President Ali, US Secretary of State discuss governance, security, natural resources

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, touched down at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri on Thursday afternoon, after which he met with President Dr Irfaan Ali at State House, Main Street, Georgetown, where they held “candid” discussions on a number of areas.

US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo and his entourage making their way to Georgetown after landing at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (Mike Charles Photo)

Secretary Pompeo arrived in Guyana just after 17:00h, and was welcomed by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd and U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch.
The Secretary of State and his delegation, which included acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Affairs at the U.S. State Department, Michael Kozak, were escorted to State House. There, President Ali and First Lady Arya Ali welcomed Secretary Pompeo and members of the US delegation, and hosted them to dinner.
Also present were members of Cabinet and other Government officials.
Secretary Pompeo tweeted, “Honored to sit down with President Irfaan Ali tonight. I welcomed the opportunity to candidly discuss governance, citizen security, and leveraging Guyana’s wealth of natural resources to provide for its future.”
In an earlier post on the social media platform upon his arrival in Guyana, the Senior US Government official had said he was looking forward to working with the “democratically” Ali-led administration.
“What a pleasure to be in Guyana, the “land of many waters.” We enjoy a strong relationship with Guyana, and look forward to working with the new democratically elected government to expand prosperity and security for our people,” he reaffirmed in a tweet.
Pompeo had played a prominent role in pushing for democracy in Guyana during the tumultuous five months after the March 2 elections. In fact, back in July, he had announced visa restrictions against Guyanese officials responsible for undermining democracy here.
Secretary Pompeo, who is the highest-ranking US Government official to have ever visited Guyana, will focus on the United States’ commitment to defend democracy, combat COVID-19 while revitalising economies in the pandemic’s wake, and strengthening security against regional threats.
During his two-day stay, he is expected to sign a bilateral Shiprider Agreement that would enable joint maritime and airspace patrols to interdict narcotics trade. This is supported by recent donations of US$200,000 in equipment and interceptor boat parts to strengthen Guyana’s ability to patrol its territorial waters.
Also on the agenda is the signing of a ‘Growth in the Americas’ Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which will draw more US private sector investment to build Guyana’s physical infrastructure, energy sector, and digital economy; and to do so transparently while respecting Guyana’s sovereignty.
In addition to Government officials, Secretary Pompeo is expected to meet with Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, to discuss US-Caribbean issues; and he is scheduled to meet with the oil companies operating in Guyana.
Pompeo’s tour of the Western Hemisphere began in Suriname on Thursday, before he came to Guyana. He is scheduled to depart Georgetown on Friday for Boa Vista, Brazil, and then he would travel to Colombia before flying back to the US, where he would wrap up his tour in Texas.
In a bilateral Fact Sheet published by the Department of State, it was noted that the US-Guyana diplomatic relationship is more than 50 years old, and the cultural ties between the two countries is exemplified by the thousands of Guyanese in the diaspora, who call the US their home.
The US has said its support for Guyana’s recent presidential elections, including its fielding of electoral observation missions, was crucial to ensuring that the election was free, fair, credible, and transparent, and reflective of the will of the Guyanese people.
“We stand together with diverse population of Guyana, as inclusive and transparent governance will be key to building a sustainable future,” the Fact Sheet states.
To this end, the State Department said the US is committed to helping Guyana build an attractive investment climate with the right regulations and protections in place.
Currently, the US is the primary source of Guyana’s imports, worth more than Gy$2 billion.
The US has supported the development of Guyana’s energy sector through technical partnership on best practices for energy sector policy, regulation, and revenue management. In fact, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance supports training and development within the Guyana Revenue Authority’s Large Taxpayer Division. These recommendations will help Guyana develop its natural resource wealth in a way that benefits the Guyanese people.
Moreover, US agencies, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID, are administering a multi-million-dollar regional programme of education, prevention, and treatment for those infected and affected by COVID-19, and are contributing to the country’s healthcare capacity.
Only recently, the United States Southern Command provided US$135,000 of personal protective equipment to the various hospitals in Georgetown and Guyana’s interior, and will continue to provide COVID-19 assistance as needed and requested.
Guyana has also benefited from assistance from the US in the area of security. Through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), Guyanese law enforcement officers received training in the areas of professionalisation, enhancing the rule of law, and countering trans-national crime.
Recent assistance has focused on enhanced training for crime scene investigators, forensic video analysis, trial advocacy, and the development of a curriculum for continuing education programmes for magistrates; in addition to training prosecutors and magistrates on implementing Maritime Security Law. This has led to an increase in criminal prosecutions and convictions, as well as an increase in the speed of adjudications.
Moreover, the Department of State has helped to train Guyana’s Port Control Unit to deter the trafficking of cocaine and other illicit goods through Guyana. The United States Coast Guard provides training and mentoring to the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) in order to improve port security. Additionally, the US military provides training for Guyana Defence Force personnel every year, which includes a current student at the US Coast Guard Academy.