Guatemalan Congress Approves Controversial Law Reform For NGO Control

Guatemala, Feb 11 (EFE) .- The Guatemalan Congress on Tuesday approved a reform of the law that regulates and controls all non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in the face of opposition from several minority banks and various sectors of civil society.

The reform of the ‘Law of Non-Governmental Organizations for Development’ was supported by 82 deputies and was almost fully validated at the end of the night.

According to the Guatemalan Congress, the reform of the law will allow ‘transparent and control’ non-governmental organizations based in the Central American country.

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The new regulation establishes in its article 13, one of the most controversial, that non-governmental organizations will not be able to use donations or ‘external financing’ to ‘carry out activities that alter public order’ in national territory.

‘If an NGO uses donations or external financing to alter public order, it will be immediately canceled’ and ‘its responsible executives will be charged according to current criminal and civil legislation,’ says the regulations. .

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of the United Nations Organization (UN) in Guatemala expressed its reservations regarding what happened in Congress.

“The reform of the Law of Non-Governmental Organizations could affect the freedom of association, assembly and expression, as well as democratic spaces for organized civil society,” said the UN office in Guatemala through its communication channels.

“UN Guatemala recalls the importance of adopting laws and policies that guarantee spaces for democratic participation,” the international entity added.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, had expressed in 2019 her concern for the law, which introduces’ administrative requirements and controls applicable to national and international NGOs’ which ‘in practice can be used in a discretionary manner or arbitrary to limit ‘its work.

The 5257 initiative, which gave way to the reforms, emerged in 2017 and was validated by a legislative commission in 2018, but it lacked a final debate for approval.

The origin of the law is, according to various sources, an attempt by several deputies of the previous legislature (2016-2020) to counteract the anti-corruption fight undertaken since 2015 by the Guatemalan Public Ministry and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.

With it you can ‘arbitrarily cancel uncomfortable organizations,’ said the organization JusticiaYa, born in 2015 with the fight against corruption.

The current Congress, recently invested on January 14, had not known the initiative to reform the law since it took office. However, as several legislators denounced, it was included by surprise in a modification of the agenda of the day.

The Bank Commitment, Renewal and Order (CREO) emphasized in its social networks its opposition “to the Board of Directors to enter a law and make it go through another.”

For its part, the Winaq political group of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, Rigoberta Menchú, cataloged the approval of the law ‘as a blow to the freedom of social organization’ and also ‘is harmful to the majority of the country’. EFE

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