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Relations with Venezuela remained tense after latter’s December referendum on disputed territory, despite agreement to avoid hostile acts.
Venezuelan govt 3 Dec held referendum on policy toward contested Essequibo area, oil-rich region currently administered by Guyana. Voters answered affirmatively to all five questions on ballot, with authorities saying 10.5mn people participated. Caracas claimed binding mandate for non-recognition of International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction and creation of new Venezuelan state in disputed territory, ratcheting up tensions with its neighbour. Venezuelan President Maduro and President Ali 14 Dec met in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines under auspices of CELAC and CARICOM regional bodies and in presence of UN, Brazilian and Colombian representatives; parties agreed not to “threaten or use force” and to establish joint commission to mutually “address matters” and report within three months. UK 24 Dec announced its warship would visit Guyana 29-31 Dec, however, prompting Venezuela 28 Dec to hold military exercises near disputed waters.
Tensions with Venezuela ran high over December referendum on disputed territory.
Tensions between Georgetown and Caracas spiked as latter prepared for 3 Dec referendum on contested Essequibo area, oil-rich region currently administered by Guyana. Plebiscite will ask Venezuelans if they agree to reject International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) jurisdiction over region, create state called Guayana Esequiba and grant its population Venezuelan citizenship. Guyana continued to protest referendum, claiming Maduro govt seeks to use vote to justify region’s “annexation”. VP Jagdeo 23 Nov said U.S. defence officials would visit country late Nov.
Tensions flared up with Venezuela over disputed oil-rich territory. Venezuelan National Assembly 7 Jan rejected last month’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that court has jurisdiction to hear suit brought by Guyana over demarcation of its land border with Venezuela; ruling over Essequibo province, which is controlled and administered by Guyana but has long been claimed by Venezuela, may ultimately determine which country has rights to oil and gas fields off Essequibo. Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro same day vowed to “reconquer” disputed province and announced creation of new maritime territory dubbed “strategic zone of national development” in area that Guyana says encompasses its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. Regional bloc Caribbean Community 12 Jan said it “firmly repudiates any acts of aggression by Venezuela against Guyana” and supports “maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana”. Guyana and U.S. 8 Jan started joint coast guard exercise off Essequibo, and commander of U.S. Southern Command 11 Jan arrived in Guyana for three-day visit. Govt 23 Jan accused Venezuelan navy of intercepting two fishing vessels in Guyana’s territorial waters and detaining 12 fishermen 21 Jan, condemned “wanton act of aggression”; Venezuela 25 Jan said fishermen were detained in Venezuela’s waters, issued warning against further “illegal incursions” into its territory, saying it will exercise “sacred right to defend [its] sovereignty”.
Ethnic clashes erupted between Indo- and Afro-Guyanese communities. Suspected Indo-Guyanese assailants 5 Sept killed two Afro-Guyanese teenagers in Number Three village in predominantly Indo-Guyanese Mahaica-Berbice region in north east; incident followed conclusion in Aug of election standoff that divided electorate along ethnic lines. Hundreds of Afro-Guyanese in following days took to streets across Mahaica-Berbice, reportedly attacking Indo-Guyanese homes, businesses and individuals; police 7 Sept fired teargas and bullets at protesters in Mahaica-Berbice and neighbouring Demerara-Mahaica region, leaving several injured. Police 6-9 Sept detained seven individuals suspected of involvement in killings of Afro-Guyanese teenagers. Unidentified assailants 9 Sept killed Indo-Guyanese teenager, grandson of suspect in custody, in Number Three Village. Afro-Guyanese protesters same day beat Indo-Guyanese man to death in Bath Settlement, Mahaica-Berbice, after he opened fire at them. Former President Granger 7 Sept voiced support for protests, while President Ali same day urged de-escalation and vowed to take “strong” action against those fuelling racial hatred. Guyana Human Rights Association 8 Sept said killings were “a continuation of earlier ethnic upheaval”.
