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New rule may force Venezuelan nonprofits to close, opposition says

CARACAS — A new Venezuelan government requirement that non-government organizations disclose lists of their donors and the beneficiaries of their programs will likely force many to stop operating, the opposition said.

In a resolution published in the South American country’s Official Gazette on March 30 that came to light this week after nonprofit groups publicly criticized the measure, the government said nonprofits must register with a state institution dedicated to fighting organized crime and terrorist financing.

The requirement comes after nonprofits said harassment of groups ranging from charities to rights activists by President Nicolas Maduro’s government surged in 2020. Civil society leaders say it is part of efforts by Maduro to consolidate political control.

“This could mark the end of operations for many initiatives, due to fear of consequences and reprisals that could result from this measure,” the country’s main opposition coalition, led by lawmaker Juan Guaido, said in a statement on Friday.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Maduro’s government rejects accusations of widespread rights abuses, saying it is the victim of a foreign-led smear campaign.

Officials frequently accuse nonprofit groups that receive overseas funding of seeking to destabilize the OPEC nation’s government to help the U.S.-friendly opposition seize power.

Civil society groups say they aim to prevent rights abuses and alleviate suffering as Venezuela confronts a humanitarian crisis after years of economic collapse. They noted that the new requirement was inconsistent with a 2012 law governing the sector, and that they were already registered with other state entities.

Carlos Patino, of human rights advocacy group Provea, said the measure amounted to a “presumption of guilt” of all organizations that receive foreign funding. (Reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas Writing by Luc Cohen Editing by Alistair Bell)

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