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US slaps travel restrictions on more Guyanese officials over vote recount refusal

The United States (US) on Thursday announced more visa sanctions for officials in Guyana who are “undermining democracy.”

Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Affairs of the US State Department Mr.Michael Kozak made the announcement during a teleconference and via a tweet. This was confirmed by a repost of the statement by the local US embassy in Georgetown on it’s social media page.

“Today, we are acting to prevent additional senior individuals from that country from entering the United States. The Secretary’s been clear: The Granger administration and its allies continue to defy the will of the Guyanese people by refusing to accept the vote count,” Mr. Kozak.

He reiterated that the recount has been certified as valid by international observers including the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), including Guyana’s highest courts.

“The United States joins the rest of the region refusing to go along with this farce. We will continue to act until the Granger administration accepts the will of Guyanese voters,” he added.

The Guyana Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld a High Court decision that the vote recount figures should be used to declare the results of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections and that the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield must take instructions from the Elections Commission.

The CARICOM-scrutinized recount has counted 460,352 valid votes, with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) 233,336 votes and A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) getting has won 217,920 and the People’s Progressive Party 217,920 votes.  The three ‘joinder’ parties- A New and United Guyana (ANUG), Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and The New Movement (TNM) got a total of 5,214‬ votes.

Mr. Lowenfield has on three occasions reported results to GECOM that have given victory to APNU+AFC. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has since scrapped one of those reports and Mr. Lowenfield has thrice refused to take the GECOM Chairman’s instructions to use the national vote recount numbers to compile his report.

The US’ latest move follows a similar action taken by the US State Department on July 15, when US Secretary of State Mr. Mike Pompeo announced that the US would be imposing visa sanctions on officials of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for blocking the declaration of results from the national vote recount.

In announcing those sanctions, Pompeo said that the visa restrictions would apply to “individuals responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Guyana.” He noted that immediate family members and such persons may also be subject  to restrictions. Mr. Pompeo had also called on the “Granger government must respect the results of democratic elections and step aside.”

Executive member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Aubrey Norton was quick to dismiss the sanctions, saying, “I don’t think that the leadership of the APNU+AFC (A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change) is afraid of sanctions.”

On the other hand, Executive member of the  People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Anil Nandlall said his party was not surprised by the announcement, but warned that it may not be the “full package.” The Guyana government had also expressed regret at the US decision to impose visa sanctions on its officials.

The OAS Permanent Council has already met over the Guyana electoral issue, and CARICOM is also expected to meet soon to discuss these very issues, and could possibly look into imposing sanctions too.

While this is the second set of sanctions announced by the US, Privacy Laws in that country prohibits the affected individuals being named.

(Samuel Sukhnandan)