Guyana Situation Report for July 17: Security Survey Results, COVID-19, U.S. Sanctions

Guyana Security Concerns Survey Results

On July 15 we surveyed more than 100 security-minded professionals in Guyana on their top security concerns for the remainder of the year. Voting was anonymous. Although the sample size was small, the obvious consensus behind the top results does help us plan with greater confidence.

The Leading Security Worries

90% of respondents believed “Post-election government instability and performance” and “Risk of popular uprising, including riots & looting” were the top security issues. These two issues are obviously connected, reflecting concerns about electoral legitimacy and local law enforcement’s capability and/or willingness to control a public reaction. The near-unanimity of the results suggest that very few people are confident of a peaceable resolution to the election impasse.

In second place with 80% of votes, COVID-19 ranks as a top security concern. While the SARS-CoV-2 human toll in Guyana is real and tragic, its direct impact on public health has been more muted than experts feared in March 2020. Instead, our collective concern about the pandemic is in its indirect effects on other security issues, namely governmental and police performance, crime, supply chain instability, and the growing Venezuelan diaspora in Regions 1 and 7.

One common thread between those top concerns is the lack of an end point. Caribbean residents know that hurricane season will end after a few months. Conversely, the endless election process and fears of a second wave of the pandemic is making it difficult to plan and allocate our security resources over time.

Violent Crime was cited by 70% of respondents as a major concern. Indeed, it’s hard to ignore arson attacks on government buildings… See our report from the ground below.

Lesser Issues
At the bottom of our collective list of concerns, Getting Good Information is not a problem for most people in Guyana. We believe this reflects the manageable size of the country and strength of informal networks. Drug Trafficking was cited by few of our voters, as was Local Workforce Issues.

 

COVID-19 News

  • On July 13th Guyana recorded 315 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), with 165 recovered cases, and 19 (6%) COVID-19 related deaths to date. There are currently 128 active cases in isolation at various facilities across Guyana and 20 persons in institutional quarantine. The COVID-19 ICU situated in Georgetown Public Hospital is currently housing five patients.
  • An increase in testing across Letham in Region 1, which borders Brazil, saw the highest week on week rise in cases since Guyana’s first recorded case in March. The Moruca area of Region 1 and central Georgetown, Region 4, have the highest concentration of Guyana’s COVID cases.
  • The new Infectious Diseases Hospital which saw the renovation of the Ocean View Hotel to serve as COVID-19 dedicated facility is anticipated to have all remaining works completed by July 17th, 2020. This facility will be fully dedicated to the COVID-19 response and for any other infectious diseases that may arise in the future.
  • The Government has continued its calls for citizens to adhere to the COVID-19 prevention policies set out by the Ministry of Public Health, as members of the public are visibly relaxing their efforts to comply with social distancing, mask wearing, and curfew adherence. Despite repeated press statements reiterating the Ministry of Health COVID-19 policy, there are increased instances of public gatherings along the Georgetown Seawall and pockets of social gatherings occurring late into the evening across the capital.
  • The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has extended the closure of Guyanese airspace to all international arrivals from June 22 to August 1, 2020. Whilst not yet decided, the Head of Security for the GCAA has indicated that the closure may have to be extended to the end of August. For information on the permitted repatriate flights to take place between Guyana and the U.S visit the OSAC website or the U.S Embassy in Guyana Alerts Page
  • The heightened security presence required to maintain stability during the election is visibly straining the Guyana Police Force’s ability to strictly enforce COVID-19 restrictions amid the public. There has been a notable rise in vehicle traffic over the last week, which persists well beyond the 6pm curfew restriction. Public fatigue over the extension of the election process is tangibly adding to a reduced level of risk awareness and virus spread prevention.

