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NOTICE:  Yesterday the Guatemalan Congress approved legal initiative 5257 and its reforms affecting NGO’s

NGO’s already have a formal registration process and a formal oversight/audit process.  They have to register with public entities under SAT’s supervision, a process which already requires them to present receipts and other accounting documents.  (NOTE:  SAT is Guatemala’s governmental supervisory agency for tax collection and fiscal oversight)

Do you want to know the real reason for passage of this law?

Law 5257 approved by representatives serving in the Guatemalan Congress, yesterday, the 11th of February claims to better manage and audit NGO’s.  But, you know what? . . .

  1. There already is a current registration and auditing process to which NGO’s are registered and have to present receipts and other required accounting records to SAT (akin to the IRS in the US).
  2. Almost no funding/finanacial support for NGO’s is provided through use of public monies except for the few who have agreements with the government or are in some way tied to Congressional representatives or other public officials, and even these are very limited in number.
  3. NGO does not only refer to large international socially active organizations, but rather, it also encompasses small, local associations. This law will make registration for NGO’s a complicated, bureaucratic process.
  4. NGO’s carrying out differing activities which are always for “altruistic reasons” is permitted. This, however, promotes a welfare kind of setting and one of conformity among the public.
  5. It requires that donations coming from outside the country be reported to MINEX (Ministry for Foreign Relations), a ministry, which continuously, including through the previous administration’s tenure, has been widely used to defend the president’s interests and the powerful close to him.
  6. The government will have the power to “cancel” NGO’s when they effect change in the public order, i.e. it could suppress demonstrations, social critique, etc.
  7. The law was proposed without any regard for, dialogue with or even consultation with NGO’s.
  8. It will not allow for more than 15% of the organization’s membership to be foreigners, cutting off possibilities for taking advantage of volunteers as human resources.
  9. Similar laws creating obstacles for NGO’s have been passed in other countries, specifically in Africa, for example in several African countries with high levels of corruption where the human rights of citizens are not respected.
  10. Why was this law approved with such “urgency” according to some congressional members? Why weren’t other initiatives favorable to education, healthcare, and provisions for food not viewed as being as urgent as this legislation.  It’s very simple:  because the objective of the majority of NGO’s is to pressure the government at local and national levels to fulfill their obligations, to abide by the law, and because NGO’s often criticize (violations of human rights) and support Guatemalans who are demanding respect for their human rights.

For this reason, we request that you become informed by reading this legal initiative.  You can corroborate information we have presented above at:  Iniciativa de Ley completa 5257 reformas a ONG’S pdf

For the right to free organization and respect for human rights