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While Venezuela watched the World Cup...

By Daniel Duquenal

21.06.06 | Thus I keep my narrative of what and how Chavez is trying to stick it up to us while we watch the World Cup. But bloggers are ever vigilant. Just a quick item as I did spend too much time writing on “futbol”.

The NGOs under threat

So we have a country whose most beloved leader claims to be about to get 10 million votes next December, where polls, no matter how contradictory they are, all agree to put his victory next December as a landslide.

Yet, yet…

Venezuela has been a country where NGO have been making steady progress and questioning all the powers that be. Already AD and Copei did have their problems, now it is normal that the authoritarian regime of Chavez finds lots of criticism from that quarter. And he does not like it a bit.

Three well known NGOs

There are three NGO that are particularly well known. COFAVIC was founded after February 1989 repression of a popular uprising. Its objective was to have military excesses pursued and punished. Its leader, Liliana Ortega, was even featured in US newspapers as one of the important leaders and innovators in Latin America. Her actions certainly did help Chavez to reach power. But Chavez is an ungrateful character and now COFAVIC is in the dog house. Why? It got recognition in international courts and the army must make amends. Except that now the army is the backbone of Chavez power. In addition COFAVIC has looked into the Vargas disaster of 1999 where human rights violations have been reported. Chavismo did not like that as it tries to present to the world a face of defender of Human Rights when it is not able to enforce them at home. So, COFAVIC and Ortega, true human rights fighters, are now considered enemies of the regime.

Primero Justicia started as NGO whose objective was to reform the highly corrupt Judicial system of the past administrations. It was also an educational NGO sponsoring programs to help people learn how to handle juridical questions and to make their rights count in court. Its success created a generation of bright new lawyers that became what is now the main opposition party. Chavismo does not like it as it is a constant reminder that an opposition can always arise from other successful NGO and someday politically threaten its hold on power.

And of course SUMATE, the bête noire of Chavez, the NGO that almost single handedly has established the Venezuelan Electoral system is not only inadequate but prone to abuse, cheating and what not. Its leaders, Machado, Plaza and Estevez are currently threatened of trial for treason to the fatherland on very shaky ground. They received monies form the NED, a congressional organization. The amounts are rather ridiculous to justify a sabotage of the Venezuelan regime when one sees the obscene amounts that Chavez uses to destabilize other regimes. But double standards do not trouble Chavez sleep and his sycophantic court and assorted henchman are trying any way they can to attack SUMATE, though the fact that Maria Corina Machado has been received by George Bush has complicated their task.


Thus the government has decided to control and regulate ALL NGO. That is, a law is being voted that will allow the executive power of Venezuela to emit any regulation it might see fit to control any NGO. Now, this might not be as scandalous as it seems and some arguments could actually be worthwhile considering. Unfortunately the Venezuelan laws and penal code already allow for control of any administrative abuse that might be committed by an NGO, such as cheating donors for personal profit. In other words the real intention of the government is to try to obtain through the new and unnecessary law a “legal” mechanism that will allow it to rein or postpone ad infinitum the creation of new NGO that do not conform to the “Bolivarian” conception of the world, and force the existing one to reveal all their funding sources and how the monies are used, thus adding to the Tascon/Maisanta list all the necessary details to deepen the political apartheid that exists today in Venezuela. Representative Iris Varela did not even mince her words on the subject, fully acknowledging the real objectives behind this farce. All NGO of relevance in Venezuela have rejected the proposed law (in English here).

Of course, if such a law is eventually voted, it will mean that any NGO that looks beyond helping sickness of the month patients or historical monument restoration is doomed. All NGO that do care about real subjects of society usually affecting our future and thus political (democracy, environment, human rights, education, etc…) will be banned as soon as they question the regime policies. Another step in curtailing our freedoms while the lefties elsewhere who thrive on NGO to criticize their own regimes have no problems in seeing Venezuela’s NGO go under.

Chavez has announced a trip that could include in a same schedule Syria, North Korea, Iran and probably a couple of gems such as quick stop over to report to Castro. Can anyone mention any significant NGO action taking place in these countries? I rest my case.

And more to come, stay tuned! The Chacao mayor, the revoking of TV licenses and more, many more!

PS: the law also aims, summum of hypocrisy, to legalize all the funds that Chavez is giving freely (and against Venezuelan budgetary law!) to his pals outside of Venezuela to help their political actions!!!!

Ps2: More details at Miguel's.

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