Remarks by Ambassador Lynch at Virtual Press Briefing

Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
Virtual Press Briefing
July 16, 2020, 11:00 AM

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  I hope that you have all been staying healthy during this global pandemic, and thank you for joining me here today remotely so we continue to stay safe.

We received a lot of questions yesterday about the Secretary of State’s statement on visa restrictions, so, this morning, I am going to amplify some of his comments for you, and I should have time for a few questions at the end.

As you know all too well, it has been more than 19 weeks since the general and regional elections took place in Guyana.  There has yet to be a resolution, despite a full election recount and a ruling by Guyana’s apex court, the Caribbean Court of Justice, that the national vote recount should be used to declare the winner.  There have been seven separate election results, five prepared without witnesses – by witnesses, I mean international and local observers, party agents and elections officials; two of those results were prepared with substantial observation.  Both local and international observers stated that GECOM ran an election day that was free, fair and credible; the same was said about the recount with CARICOM observers, called the most “credible interlocutors,” stating that nothing precluded GECOM from declaring a winner using the national vote recount.

The  Guyanese people have exercised their civic right and they deserve to be heard.  But, due to continued electoral improprieties, the people have NOT been heard after 19 long weeks.  As such, the Secretary of State announced visa restrictions on individuals that have been responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Guyana.  Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.  These restrictions are under the authority of the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 212(a)(3)(C), to restrict visas to those whose entry into the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign-policy consequences. Visa records are confidential under U.S. law; so we are not able to identify the individuals or provide details on any individual visa case.

The international community has been clear that it stands with the Guyanese people and that there would be consequences for individuals who seek to undermine democracy.  Over 130 countries are represented through  various statements from the OAS, the Commonwealth, CARICOM, the EU, as well as multiple bilateral messages and calls for the process to be free and fair.  The events following the March 2 elections, some of which I personally witnessed, 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 it continues down this path.

The Secretary’s action yesterday sends a clear message of the consequences of subverting democracy and the rule of law, which pose a danger to us and our hemispheric partners.  As a signatory to the Inter-American Democratic Charter and a member of the OAS, Guyana has always been committed to democracy  and we hope it will remain that way.  The U.S. has long said that we have no preference for a winning party, as long as that party is selected through a free and fair electoral process that is transparent.

As friends of Guyana, the United States e reiterates our call that all Guyanese individuals in leadership positions respect the Guyanese electoral process and respect the will of the people.  And, we thank the people of Guyana for their continued patience during this extraordinarily long electoral process.

And, before I get to your questions, I would like to say something about Chairwoman Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh.  I am shocked and appalled at the dangerous statements and actions that I have seen directed at the Chairwoman.  Chairwoman Singh is a person of the utmost integrity and a distinguished jurist who has given decades of her life in service to her country.  I hope that all Guyanese will speak out on her behalf and allow her to continue her work and bring this electoral process to closure.

And with that I will take a few questions.