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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Guyana officials hit with US sanctions over democracy concerns

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A more than 4-month delay to the conclusion of its elections and the transfer of government to the opposition party which the results show secured the majority of votes have resulted in the United States announcing Wednesday the imposition of visa restrictions on Guyanese individuals undermining democracy.

“Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on individuals who have been responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Guyana. Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions,” Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo said at a press briefing.

The US had signalled days after the March 2 elections that those who seek to undermine the democratic process in the new oil producing South American country would face ‘serious consequences’ after an elections official did not follow the correct procedure to tabulate results for the country’s largest district. A declaration from a 33-day recount of the votes which showed a win for the opposition PPP/C party has since been stalled as a result of a series of court proceedings. The incumbent APNU+AFC has been insisting that its claims of voter fraud, for which no tangible evidence has been presented and which a regional team from CARICOM has described as a ‘fishing expedition’, must be taken into account.

Pompeo said the events following the March 2 elections indicate that there are forces that have repeatedly refused to accept the will of the people at the ballot box.  “Guyana’s non-democratic trajectory is dangerous for its citizens and for the hemisphere as a whole.  I hope that Guyana’s leaders understand what is at stake if they continue down this path.”

Representatives from the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade also issued a statement calling for a declaration to be made based on the recount results. “We condemn all efforts to undermine the credibility of the March 2nd election, including recent actions taken by the Chief Elections Officer to effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters and manipulate the vote count.”

Canada said Wednesday it supports calls by the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community [CARICOM], the Commonwealth, the Caribbean Court of Justice and civil society organizations to announce the results based on the national recount.

The United Kingdom also stated that it has begun processes to impose its own sanctions on government and elections officials for undermining Guyana’s democracy.

On Wednesday evening, Brazil joined the chorus of voices calling for a democratic transition of government, saying it considers that delaying the conclusion of the electoral process poses a serious threat to stability in Guyana and a departure from the democratic commitments that the country must observe in the regional and hemispheric context.

In a statement following Pompeo’s announcement, the Guyana government said it regrets the decision taken by US Department of State, noting the elections is still before courts, which is entirely the responsibility of the judiciary. It insisted the Executive Branch has not participated in the undermining of the electoral process and urged all countries interested in Guyana’s development “to await the logical conclusion of the process” which it said is being managed by the Elections Commission, in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana.

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