Emergency decree allows restriction of CSO funding
Freedom of association is being seriously threatened in Venezuela, with the recent declaration of a “State of Exception and Economic Emergency." The decree states that funding for civil society organisations can be restricted when it is used to pursue political goals that might destabilise the country. This vague wording gives the government wide discretion within which it can restrict freedom of association. Local sources however indicated that, although the government is consistently restricting the freedom of association, civil society is still active and has come together in pursuit of common demands like democracy or transparency. These dynamics are helping to create a more unified civil society that is slowly pushing the boundaries of civic space in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government has systematically repressed recent protests using both counter demonstrations and security forces. On June 2nd people took to the streets in Caracas to protest and call on the government to address the lack of food in the country. Police repression included the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters. Following these protests, on June 14th, another series of protests concerning the same issues took place in the city of Cumaná. These protests were also repressed by police officers and two people were reported dead.
Journalists and civil society activists are at risk in Venezuela. On January 19th, 2016, journalist Ricardo Duran was murdered in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. Police investigations showed that none of his personal belongings were stolen following his murder. The case is still open and no motive has been determined. On March 11th, the Sixth Criminal Trial Court for the State of Bolivar convicted David Natera Febres, Director of Correo del Caroní newspaper, for defamation offenses against a State’s contractor. The sentence was based on a 2013 article from Natera Febres who reported a case of extortion and bribery at the Military Counterintelligence Bureau. During the protests on June 2nd, journalists reported that police officers confiscated their filming materials and cellphones after they identified that they were covering the repression against protesters.