WASHINGTON -- Today, United States Representatives James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Norma Torres (D-CA) released the following statement in Response to a Proposed Law on Foreign Donations to Salvadoran NGOs and Non-Profits:
"We are deeply concerned by the draft law proposed in El Salvador that would require non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other groups receiving foreign contributions to register and describe themselves as foreign agents. The draft proposal, currently under consideration in the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly, would give government officials unfettered discretion to prohibit activities by those organizations judged to be threats to “political and social stability;” subject foreign contributions to those organizations to a 40% tax; and mete out severe penalties should the state determine non-compliance. While the draft law was presented as one modeled on U.S. legislation, it is, in fact, quite different and more like laws that we have seen implemented around the world to limit public discourse, advocacy, and debate.
"We support laws that advance transparency, but fear this proposal, as written, would result in closing down scores of economic and development programs that directly benefit the Salvadoran people and projects that promote democracy, defend human rights, and advance citizen participation. El Salvador already has in place an effective system of laws that require NGOs to report the sources of their funding. The draft law appears to mimic Nicaragua’s repressive laws against NGOs and the increasing attacks against civil society in the region meant to silence critics and restrict civil society.
"We are heartened Salvadoran legislators have paused to review more closely the implications and potential outcomes of the draft law. The defense of human rights, the promotion of democracy, independent journalism, and advocacy for transparency and against corruption are legitimate and essential work with long and proud histories in El Salvador. Such initiatives are essential to democracies and should be supported and strengthened, not criminalized or censored. We encourage the Salvadoran legislature to table the current draft proposal, continue its process of review, and work with civil society and NGOs on better ways to advance transparency and civic engagement."