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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Kennedy Administration > Volume XII
Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Volume XII, American Republics
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 241-273

British Guiana

241. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Georgetown, February 16, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana--Jagan. Confidential. No drafting information appears on the source text. Transmitted to the Department of State as enclosure 5 to despatch 96.

His Excellency Sir Ralph Grey, K.C.M.G., Governor of British Guiana
Mr. Rockwood H. Foster, West Indies Desk Officer, Department of State
Mr. Everett K. Melby

Mr. Foster called on the Governor of British Guiana on Thursday, February 16, and was later entertained at lunch by him.

In a brief discussion of the political situation in British Guiana before lunch, the Governor asked whether Mr. Foster had had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Jagan and then proceeded to give some of his own views on him and other B.G. political leaders.

The Governor throughout tended to minimize, if not discount, the view that Jagan was a communist. [1 line of source text not declassified] and his greatest weakness was his lack of appreciation of the responsibility of public office and his capacity to administer effectively [4-1/2 lines of source text not declassified].

Whatever the reasons for it, Sir Ralph said that in British Guiana politicians are forever looking for excuses why they cannot do something; it is the only country he knew in which a plausible excuse for inaction was an acceptable substitute for action.

As far as his Government was concerned, its primary objective was to leave the country as capable as possible to run its own affairs when it becomes independent. The U.K. has fully accepted the fact that the days when it can run British Guiana are over and it would like to get out of the business of running the country as gracefully and honorably as possible. He spoke of this as an obligation which was being discharged with no particular pleasure, implying that the U.K. had never had much out of the colony (though certain interests, of course, had made handsome economic profits), and that he did not feel it had the natural potential to compete successfully as an independent country with other former colonial areas of the U.K. Sir Ralph stated later in the meeting that B.G. in its present condition was hardly a good showpiece for what the old imperialism" either had accomplished or was capable of accomplishing.

242. Special National Intelligence Estimate/1/

SNIE 87.2-61

Washington, March 21, 1961.

/1/Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 79-R01012A, ODDI Registry. Secret. A note on the cover sheets indicates that this SNIE was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Joint Staff, and concurred in by all members of the U.S. Intelligence Board on March 21 except the representative of the AEC and the Assistant Director of the FBI, who abstained because the subject was outside their jurisdiction.


The Problem

To estimate the political situation and prospects in British Guiana, with particular reference to the coming elections and Communist potential in the colony.

The Estimate

1. British Guiana is a small outpost of empire with a population of over half a million, about half East Indian in origin and about a third of African descent. The remainder of the population includes small numbers of British, Portuguese, native Indian, and Chinese residents. Partially selfgoverning since elections in 1957, the colony is scheduled to assume increased responsibilities for its own affairs following new elections on 21 August 1961 and, if all goes well, to gain full independence two or three years thereafter.

2. The politics of British Guiana is dominated by the Communist led People's Progressive Party (PPP) of Cheddi Jagan. Jagan is an East Indian, and his party draws its support almost entirely from East Indians, including not only poverty stricken rural and urban workers, but also a considerable number of small businessmen in Georgetown and other centers. Jagan's US born wife, who exercises very strong influence over him, is an acknowledged Communist. She shares with Jagan control of the PPP, and is a government minister. Several other PPP leaders are believed to be Communists. Jagan himself is not an acknowledged Communist, but his statements and actions over the years bear the marks of the indoctrination and advice the Communists have given him. While there is no Communist party per se in British Guiana, a number of the leaders in the PPP have been members of, or associated with, Communist parties or their front groups in the US and the UK.

3. Moreover, these individual leaders maintain sporadic courier and liaison contacts with the British and US Communists and with Communist Bloc missions in London. Both Jagans have visited Cuba in the past year and have since chosen to identify the PPP with Castro's cause. However, neither the Communist Bloc nor Castro has made any vigorous effort to exploit the British Guiana situation.

4. The principal opposition to Jagan's party is the People's National Congress (PNC), a socialist party made up largely of city negroes. It is under the ineffectual leadership of Forbes Burnham, a negro and a doctrinaire socialist. Like most British Guiana politicians he was at one time allied with Jagan, and indeed was second to Jagan in leadership of the PPP. The United Force (UF), a party made up largely from businessmen of various ethnic groups, was recently organized and has not demonstrated any wide popular appeal. Neither it nor the PNC is disposed to work with the other to present Jagan with a united opposition; previous efforts at coalition have failed.

