By Clodovaldo Hernandez – Apr 21, 2021
US and Spanish authorities and media are “alarmed” by the rules Venezuela recently approved to regulate the operations of non-governmental organizations in its territory. It is an act of profound hypocrisy, because in the United States and Spain very strict laws apply regarding these supposedly independent and non-profit entities.
A cursory review of media such as La Voz de América or El País in Madrid reveals how the global media apparatus and officials from the US and Spain accuse Venezuelan government of persecuting and trying to destroy NGOs because it intends to establish legal regulations that will force them to register before a public agency, and to submit regular reports on their funding sources and beneficiaries.
From this reaction, it could be assumed that in the US and Spain, NGOs operate freely, without any interference by governments. However, another simple internet search shows that this is a gigantic lie.
USA, under the threat of the Patriot Act
Registering an NGO or any type of entity that declares itself as “non-profit” in the US is such a complex matter that there are quite thick manuals dedicated to guiding those determined to navigate the sea of bureaucracy and legal requirements. There are also law firms specialized in guiding those who set themselves this goal. The first steps for registration must be taken before the government of the state where the NGO will operate. If the NGO aims for a national reach, promoters have to carry out this process in each of the 50 states.
But that’s just the beginning. Then there are many more regulations and obligations to various offices of the state and federal governments, especially to achieve tax exemption as a non-profit organization.
That was the current scenario for NGOs until the last century, but as of September 11, 2001, we know that everything changed (for the worse) in the US. In this regard, the executive order issued by George W. Bush and the draconian Patriot Act became the excuse for all social organizations to be subject to the strictest reviews, even outside of due process.
The financing of terrorism is used as a justification whereby NGOs, foundations and similar entities, as well as their donors, are always surveilled by the US government.
The Patriot Act came into force on March 15, 2004, but in 2001 after the attacks, Executive Order 13224 was issued which, among many other measures, “prohibits transactions with people and organizations that the Executive Power considers associated with terrorism and allows the (US) government to freeze all assets controlled or in possession of these entities and their supporters.”
The discretion of the rule is clear, expressed in the phrase “that the Executive Power (not the Judiciary) considers associated with terrorism.”
For those who have any doubts, humanitarian assistance can also be considered as support for terrorism, if it is provided to people that the US government considers associated with terrorists or acts of terrorism.
An NGO that violates the Executive Order or the Patriot Act may have its assets frozen or face other unspecified enforcement action, even if it claims not to know that its receiving support from parties associated with terrorism.
The Patriot Act imposes fines and prison terms of up to 15 years on any entity that knowingly provides material support or resources with the intention of using them in acts classified as terrorist. If terrorism causes the death of a person, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
Obviously, the right-wing media considers that the United States has the perfect right to take these measures “against terrorism” without diminishing its claim to an exemplary democracy, while Venezuela is obliged to allow all kinds of organizations, even those openly financed by hostile governments (such as the US), to act within the country without any kind of control or supervision. If it intends to establish some regulations, it is a fierce dictatorship.
Spain: do as I say, not as I do
El País newspaper in Spain also joined the international campaign denouncing the Venezuelan government for trying to control the work of NGOs. Specifically, they have pointed out that the draft Law on International Cooperation, which may regulate the financing of NGOs, is dictatorial in nature.
Whoever reads their accusations, without the necessary context, will surely think that in the kingdom of Spain the NGOs have no supervision whatsoever. But that’s not true. It is, once again, the doctrine of “do as I say, not as I do” that hegemonic capitalism applies at every step.
In Spain, all NGOs are mandated by law to make public their organizational structure and the funding they receive, as well as the agreements signed with their donors.
Every year, NGOs are required to file an external audit of their accounts with the Protectorate of Foundations of the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality (obviously a government office).
The resolution of September 17, 2013 of the Presidency of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation establishes the procedure for obtaining, reviewing, and revoking the certification of non-governmental development organizations.
Regarding NGOs linked to religious entities, they must register in the Registry of Religious Entities of the Ministry of Justice (another state entity).
Once again, the Spanish press considers these controls valid in Spain, but not in Venezuela.
Similar situations occur in other countries, since in all of them there are regulations to control the activity of these organizations. The global press only questions such statutes in southern countries with rebellious governments, such as Venezuela or Nicaragua, or in powers such as Russia or China, which oppose the United States and the European Union.
Meanwhile, on the Venezuelan scene, the so-called “free press” naturally joins the chorus because—just like the NGOs with a strong media presence—it is also financed by the governments of hostile countries. As in a perfect circle.
Featured image: NGOs for “regime change.” Photo courtesy of europereloaded.com.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Venezuelan journalist and writer. He writes regularly for La IguanaTV, Supuesto Negado and Mision Verdad.