary sanctions by the corresponding authorities.
- Restrictions on the exercise of these rights are serious obstacles to the possibilities
for individuals to claim their rights.
In a report published in June 2021, the Office of the High Commissioner regretted that the
authorities had adopted regulations affecting freedom of association and assembly
(A/HRC/47/55, para. 63), with particular reference to the reintroduction in the National
Assembly of the International Cooperation Bill, the content of which had been the subject of
reservations on previous occasions.
The Bill to be approved conflicts with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),
both ratified by Venezuela on May 10, 1978 and the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Venezuela adhered on June 23, 1977, thus compromising the role played by
organizations in strengthening the rule of law and democracy.