5. The elections scheduled for August 1961 will be one of the last steps preparatory to independence, which the British have agreed to grant approximately 18 months after The West Indies achieves independence in 1962 or 1963. With the next elections not due for another five years, the winning party in this year's contest will carry the government through independence. During the transition period, the local British officials will retain ultimate authority for external affairs (including defense), but their present overall veto power will be narrowed to these matters. After the elections, the local government will assume full control of the police.

6. The election seems likely to hinge mainly on personalities and to be decided by voting along ethnic lines though racial antagonisms have not been deliberately stirred up. Social and economic problems, though they will certainly be issues in the election, have not yet made as much popular impact in British Guiana as they have in most of the Latin American area. The PPP has promised to put through various schemes of economic development, but has been ineffectual in fulfilling its promises, partly through lack of technicians and funds. It wants to get more money out of the US developed bauxite resources of the country. The good rice crop of the past year has made the economic situation seem improved and for the time being has tended not only to obscure PPP shortcomings, but even to redound to the party's credit. The PNC stands for anticommunism and the desirability of joining The West Indies (in contrast to Jagan's anti-federation stance), but these are not popular issues. The UF's appeal against communism and for a businessman's government is even less effective.

7. Of the 35 districts from which members of the Legislative Council will be elected next August, the PPP appears certain of victory in 13; the PNC, in 15 or 16. Thus, control of the government will be determined by the electoral outcome in a half dozen or so of the 35 districts. A PNC-UF coalition could take enough of these to assure itself a majority in the Legislative Council; but it is unlikely that such a coalition will be formed. Without such cooperation between the opposition parties, Jagan is almost certain to win in most of the pivotal districts. Accordingly, we believe that Jagan's PPP will probably succeed in winning the right to form the next government.

8. From time to time Jagan has threatened to boycott the elections, on the grounds that a redrawing of the boundaries of electoral districts, carried out by a British appointed commissioner, was adverse to PPP interests. We think it highly unlikely that he will carry out his threat; and certainly he will not do so unless he believes his party is going to lose the elections.

9. Jagan's election as Chief Minister in the pre-independence phase would not be likely to result in a dramatic and sudden shift to the left, since he would probably seek to avoid action which would discourage the granting of independence by the British and recognizes that he would lack sufficient support for a revolutionary attempt to force the British out. He is almost certainly mindful of the effectiveness with which the British moved in with force in 1953, when they feared he might try to set up a Communist regime.

10. However, with a new electoral mandate, Jagan will probably make a more determined effort to improve economic conditions than he has heretofore. This will entail pressure on the UK and the US for economic assistance considerably above present levels. If he feels that economic aid from the West is not adequate to fulfill requirements for development, he will go elsewhere being careful not to provoke the British. He has already indicated interest in an alleged Cuban offer of an $8.5 million low-interest loan. At the same time, he may threaten nationalization or confiscation of foreign and local businesses to extract additional revenues and benefits.

11. How far a Jagan government might go after eventual achievement of independence is obscured by uncertainty about the nature and extent of his actual commitment to Communist discipline and about the tactical aims of the Bloc with respect to British Guiana. We believe that British Guiana will obtain membership in the UN upon independence, and that it will align itself under Jagan with Afro Asian neutralism and anti-colonialism. At a minimum, we would expect his government to be assertively nationalistic, sympathetic to Cuba, and prepared to enter into economic and diplomatic relations with the Bloc, although such a government would probably still be influenced by the desire to obtain economic help from the UK and the US. A good deal will depend on how far the spirit of social revolution has spread in nearby areas of Latin America. We think it unlikely that Jagan would give up his opposition to joining the federation of The West Indies (TWI), which would offer few economic rewards and would subordinate his regime to outside and predominantly conservative influences.

12. It is possible that Jagan, once he had a free hand, would proceed forthwith with an effort to establish an avowed Communist regime. However, we believe that he would consider this undesirable, even if he were fully committed to eventual establishment of such a state, in view of the lack of trained cadres in British Guiana, the territory's primitive state of political and social development, and the likelihood of adverse international reactions. We consider it more likely that an independent Jagan government would seek to portray itself as an instrument of reformist nationalism which would gradually move in the direction of Castro's Cuba. Such a regime would almost certainly be strongly encouraged and supported by Castro and the Bloc.

13. Before independence, the attitude and actions of the British will bear heavily on the situation in British Guiana. Thus far the British seem to have been motivated chiefly by a desire to see British Guiana independent. They have tried to get along with Jagan and to overlook his Communist associations because he has seemed to them the only man capable of running the country. Since their intervention in 1953 to halt Jagan's first bid for power, they have refrained from actions which would antagonize him; the Governor's veto power has never been used. Even though they retain the capability for controlling Jagan, we believe they will do little to interfere with political developments in British Guiana.

243. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Battle) to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, May 19, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, May 19-Aug. 23, 1961. Secret. Two typed notes by Bromley Smith appear at the bottom of the source text: Mr Battle: I have not yet tied up this loose end. Before I do, has time altered your recommendation? 7/17" and 8/1 Mr. Goodwin: Where is this subject now being discussed--in the Task Force?"

British Guiana

The draft record of actions at the NSC meeting of May 5, 1961 contains the following:

"5. U.S. Policy Toward British Guiana

Agreed that the Task Force on Cuba would consider what can be done in cooperation with the British to forestall a communist takeover in that country."

The Department of State has been actively working with the British on this question for some weeks. In the discussion between Secretary Rusk and Lord Home at which the Acting Secretary was present on April 6, the following interchange occurred on British Guiana.

Mr. White reported that at the present time a joint appraisal of the situation in British Guiana is taking place in London. Later in the month Sir Ralph Grey, the Governor, and Mr. MacKintosh, of the Colonial Office, are passing through Washington. At that time we are to consider possible programs. Sir Frederick frankly conceded that the UK does not know what to do about the U.S. concerns about British Guiana. Lord Home thought they could give us a note on the problem. Mr. White commented we were familiar with the Colonial Office's views and that the UK is committed to a date for British Guiana's independence. Mr. Kohler observed a fixed independence date was all right assuming there will be a reasonable government at that date. Isn't there some way we could encourage the moderates? Ambassador Caccia felt the Jagans provided the most responsible leadership in the country and they would be difficult to supplant. Mr. White stressed that we ought to work in the direction of getting the people in British Guiana interested in British Guiana's joining the Federation. Lord Home agreed and said the UK would like to see British Guiana in the Federation and would be willing to consult with us to further them in this direction."

Subsequent to that discussion arrangements were made for a high level meeting in London between Colonial Secretary MacLeod and Under Secretary Fraser on the British side and Ambassador Bruce aided by Ivan White and Jack Bell on the American side. This conference is to be held on May 26 and 27. In addition to discussing federation matters it is planned to examine the situation in British Guiana with a view to coming up with a jointly approved program. [5 lines of source text not declassified]

The Acting Secretary agrees with the Bureau of European Affairs' request that the responsibility for the preparation of recommendations on British Guiana be transferred from the Task Force on Cuba to the committee on which you both serve.

Melvin L. Manfull/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that indicates Manfull signed above Battle's typed signature.

244. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Rusk, at Paris/1/

Washington, August 5, 1961, 2:55 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, May 19-Aug. 23, 1961. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by U. Alexis Johnson, cleared in substance in INR, and approved by Johnson and William C. Burdett. The first paragraph was cleared in substance by Schlesinger in the White House. Repeated to London eyes only for the Charge.

Tosec 8. President suggests that if suitable opportunity presents itself you may desire briefly express to Lord Home our continued concern over forthcoming election in British Guiana which presently seems likely will result in Jagan victory.

FYI. President briefly raised matter with Macmillan in April and you discussed it with Lord Home. Subsequently Ivan White and Ambassador Bruce raised matter with McLeod. However British have not been willing to undertake any operation or permit us undertake operation to prevent Jagan victory and generally take view that Jagan is probably salvagable." While now too late undertake any meaningful action prior to election August 21 and alternatives to Jagan not attractive or strong, suggest your remarks to Home might pave way for more meaningful future U.S.U.K. cooperation on problem.

Also FYI. At Senator Dodd's request Alex Johnson is seeing him Monday with respect his August 3 letter addressed to you expressing hope some action will be possible in this situation before we have another Castro regime in Latin America".


245. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, August 11, 1961, 7:14 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, May 19-Aug. 23, 1961. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Rusk.

708. For Ambassador Bruce from Secretary. Due to extreme shortness of time I have today given Lord Hood a letter to Lord Home of which following is text:

Dear Alex: There was one matter of deep concern to us which I find that I did not take up with you in Paris. This has to do with the forthcoming elections in British Guiana and the prospect that Jagan may have a working majority in the new government.

