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US democracy in Guyana project on hold for talks

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — A U.S.-funded program aimed at improving the democratic process in Guyana has been suspended amid complaints from the South American government, officials said Thursday.

The Leadership and Democracy Project will be put on hold while U.S. and Guyanese officials discuss the scope and intention of the program. Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon and U.S. Ambassador Brendt Hardt announced the suspension at a joint news conference in Georgetown.

The ambassador said the United States was "prepared to modify and adjust" the program based upon its discussions with Guyanese officials.

U.S. officials have said the program, funded with $1.25 million over two years from the U.S. Agency for International Development, is intended to promote consensus-building in the politically divided country. It would involve, among other things, public education efforts aimed at encouraging democratic participation, especially by women and young people, and helping support long-delayed local elections in the country.

The ambassador said he expected the project to resume.

"I am confident we can find a way forward for the LEAD program," Hardt said. "My confidence is buoyed by the knowledge that the LEAD projects fits firmly within the framework agreements previously reached between our governments within the 2009 USAID assistance agreement."

Supporters of Guyana's president, Donald Ramotar, questioned whether the program was being used to support his political adversaries in the opposition-controlled National Assembly and accused the U.S. of being intentionally vague about the effort.

The government said last month that it revoked the work permit of the program director, Glen Bradbury. He remains in the country.

Luncheon said the government wants input into the design and implementation of the program.

"We have achieved what we sought, which was to have the implementation of the project put on hold while we re-engage in talks," he said.

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