Civil Associations under Venezuelan Law (What are they and how do they work)

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Las Asociaciones Civiles en el Derecho Venezolano (Qué son y cómo
Authors: Miguel Angel Itriago and Antonio L. Itriago
Published by Sinergia with the sponsoring of the British Embassy in Caracas and the
National Endowment for Democracy.
ISBN: 980-07-5379-6

Reviewed by Caroline L. Newman, Project Associate
The Itriago brothers write that t he purpose of their book is to describe the nature, character,
purposes and functioning of Civil Associations in Venezuela.

In developing this description, the authors st ress the problems encountered in the Venezuelan
legislation, make comparisons with the legislat ion of other countries, and try to give practical
recommendations to civil associations. (Some of these recommendations can also be found in
their bulletins; for example, see the previous issue of IJNL for their report regarding registration of
names of organizations (chapter 11).)

From their work it appears that the main problem fa cing civil associations in Venezuela is the fact
that they are not regulated by a general, national regulation but instead by special state
regulations. As a general practice, the provisio ns for commercial organizations from the Civil
Code are being applied to Civil Associations. This is evidenced for example in the rules regarding
the establishment of organs (Chapter 3).

The lack of an overriding national legislation regulating civil associations also leads to
misinterpretation of what avail able legislation there is: the author s point out that it is often
believed that civil associations should not engage in commercial activities, when in fact the civil
code does not prohibit such activity (chapter 10), whereas the possibility of redistribution of
assets to members or founders upon liquidation is open since the civil code addresses only the
liquidation of commercial entities (chapter 7).

In addition to their treatment of the regulatory env ironment, the authors also give practical advice
on the management of civil associations, coveri ng such matters as “advice on admitting a high
number of members without risk of losing control of the association.” (chapter 7).

Although the authors point out the some problem s need to be regulated, (e.g. the need for a
national register (chapter 11), or the need to include youth associations in the Venezuelan
legislation (chapter 9)), they do not believe that the present environment is appropriate for the
adoption of national legislation regul ating civil associations. In their first chapter, they explain the
disagreement amongst NGOs on this issue and su ggest a series of measures which should be
taken before considering the adoption of such la w. The most fundamental and prescient of which
being the need to reform certain provisions in the tax legislation and the law on public registers.