My colleague Ivan White went to London at the end of May to discuss this matter with your colleague Mr. McLeod and others. Although your and our information about Jagan seems to be much the same, as is to be expected from our close collaboration, I believe that our estimates may differ somewhat about the man himself and the implications of his future leadership in British Guiana. No doubt you would expect us to show considerable sensitivity about the prospect of Castroism in the Western Hemisphere and that we are not inclined to give people like Jagan the same benefit of the doubt which was given two or three years ago to Castro himself. However, we do believe that Jagan and his American wife are very far to the left indeed and that his accession to power in British Guiana would be a most troublesome setback in this Hemisphere.

Would you be willing to have this looked into urgently to see whether there is anything which you or we can do to forestall such an eventuality? Even if the electoral result was sufficiently confusing to lay the basis for another election, this could give us a little more time. But the difference in four or five seats in the new legislature might well be decisive.

Since this question is, as I understand it, largely one for the Colonial Office at this stage, I am taking the liberty of urging you to have a look because of the foreign policy ramifications of a Jagan victory. It would cause us acute embarrassments with inevitable irritations to AngloAmerican relations. I do not refer in this last point to official circles but to problems of public and Congressional opinion. Cordially yours, Dean Rusk."


246. Message From Foreign Secretary Home to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

London, August 18, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, May 19-Aug. 23, 1961. Secret.

Dear Dean, Thank you for your message of the 11th of August/2/ about the elections which are to be held in British Guiana next Monday. Your people and ours have looked very carefully into the possibilities of taking action to influence the results of the election. You may recall that your Ambassador went over the whole ground with Fraser not long ago. I am convinced that there is nothing practical i.e., safe and effective that we could do in this regard and that if we tried anything of this kind, we should only make matters worse. In any case, there would not now be enough time at our disposal.

/2/See Document 245.

I can well understand your concern and the situation has its difficulties for us as well. Basically, and this is true over the wide field of our Colonial responsibilities, we have had to move faster than we would have liked, but now the choice before us in situations like this is either to allow the normal process of democracy and progress towards self government to go ahead and do our best to win the confidence of the elected leaders, and to wean them away from any dangerous tendencies, or else to revert to what we call Crown Colony rule." It is practical politics to take the latter course only when it is quite clear that a territory is heading for disaster. We have done this once already in British Guianain 1953. But since the restoration of the democratic process in 1957, the elected government has behaved reasonably well and we have had no grounds which would justify a second attempt to put the clock back. If we do have grounds in future, and they would have to be really serious if we were to have any possibility of justifying our action to world opinion, we have full power under the new constitutional arrangements to suspend the new constitution. We have also incorporated in the new constitution a number of checks and balances which limit the freedom of action of British Guiana Ministers, and we have, of course, reserved to the Governor responsibility for defence and external affairs.

No one can say for certain how Jagan will behave if he is returned to power. He is a confused thinker and his mind is clogged with ill-digested dogma derived from Marxist literature. But he has learnt a good deal in the last eight years; he has not, since 1957, proved as difficult to deal with as he was earlier. It is true that he has during the election campaign made it clear that he expects to strengthen his relations with Cuba, and he has at times shown an interest in the possibilities of both trade and aid with the Soviet bloc. But he has also, during the election, promised to seek further aid from the United States; and, if we in the West show a real willingness to try to help, we think it by no means impossible that British Guiana may end up in a position not very different from that of India.

This situation will not be without its anxieties and embarrassments, but we are convinced that the only possible policy we can follow, and the most fruitful one, is to treat British Guiana like any other dependency and to try to educate" its elected leaders unless and until we have clear justification for doing otherwise. It would be of the greatest possible help to us if we could have your support in this policy. I realise the difficulties that you face; if there is anything we can do to help you overcome those difficulties, you know that we should be very ready to do what we can.

Yours ever,


/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

247. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, August 26, 1961, 4:54 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana Jagan. Top Secret; Niact. Drafted by Burdett and approved by Rusk and U. Alexis Johnson.

977. Eyes only Ambassador Bruce. Unless you perceive objection please deliver following message from Secretary to Lord Home as soon as possible:

Dear Alex:

As we feared, Cheddi Jagan's party emerged from the August 21 election in British Guiana with a majority of the seats in the Legislative Council. Unpalatable as the result is to us, our task now is to determine where we go from here. In your letter of August 18 you mentioned that our support for your policy would be of great help.

If agreeable to you, I suggest that representatives of our two governments again sit down to discuss the situation. They might start with a review of the intelligence assessment, then go on to consider courses of action in the political, economic and information fields. I also attach importance to the covert side and recall that in June Hugh Fraser told David Bruce you would have another look at what could be done in this field after the election.

