| June 19, 2020 01:17 PM
A contested election held on March 2 in the South American nation of Guyana may be more important to the United States than meets the eye. At stake for the people of Guyana is the long-awaited prosperity that could come from its newly acquired status as a major oil-producing nation. At stake for the U.S. is having a stable ally in an unstable part of the world.
The current government is controlled by the APNU + AFC Coalition, which sought a second term following a 2015 victory over the opposition left-wing People’s Progressive Party. The People’s Progressive Party ruled Guyana from 1992 through 2015 and left behind a legacy of controversy. The party said it will renegotiate the oil exploration arrangement with Exxon. Chevron and Apache also have oil and gas holdings in Guyana. Punishment of U.S. investments would not be in the national interest of the U.S.
During the People’s Progressive Party tenure, the government had an anti-American, pro-Chinese point of view. The country became a narco-state, with serious narcotics trafficking problems and rampant corruption. Portions of the government were, in essence, a criminal enterprise. Moreover, its party leader from 1999 through 2011, Bharrat Jagdeo, developed a close relationship with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and current President Nicolas Maduro.
We applaud the recent statement of the U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, that the U.S. is entirely nonpartisan about which party wins Guyana’s 2020 election, and that she supports a transparent and credible recount process. She has underlined the importance of the current government’s support of the Lima Group, which is striving for a democratic resolution to the crisis in Venezuela.Philippines frets US naval exercises in South China Sea will anger Beijing
The election recount, which is still ongoing, has uncovered serious election fraud on the part of the People’s Progressive Party. Among the claims of fraud found on Tuesday by the Chief Election Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission, Keith Lowenfield, are ballots cast by deceased persons, persons who have migrated out of Guyana, persons voting without proper identification, and large numbers of improperly stamped ballots. Contrary to assertions of the PPP, there has been no final declaration or certification of the election by the Guyana Elections Commission. According to Lowenfield, the APNU + AFC Coalition had 68,383 more votes than the PPP. The courts in Guyana are now considering how to proceed.
Rep. Yvette Clarke, a Democrat from New York and co-chairwoman of the Caribbean Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, has flagged this attempted election heist by the PPP, and warned the international community, including the U.S., the Organization of American States, and Caricom to stop interfering in Guyana’s internal affairs, and threatened to hold hearings to air out this entire election dispute. Bully for her. The last thing the U.S. needs now is a pro-Venezuela leftist narco-state in its hemisphere.
The international community needs to respect Guyana’s sovereignty, and the U.S. needs to let the lawful election process proceed in an open and transparent manner. The U.S. did not appreciate foreign interference in its 2016 election, and should not interfere in Guyana’s election. Let Guyana handle its electoral process. Let Guyana breathe.
Bart S. Fisher is a partner in JJ&B, which represents the APNU + AFC Coalition.