Opposition candidate was sworn in as president following months of political standoff over election results. After Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield submitted final report on March presidential election, Electoral Commission Chair Claudette Singh 2 Aug declared opposition People’s Progressive Party presidential candidate Irfaan Ali winner; Ali was sworn in same day, after months of post-electoral crisis marked by court actions, vote recount, and intervention by regional bloc Caribbean Community. Outgoing President Granger immediately acknowledged declaration of results, but vowed to challenge it in court, citing “significant anomalies and irregularities”; Granger’s Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU-AFC) 31 Aug filed election petition in High Court, asking it to cancel polls and order fresh elections within 90 days.
Political standoff over results of March general election deepened amid protests. Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) 8 July declared invalid Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield’s June final report on elections, which gave incumbent President Granger’s Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU-AFC) the win; CCJ same day ordered Lowenfield to submit final election report based on electoral commission (GECOM)’s national recount of votes, which declared opposition leader Irfaan Ali’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP) the winner; Lowenfield 11 July submitted unaltered version of report. Dozens of APNU-AFC supporters 13 July protested in front of GECOM’s building in capital Georgetown; suspected arson attack 14 July severely damaged GECOM’s office in Linden city in north east. U.S. Sec State Pompeo 15 July urged President Granger to “step aside” and announced visa restrictions on “individuals responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Guyana”. APNU-AFC 21 July said it would not accept final report based on vote recount result; in response, former president and PPP supporter Bharrat Jagdeo 23 July warned Granger’s refusal to leave office would be tantamount to coup d’état and meet “fierce resistance”. Court of Appeal 30 July reaffirmed Lowenfield must submit final report based on GECOM’s vote recount. U.S. same day imposed travel restrictions on additional senior officials, citing Granger’s refusal to accept vote recount result.
Deadlock over results of March general elections persisted. Electoral commission 7 June released preliminary results of national recount of votes, giving opposition leader Irfaan Ali’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP) as winner; incumbent President Granger’s Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU-AFC) next day said it would go to court to challenge vote recount result and accused PPP of electoral fraud. Electoral Commission chairperson 16 June ordered Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield to submit final report on elections based on results of recount; final report 23 June invalidated over 115,000 votes and declared ruling APNU-AFC as winner; regional bloc Caribbean Community next day expressed concern over report, saying it “does not reflect the results of the recount process”. In joint statement, U.S., UK, Canada and EU 24 June emphasised “every vote, cast by every voter” must be reflected in final declaration of election results.
Political standoff that arose from 2 March general elections persisted as electoral commission (GECOM) failed to finalise modalities of national recount process. After country’s Supreme Court late March authorised national recount of votes, Court of Appeal 5 April ruled GECOM rather than regional bloc Caribbean Community (CARICOM) must supervise process. GECOM 29 April said electoral recount would start when CARICOM electoral observer team arrives in capital Georgetown in coming days.
Political standoff emerged after 2 March general elections, fuelling opposition protests which left at least one dead. Following vote, both incumbent President Granger’s Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU-AFC), relying on Afro-Guyanese community, and opposition leader Irfaan Ali’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP), supported by former President Jagdeo and Indo-Guyanese community claimed victory. Electoral commission 5 March released preliminary results giving APNU-AFC as winner; PPP same day accused electoral commission of altering results in country’s populous Region Four in favour of Granger and secured injunction against declaration of unverified results. In following days, sporadic violence pitting opposition supporters against security forces left at least one dead and several injured. Court 8 March blocked electoral commission from announcing final results and 11 March ordered recount of votes in Region Four. Without waiting for recount, electoral commission 13 March declared APNU-AFC as winner of Region Four. In joint statement, U.S., Canada, UK and EU 13 March said they would not recognise results; Organization of American States same day withdrew its observer mission, citing lack of transparency of electoral process. After both sides 15 March agreed to national recount overseen by regional bloc Caribbean Community (CARICOM), court issued temporary injunction blocking recount.
Country voted peacefully 28 August in presidential and parliamentary elections amid stepped-up security, after fears ethnic violence might mar polls. Incumbent candidate Jagdeo made strong showing in early results.
Fears raised of political violence in lead-up to 28 August presidential and legislative elections. Leading opposition party PNC voiced concerns over potential election fraud but OAS expects “free and fair” polls.
Agriculture minister shot dead at his home 22 April in latest in string of political murders; president called killing “attempt to destabilise our democracy”.
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