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GUYANA hires US lobby firm to focus on business, democracy, regional stability

Featured Vice President Bharat Jagdeo on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Vice President Bharat Jagdeo on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, January 13, 2021 - Eyebrows are being raised and questions asked, over a revelation by Demerara Waves that the Irfaan Ali administration has hired a US$25,000 dollars a month Washington DC based consulting firm, The Cormac Group LLC, to lobby the US Congress, other key US agencies, and international financial organisations, to impress upon them the importance of doing business with Guyana and preserving democracy.

The questions bring raised include the conditions under which the overseas firm was engaged. In addition, whether an invitation for bids had been placed in the required public information thoroughfare such as newspaper publications by the requisite department.

Questions are also being asked  whether the appointed lobby firm was the subject of a required government procurement process from which it was the successful bidder.

When contacted, the main opposition APNU/AFC was not prepared to comment but noted that the party would shortly be in a position to speak on the matter as investigations are ongoing.

Demerara Waves quotes the filing with the United States (US) Department of Justice, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), as indicating that "Guyana is paying the Washington DC-based The Cormac Group LLC US$25,000 per month and reimbursable out-of-pocket expenses of up to US$4,500 per month. The contract is for six months expiring on June 28, 2021," the Demerara Waves article said.

The Cormac Group has agreed to, “inform key members oft he U.S. Congress, especially those with interest or responsibility for Western Hemisphere affairs, trade, and economic development, about the importance of increasing US cooperation with the Guyanese government, and thus contribute to democracy, stability, and prosperity in the region.”

The agreement was signed on December 28, 2020 by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Elisabeth Harper and James Link of the  Cormac Group. The new contract with Guyana describes Otto Reich Associates as a joint venture firm with The Cormac Group.

Under the accord,  Link and Jose Cardenas of the Cormac Group, and its joint venture partner Otto Reich Associates, LLC, will oversee activities relating to this engagement. Services and related decisions will be determined and conducted in close consultation with the Guyana Embassy Washington and such other designated officials of the Foreign Affairs Ministry appointed within one month of the execution of this Agreement.

The two firms teamed up last year to lobby for the International Center for Democracy, a New York outfit close to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in the presidential race pitting PPP candidate Irfaan Ali against incumbent President David Granger. Mercury Public Affairs also lobbied for the PPP until last July.

Mercury Public Affairs had also reportedly done exceptional lobbying for the PPP among the Republican members of the now outgoing administration of President Donald Trump. Democrat, Joe Biden is scheduled to be sworn in on January 20, and already Guyana’s opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) has indicated that it would seek the support of the Biden administration to help unseat the PPP from office.

Ali was sworn in in August after a bitter electoral recount that included dueling lobbying operations in Washington.

The documents filed with the Justice Department show that the Cormac Group has committed to work with Guyana’s foreign policy and economic development team to develop specific political, economic, and communications strategy plans designed to promote the agenda and image of the Guyana Government among policy stakeholders in Washington, D.C.  Cormac said it would also help the Foreign Ministry to develop key messages “that resonate with influential leaders.” The American lobbyists also intend to engage the Washington-based public policy community, such as “Think Tanks,” and nongovernmental organizations. The Cormac Group would also engage with selected members of the media to cover the importance of Guyana to democracy and stability in the region.

“The proposed Scope of Work is ambitious, but it reflects the agenda we have followed in the past with other clients. It is understood that we would not undertake all actions simultaneously, and that some are of much higher priority than others, but I wanted to share our plan with you,” Mr. Link told Ms. Harper.

Agencies to be targeted  include relevant US government agencies and departments; international organizations and financial institutions such as the Organization of American States, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank; and the Washington-based public policy community. The C0rmac Group is also expected to primarily but not limited to the White House, National Security Council,
Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Defense, and other relevant Executive Branch.

Foreign Lobby reports that the Cormac Group’s associates have helped to lobby for  now President Irfaan Ali through a People’s Progressive Party (PPP) front group.

Registered on the account are Cormac Group partner James Link and consultants Otto Reich and Jose Cardenas. Link is a former aide to then-Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and then-Reps. Dick Cheney (R-Wyo.) and William Dickinson (R-Ala.). Reich notably served as assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under President George W. Bush and is the founder of Florida-based Otto Reich Associates; Cardenas served as acting assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at the US Agency for International Development, also under Bush.

  • Countries: Guyana
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