Should you think well of my proposal, I am prepared to send two or three officers to London to assist David Bruce in talks which I would ask him to hold with you, Mr. MacLeod and your colleagues. I am impressed by the desirability of starting promptly whatever program we may decide upon. Therefore, we might try to commence the discussions the week of September 4.

Cordially yours, Dean Rusk"


248. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, August 28, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 23-Sept. 4, 1961. Confidential.

British Guiana

Melby, our Consul in Georgetown, is in Washington this week; and he is working with the State Department on an action program for British Guiana. The thought is that this program would be taken up with the British next week in London.

Alexis Johnson tells me that State will have its recommendations ready for you by Thursday. Would you like a meeting on British Guiana on Thursday or Friday? If you do not wish a meeting, Rusk will give you the program in writing by Thursday.

Melby, who seems a reasonably astute observer, feels that we should take the gamble of trying to be friendly to Jagan. In view of the fact that friendliness (e.g., bringing Jagan into the Alianza) would probably alarm Tom Dodd, do you think it might be a good idea for Melby to go and talk with Dodd sometime this week?

Arthur Schlesinger, jr./2/

/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

249. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, August 30, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 1961. Top Secret.

British Guiana

The State Department feeling about British Guiana (which I share) is that we have no real choice but to feel Jagan out and see what we can do to bring (keep?) him into the western camp.

State accordingly recommends:

(1) that we offer Jagan technical and economic assistance;

(2) that we prepare the way for the admission of an independent British Guiana to the OAS and the Alliance for Progress;

(3) that Jagan be given a friendly reception during his visit to the US in October, including an audience with you.

At the same time, State also recommends (4) a covert program to develop information about, expose and destroy Communists in British Guiana, including, if necessary, the possibility of finding a substitute for Jagan himself, who could command East Indian support."

The idea, in short, is to use the year or two before independence to work to tie Jagan to the political and economic framework of the hemisphere, while at the same time reinsuring against pro-Communist developments by building up anti-Communist clandestine capabilities.

This program depends in large part upon British cooperation. Accordingly State would like to send a State-ICA-[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] group to London next week to agree upon a program of action.

The main issues involved in the policy recommendation are:

A. The covert program proposed in (4) might conflict with the friendship policy proposed in (1-3). This means that the covert program must be handled with the utmost discretion and probably confined at the start to intelligence collection.

B. The size of the aid program must be carefully reviewed to make sure that it is not out of proportion to what we are doing elsewhere in Latin America (lest we seem to be rewarding Jagan for his pro-Communist reputation).

Final decisions on points A and B need not be taken immediately. The question to be decided now is: is it all right for State to send its group to London to discuss things with the British along the above lines? Or do you wish a meeting next week with Rusk, Dulles and Murrow before the State group goes? (No reply has yet been received to Rusk's cable to Home of August 26.)

Also, do you want to see Melby, our Consul in Georgetown, before he goes back? I found him quite illuminating on Jagan and the situation. He is scheduled to return to British Guiana on Friday; but he could, of course, stay over if you wanted to see him. (On the other hand, the sooner he gets back, the better from the viewpoint of observing, and even perhaps of influencing, the movement of events in British Guiana.)

Presumably the decision about sending a special US envoy to talk to Jagan would be made after the London conversations.

You will be interested in reading the attached clipping/2/ in which Jagan sets forth his own avowed views on the subject of Communism.

/2/Not printed.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr./3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

250. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, August 31, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 1961. Top Secret.

British Guiana Paper

I attach herewith the State Department paper on British Guiana./2/ I have communicated to Alexis Johnson your assent in principle to points 1-5 on page 2 of Secretary Rusk's memorandum.

/2/Not printed.

I have also communicated to Johnson your particular concern over the covert program and your desire to know more detail before the State Department group goes to London. The present covert program is set forth under Tab B in the attached file. You will note that the first emphasis is (properly) on intelligence collection, with covert political action to come later. Part II (if Jagan should turn sour) seems to me pretty feeble, but it is also pretty tentative. Johnson emphasizes that the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] paper is only a basis for planning and discussion, as appropriate, with the British, and specific action will be subject to the usual Special Group consideration and approval."

I think you need look at only the Rusk memorandum and Tab B.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr./3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

251. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, August 31, 1961, 8:01 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 1961. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Burdett, cleared by Tyler, and approved by U. Alexis Johnson.

