Kaieteur News – Yesterday was July 15, a historic day in Guyanese history. It was on July 15, 2020 that then US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, announced that travel restrictions were being imposed on persons who were involved in undermining democracy in Guyana.
In making the announcement, Pompeo said: “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. In my public statements since the election, I have been very clear that the United States stands with the Guyanese people and that there would be consequences for individuals who seek to undermine democracy.”
At that time, a number of top government officials were attending a birthday reception being held in honour of David Granger at State House. Upon learning of the announcement, no doubt through social media, the faces of a number of the top officials turned sour.
It was clear from their facial expressions that they had not taken Pompeo’s earlier threats seriously. They should have. The United States is not one to make idle threats.
The identities of those who were penalised with travel restrictions have not been made public. US law apparently does not allow for this information to be revealed. It is only when the person is about to travel or applies for a US visa that he or she knows about the visa restrictions.
Up to now, no one knows for sure of the names of those whose visas were blacklisted from travelling to the United States. However, people have their suspicions and have been watching closely to learn if any of the suspects recently travelled to the United States.
Time will tell. But time will also tell if the United States has slackened its stance. Canada and the United Kingdom had also threatened travel restrictions but did not do so because the rightful winner of the elections was sworn-in two weeks later.
The PPP/C launched a massive international campaign following the attempt to rig the 2020 elections. And its international advocacy should have continued after the elections to ensure that the travel restrictions are never lifted.
If those who undermined democracy in Guyana in 2020 are allowed to regain their visas to the United States it would be a retrograde step. The international community has taken a principled stand against flouting democracy and has deployed sanctions, including travel sanctions, to deter attempts at rigging elections or unlawfully seizing power. To restore those visas would send the wrong signal.
The United States has not been consistent. Jovenol Moise, the assassinated President of Haiti was no saint. He was flouting constitutional rule by refusing to hold elections and by trying to foist a constitutional reform process so as to continue to administer Haiti by decree. His mandate was achieved in elections in which only 18 percent of the population voted. But it was the US which recognised him and which has to share some responsibility for his descent into authoritarian rule.
When it comes to those guilty of undermining democracy, the US should ensure a permanent deterrence. It should never lift the sanctions against those who are complicit in undermining democracy. Those persons must be permanently banned from entering the United States.
The PPP/C should not relax in keeping up the pressure for a permanent ban to be imposed on the riggers. It should keep up the agitation within the United States to ensure that those who tried to rig the elections are declared as persona non grata in that country.
The PPP/C however seems not too bothered. Its support groups in the United States have also failed to maintain the pressure. It is for this reason that those persons within the United States, who were supporting the rigging of elections in Guyana, have become so emboldened.
The PPP/C should renew the pressure to have the travel restrictions become permanent. It however should recognise that the United States laws will not allow this ban to be indefinite unless there is just cause to do so.
It is therefore for the Irfaan Ali administration to cease its political pussyfooting and to launch the long-awaited Commission of Inquiry into the elections. The hearings can be virtual as this will reduce the costs of having to fly in and provide accommodation and meals for the appointed Commissioners. The Commonwealth and the Caribbean Community should be approached to provide support.
In the meantime, the PPP/C’s support groups in the United States should lobby the US State Department to ensure the continuance of the travel restrictions as a measure of the seriousness with which the US Government towards election rigging.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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