Americas, Elections, Top Stories

Lobbyists paint Guyana opposition as anti-US amid pressure to concede defeat

Lobbyists for Guyana’s ruling party have begun painting the opposition as dangerous leftists allied with US foes in Latin America amid growing pressure to concede defeat.

Washington lobby firm JJ&B, which represents President David Granger‘s APNU + AFC coalition, penned an op-ed in the conservative Washington Examiner on Friday arguing that the Donald Trump administration should be in no rush to join international calls for Granger’s ouster. In the piece, titled “Guyana election battle matters to the US,” JJ&B partner and registered lobbyist Bart Fisher argues that the rival People’s Progressive Party (PPP) showed an “anti-American, pro-Chinese” bias during its 1992 to 2015 rule and was close to Venezuelan leaders Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.

“The last thing the U.S. needs now is a pro-Venezuela leftist narco-state in its hemisphere,” Fisher wrote.

A week earlier, JJ&B distributed a decade-old Reuters article about the country’s plans to have Iran help map its mineral deposits including uranium which the AFC opposed at the time. The article was sent to the office of Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, lobbying records indicate.

“It’s not extraneous to point out what [the PPP’s] track record is or had been in the 20 years it was in power before 2015,” Fisher told Foreign Lobby Report.

The opposition for its part has retained its own share of lobbyists to press its claims.

The latest to join the fray is former State Department Western Hemisphere official Otto Reich, a noted hawk who will be hard to paint as being soft on Venezuela or Iran. Reich’s Florida-based Otto Reich Associates is registered to lobby as a subcontractor for Washington’s Cormac Group, which lobbies for the International Center for Democracy, a New York nonprofit close to the opposition.

The messaging effort comes as the Guyana is in the midst of a controversial recount following disputed March elections.

The country’s top elections official, Keith Lowenfield, says there have been allegations of irregularities in multiple districts in the March elections. JJ&B forwarded those reports to the offices of Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Western Hemisphere and the State Department Office of Caribbean Affairs last week.

International observers however say the recount failed to identify massive fraud.

“The actual count of the vote was indeed transparent,” the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said in a report last week. The Organization of American States (OAS) has followed suit and called on Granger to hand over power to allow “the legitimately elected government to take its place.”

As the recount saga continues to play out in Guyana, JJ&B’s Fisher took solace in his op-ed from comments by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), the co-chair of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus, warning against outside interference in the election process.

“We are maintaining our position that GECOM (the Guyana Elections Commission) must be free to do its job without the interference of any group so that we can from this [process] get a free and fair election,” Clarke said in a June 12 interview, before CARICOM and OAS issued their statements. “We are monitoring from the congressional side all of the various players that are either interfering or trying to put their thumbs on the scale of the elections in Guyana.”