1086. Eyes only Ambassador Bruce. Embtel 876./2/ FYI. We agree on desirability focusing attention first team" in Colonial Office on British Guiana. However, we uneasy at postponing talks which would oblige us delay discussion we plan to have with Jagan until after mid-September. Also we desire involve Foreign Office and Lord Home personally in problem whose ramifications clearly extend beyond colony of British Guiana and which could have abrasive effects on Anglo-American relations. Lord Home will be away from London latter part week September 11 attending FonMin meeting here. End FYI.

/2/Dated August 29. (Department of State, Central Files, 741D.00/8-2961)

Under circumstances, appears to us best procedure is that suggested by Colonial Office, e.g., that you have preliminary talk with MacLeod week of September 4. We hope you could include Lord Home. You could outline to them general lines of our thinking and seek agreement in principle. More intensive talks could be held early week of September 11.

If you consider this approach feasible, we prepared to send on short notice Department officer (Burdett) brief you on our proposed program. ICA [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reps could arrive subsequently for talks week September 11.

Intelligence estimate referred to is one submitted Embassy despatch 1966./3/

/3/Dated April 19. (Ibid., 741D.00/4-1961)


252. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, September 2, 1961, 2:28 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 1961. Top Secret; Verbatim Text. Drafted by Burdett, cleared by Cutler (S), and approved by U. Alexis Johnson.

1147. Eyes only Ambassador Bruce. Embtel 947./2/ Following message from Lord Home to Secretary received Sept 1:

/2/Dated September 1. (Department of State, Central Files, 741D.00/9-261)

Dear Dean,

Thank you for your message of August 26 about British Guiana. We welcome your suggestion that we should have talks in London to define the courses of action best suited to support our policy, which I hope will be your policy also, of persuading the new British Guiana Government that the West is still its best friend. We, too, are impressed by the desirability of starting promptly whatever programme emerges and would like to make an early start with the talks. I am afraid that the first date on which we on our side could assemble the right team would be September 11. Our difficulty here would not preclude a preliminary talk between David Bruce, Iain MacLeod and Hugh Fraser if that would help. I would be ready to come in later if need be. We will put this to David Bruce at once and hold ourselves in readiness.

I would just like to say that my colleagues and I will enter these talks with the firm conviction that the emphasis must be in the political and economic spheres if we are to expect rewarding dividends."

We do not plan to reply and will leave arrangements for discussions to you.

We will provide guidance for your meeting with MacLeod Sept 6. Advise when you wish Washington group to arrive.


253. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, September 4, 1961, 3:51 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 1961. Top Secret; Priority; Verbatim Text. Drafted by Burdett and approved by Johnson (S/S).

1165. Eyes only Ambassador Bruce. Following letter from Secretary contains instructions for talks with UK on British Guiana:

Dear David:

We have now completed a review of our policy towards British Guiana, and the enclosed action program, in its general outline, has been approved by the President. Specific steps under the program, of course, are subject to subsequent decisions.

As the first move in executing the program, I am asking you to undertake with the British Government the discussions mentioned in my letter of August 26 to Lord Home. I realize the delicate relationships involved but hope that you will find a way to bring Lord Home and the Foreign Office into these talks. As you know, we believe the ramifications of this problem extend far beyond British Guiana as a colony.

You will see from the program that we are prepared to accept as a working premise the British thesis that we should try to 'educate' Cheddi Jagan. We have carefully studied the various reports of Communist connections on the part of Jagan and his People's Progressive Party and are fully aware of the pitfalls of proceeding along this path. However, it is our judgment that an across-the-board effort to 'salvage' Jagan is worth attempting. A factor in our conclusion is the unattractiveness of the available alternatives.

At the same time, it is only prudent to put out certain anchors to windward. Thus, our program also calls for [1 line of source text not declassified] discussion with the British of the feasibility of another election prior to independence, and reassurances from the British regarding their willingness to use their reserve powers" as a last resort. We envisage these various components as parts of an interrelated package. Officers from the Department, ICA, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] assigned to assist you in the talks will be in a position to elaborate on our thinking.

Clearly, the closest Anglo-American cooperation is essential. We also hope to bring in the Canadians and possibly others.

We would like to see the following emerge from your talks with the British: (1) A brief, agreed intelligence assessment; (2) British acceptance of the general concept of our action program; (3) Agreement ad referendum on a coordinated aid program; (4) [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. The covert program described in the enclosure is only a basis for planning and discussions at this time [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Specific actions under the program would be subject to further high-level U.S. Government consideration and approval. (5) Agreement on tactics.

