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US tight-lipped on status of democracy project

US Ambassador, Brent Hardt

The United States (US) embassy is mum on whether the controversial Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project is still being implemented after the Guyana government pulled his work permit.

Questioned specifically about the fate of the US$1.5 million dollar project, the embassy would only say that “The status of the LEAD program is an issue for discussion between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Guyana.”

Glenn Bradbury of the International Republican Institute (IRI)- the agency contracted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to implement LEAD- has had his work permit revoked because he allegedly violated local laws.

The decision followed months of repeated demands by the Donald Ramotar administration for the US to cease implementing the project and hold talks to develop design a project to the government’s satisfaction.

Continued implementation of the project on grounds that there had been adequate consultation and the US was bound by contractual obligations had led government to claim that Guyana’s sovereignty was violated and the victim of provocative actions.

Earlier Friday, the embassy here expressed “regret” at the visa revocation and appeared to suggest that such a move has affected talks. “The decision to revoke Mr. Bradbury’s permit is contrary to our understanding of the Government of Guyana’s commitment to review together the LEAD program and to the spirit of the discussions proposed by the Government of Guyana itself,” said the embassy.

At the same time, the embassy said it welcomed government’s willingness  to reengage in discussions with the United States on democracy and governance, and specifically in relation to the USAID LEAD project.

The governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) has accused the US of funnelling support to the opposition to strengthen its electoral fortunes.

But the embassy has explained that LEAD is designed to benefit the Government and people of Guyana through the promotion of understanding and consensus-building within the National Assembly; greater citizen engagement with Parliament; civic education on local government and greater civic engagement among women and youth.

The LEAD project implements the objectives described in the USAID Assistance Agreement for Governing Justly and Democratically, reached between the United States government and the Government of Guyana in 2009.