Elections

  • It has now been 140 days without a formal declaration of the results of the March 2nd General Elections in Guyana.
  • On the 12th July the CCJ made its ruling with regards to the present elections impasse in the country. In its ruling, the Court ordered that the elections report as issued by the Chief Elections Officer of GEOCOM to the GEOCOM Chairman was to be deemed null and void. The report had indicated a Coalition victory on the basis of what the C.E.O had tabulated and deemed to be only the ‘valid votes’ included from the National Recount Process. Subsequently a case was brought to the CCJ by the Leader of the Opposition, Bharret Jagdeo and the Opposition Presidential Candidate Irfan Ali with the motion that the Guyana Court of Appeal’s ruling had erred in law when it facilitated the CEO to determine which votes he deemed valid. Consequential orders were issued from the CCJ stating that the CEO’s report could not be based on GEOCOM’s own interpretations of ‘valid votes’ – as any such discrepancies would have to be qualified by way of an elections petition. Such a petition would have to take place post the declaration of the total votes cast and recounted in favor of the winning party. View the full CCJ Media release here.
  • The immediate effect of the ruling has seen a rapid escalation in political tension on the ground in Guyana over the last week. Whilst the incumbent Coalition has publicly accepted the CCJ’s decision to take jurisdiction over the matter, their present position is that the CCJ’s ruling has effectively discounted the legal validity of the National Recount process in its entirety. The Coalition is advocating that should the GEOCOM CEO be prevented in issuing his report based on his own interpretation of any observation reports from the recount process that alluded to questions over the integrity of several thousand ballots.
  • It has become readily apparent that the Coalition refuses to concede to any recount figures that do not make adjustments for valid/invalid figures raised as observations during the recount process. Meanwhile, the opposition Peoples Progressive Party/Civic interprets the CCJ ruling as irrefutably supporting their claim to a victory, based on the total amount of votes counted during the recount process. The Opposition is arguing that any claims of electoral discrepancies by the Coalition must be challenged by way of elections petition after a declaration of an Opposition win.
  • After the CCJ ruling the GEOCOM CEO has been requested to resubmit his report, altering the totaling of votes accordingly. Thus far he has refused to make any such alterations in favor of an Opposition Party win (the last report submitted on 13th July reverted to those figures first contested on the March 2nd results) taking back the process an entire 4 months. See the Press Statement from Opposition Party, and the Letter from GEOCOM CEO indicating his questionability of the CCJ ruling, as supported by the Coalition-appointed members of the Elections Commission.
  • There have been strong calls from the international community for the process to be brought to an end, with observers requesting that the results to be declared as per the findings of the National Recount process. Statements issued from the Organization of American States (OAS), The U.S, E.U, Canadian, & U.K Foreign Missions in Guyana, and CARICOM have led to defensive disposition being adopted by the incumbent Government, wishing for the affair to remain under domestic constitutional auspices and scrutiny.
  • The international condemnation of the electoral delays and process escalated significantly after another court case was brought by a Coalition activist which sought an application in the Guyana High Court to prevent GEOCOM from making a declaration of results that would not be aligned with the findings of the Coalition-favored report by the GEOCOM Chief Elections Officer. On the day of the application’s hearing on Wednesday 15th, U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S would be imposing sanctions by way of visa restrictions against persons “undermining democracy in Guyana,” GEOCOM officials, and members of the Judiciary deemed to be preventing the free and fair conclusions of the 2020 National Elections.
  • Following the U.S. State Department’s announcement of the visa restrictions, the U.K advanced personal sanctions in line with the State Department policy, and statements to that effect were issued by U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of the St Vincent and the Grenadines, the current CARICOM Chairman, remains in vocal opposition to the Coalition’s refusal to concede the elections prior to a formal declaration being made by the GECOM Chairwoman Claudette Singh.
  • The impasse looks set to continue indefinitely with another Coalition supporters’ court motion being filed at the High Court, seeking punitive against the GECOM Chairman and its Commissioners for failing to announce a declaration of the elections results in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana.

Security News

  • The last few days have witnessed several targeted arson attacks against Government buildings in different Regions of Guyana. Targets included:
    • July 10: An arson attack on a building in Cummings Lodge, East Coast Demerara left 3 fatalities and 28 people homeless.
    • July 12: A fire at Lusignan Prison, located 20 minutes from Georgetown in the East Coast Demerara regions, burnt down a large section of the facility that required 284 inmates to be rehoused in emergency facilities and transferred to alternative prisons. Two days later, it was determined that 300 prisoners from Lusignan prison would be made eligible for early release due to COVID-19 pandemic risk mitigation measures advised by the Ministry of Health.
    • July 14: An army base lodging facility in Region 3, Essequibo
    • July 14: A GEOCOM office in Region 10, Linden was burnt to the grounds
    • July 14: There were failed arson attempts on the Guyana Police Force CID outpost in Region 3 Essequibo, and the Amerindian national heritage site, Umana Yana, in Kingston, Georgetown.
  • There is a rise in robberies involving victims targeted at money exchanges who are followed and then accosted at their place of residence. Combined with a shortage of ATM banknote availability, this continues to make remittance collection and cash collection a high-risk activity for both citizens and expats operating in Georgetown. Daylight street robberies with civilians being targeted by gun and knife-wielding criminals are becoming a frequent occurrence. These are relatively low value robberies where mobile phones, handbags and small sums of cash ($100-$200) are being seized from persons outside of their homes, in busy streets, and on the outskirts of Georgetown.
  • We have seen a significant rise in road traffic accidents year on date, even as the country is ostensibly under an essential-travel only policy and curfew. Accidents have increased 35% so far in 2020, with a 31% increase in road traffic deaths. Many of these accidents have occurred outside of the stipulated curfew time of 6am-6pm. Car travel in the capital remains a high risk for expats and we recommended careful selection when considering the use of public taxis.
  • Adding to security concerns surrounding road travel is a notable deterioration in the upkeep of traffic lights in the city, which have been the targets of thieves removing the batteries from lights servicing main junctions. Recent power infrastructure damage caused by storms have also impacted the visibility on roads from the Airports, central Georgetown, and along the East Coast public road.
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