I leave to your discretion the manner of presenting our ideas to the British, taking into account the importance of moving rapidly. If, during your discussions, you believe we could be of assistance to you from Washington, please let me know.

Cordially yours, Dean Rusk"

Paper setting forth action program pouched Ambassador September 2./2/

/2/Not found.


254. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, September 5, 1961, 9:45 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British GuianaJagan. Top Secret; Niact. Drafted by Burdett; cleared by U. Alexis Johnson, INR/DDC in draft, and Johnson (S/S); and approved by Tyler.

1181. Eyes only Ambassador Bruce. Deptel 1165./2/ Following comments supplementing letter of instructions from Secretary for talks with UK on British Guiana submitted as background for your discussion with MacLeod.

/2/Document 253.

(1) We continue have serious reservations about British assessment Jagan as set forth in London talks in April (London Despatch 1966)/3/ and in conversation here with Governor Grey (Memcon of April 26)./4/ In our view, we should keep in mind possibility Jagan is Communist-controlled sleeper" who will move to establish Castro or Communist regime upon independence. Particularly ominous is number of Communist-connected persons assigned safe constituencies by PPP and thus assured of seats in Legislative Council in August 21 election.

/3/Dated April 19. (Department of State, Central Files, 741D.00/4-1961)

/4/Not further identified.

(2) We believe too much attention to Jagan at this stage would serve to inflate his ego and make dealing with him more difficult. Also it would smack of insincerity.

(3) We have deliberately refrained up to now from intimating to British we prepared to try their prescription for handling Jagan. We hope this card will serve as leverage to obtain British agreement to our action program as whole.

(4) [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] You may wish to emphasize importance [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] of current and continuing intelligence on developments in general and especially Communist activities. [1 line of source text not declassified] You may desire to play down covert political action program.

(5) We would like to see UK maintain and if possible expand level its economic assistance. Conversely, we wish avoid British assumption US will pick up total tab. We expect to explore fitting our aid into British Guiana's own development program and possibilities involving Canadians and others.

(6) We concerned about possible adverse effects on Federation of West Indies of spectacular program for British Guiana. Overgenerosity and overattention to Jagan could tempt TWI imitate his tactics.


255. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)/1/

Washington, September 7, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana--Jagan. Secret.

British Guiana

I don't want to become a bore about cables on British Guiana; but I do not think that -1165, Eyes Only, to Bruce reflects Presidential policy as I understand it./2/ I would have rephrased (1) to read: We continue to have serious reservations about British assessment as set forth [etc.]/3/ . . . In our view, we should keep in mind possibility Jagan will move to establish Castro-style regime upon independence. Particularly ominous[etc.] . . . Nevertheless we see no alternative at this point to testing whether situation salvageable by exploring policies designed to tie an independent British Guiana politically and economically to hemisphere."/4/

/2/Document 253.

/3/All brackets in this paragraph are in the source text.

/4/Quote is from telegram 1181, Document 254, not telegram 1165.

I would have omitted the bit about Jagan as a possible sleeper. Sleeper is a technical term meaning a disciplined agent who pretends to be one thing and then, at a given moment, tears off his mask and reveals himself as something entirely different. I have not heard this seriously suggested about Jagan, and I hope that David does not, on the basis of this cable, convey to the British the idea that our government seriously entertains this idea. [2 lines of source text not declassified] Also I would have added the last sentence because the cable nowhere states what we are trying to achieve in British Guiana.

I think I would have omitted (2) or reduced it to a tactical point. Is it really our policy to keep Jagan dangling? My guess is that the President has been thinking in terms of a cordial try at bringing British Guiana into the hemisphere. Nothing is worse than a halfhearted courtship.

(3)-(6) seem to me fine.

I feel that the omission of any positive statement of our policy, of the sort suggested in the last sentence of my revised (1), plus the inclusion of (2), might give David Bruce a misleading impression of our present thinking on the subject.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr./5/

/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

256. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger)/1/

Washington, September 9, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana--Jagan. Secret.

British Guiana

I have spoken to Bill Burdett about your memorandum of September 7, 1961/2/ commenting on our telegram to David Bruce for his talks with the British on British Guiana. Burdett is leaving for London on Sunday to assist the Ambassador in these discussions, and I have asked him to keep your points very much in mind and to make sure David Bruce is under no misapprehension regarding the President's thinking.

/2/Document 255.

