Among Latin American countries, Brazil and Chile lead in terms of respecting the right to freedom of association. Cuba trails the pack. These are the findings of a study recently concluded by Carlos Ponce, a fellow at the US’s National Endowment for Democracy. According to his research, Brazil and Chile have fair systems for registration and operation of NGOs and online access to information, and NGOs can register in less than six months. Their operations are free from intrusive government control and the government itself has an effective system in place for providing them with tax exemptions. Argentina, Mexico and El Salvador also scored relatively well.
Cuba was by far the worst, with Venezuela, Honduras, Ecuador and Nicaragua also not showing well. Even when Cuban law allows for the registration of a civil society organization, its freedom to operate is severely limited, says Ponce, while in Venezuela the 2010 Law on Political Sovereignty curtails the ability of human rights and democracy organizations to associate, assemble and speak on issues of public importance. The government also restricts the registration of civil society organizations, as well as persecuting and attacking civil society leaders.