As guidance to David Bruce, we sent to him three documents: the action program for British Guiana as transmitted to the President under the Secretary's memorandum of August 30, 1961;/3/ a telegram containing a letter of instructions for the talks from the Secretary;/4/ and the telegram to which you refer intended to supplement the Secretary's letter./5/ We intended the three documents to be parts of one package. While read in isolation the telegram you mention could be misconstrued, I hope you will agree that read in conjunction with the other two documents it will not mislead David Bruce.

/3/For a summary of this paper, see Documents 249 and 250.

/4/Document 253.

/5/Document 254.

Regarding your specific points, the Secretary's letter to David Bruce, particularly his third paragraph, states explicitly what we are trying to achieve. Before submitting our recommendations to the President, we considered carefully the possibility that Jagan, having in mind what happened in 1953 when he acted too openly, is now deliberately masking his real intentions. We do not think it is prudent to dismiss the possibility that he is dissembling. Given the British inclination to brush aside reports of Jagan's communist connections, we thought it advisable to flag this aspect for David Bruce. Our point 2 is, as you suggest, in large part tactical. We want to tread warily both to avoid making Jagan personally more difficult to work with and to prevent adverse repercussions in the Federation of the West Indies.

I can assure you that Burdett will emphasize to David Bruce that basic to our entire program is the determination to make a college try to tie Jagan to the West.


P.S. As of possible interest, I am enclosing two papers on the situation in French Guiana and Surinam which I asked to have prepared. I would appreciate their return./6/

/6/Not printed.


257. Information Airgram From the Department of State to Certain Posts/1/


Washington, October 4, 1961, 1:40 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana--Jagan. Secret. Drafted by Staples (EUR), cleared by Foster (BNA), and approved by Burdett. Sent to Bonn, The Hague, London, Moscow, Ottawa, Paris, New Delhi, Barbados, Belize, Hamilton, Kingston, Nassau, Port-of-Spain, Georgetown, and all posts in the American Republics.

US Program for British Guiana

In consultation with the British, we have developed an action program for British Guiana to meet the situation following the grant of internal self-government to the former colony and the victory of Dr. Jagan in the recent election. The basic concept of the program is a wholehearted across-the-board effort to work with the new Jagan Government and to foster effective association between British Guiana and the West. Among the factors contributing to the decision to adopt this policy were 1) the impracticability of any alternative course of action; 2) the dearth of effective political leadership in British Guiana apart from Jagan; and 3) recognition that coldness toward Jagan and withholding of aid could only result in his gravitation toward the Soviet-Castro bloc. The decision was made with full recognition of the risks involved in view of the known Communist associations of British Guiana leaders. Our Consul in Georgetown has offered Jagan our cooperation in the political and economic fields; suggested an early visit by ICA representatives to discuss certain facets of an aid program; and invited Jagan to call on the President during the Premier's forthcoming visit to Washington. Jagan expressed appreciation for our willingness to work with him and was gratified over the invitation to see the President. He much concerned about problem his public relations since he felt image world had of him as Communist was a major stumbling block to his plans for BG. Jagan said aware US was of two minds about him, but all he asked was to be judged by actions he took from now on.

258. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hilsman) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)/1/

Washington, October 17, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, ARA/NC Files: Lot 67 D 77, Br. Gu.-US Policy Toward Jagan. Secret. Drafted by Bernard S. Morris and Philip C. Habib and cleared with Richard H. Courtenaye and Charles G. Bream.

US Policy in British Guiana

In reviewing materials recently on Jagan and his associates, we have multiplied our doubts about the feasibility of the policy adopted for British Guiana. Our position is set out below and, though it has been discussed with BNA, it is very much INR's point of view.

The current US program for British Guiana is based upon general agreement with the UK for a coordinated effort to get along with Jagan. At the same time resources are to be built up to enable a harder line to be put into effect if, after a reasonable time (but before British Guiana becomes independent), it is clear that British Guiana is going the way of Castro Cuba.

This approach is based upon such considerations as (1) Jagan's apparently firm hold on British Guiana politics; (2) the lack of cohesive opposition; (3) the unwillingness and stated inability of the UK to resist pressure for British Guiana's independence at this time; (4) the hope that the assumption of political power by Jagan under the new constitution will be followed by the exercise of political responsibility in a manner acceptable to USUK interests; (5) the belief that Jagan himself is not a controlled instrument of Moscow; that he is instead a radical nationalist who may play both sides of the street but will not lead British Guiana into satellite status; and (6) the assumption that regardless of Jagan's orientation, the mass of people in British Guiana are not and will not become communist.

Without debating the pros and cons of these considerations, it is another matter to accept the general thesis that we should support and live with a British Guiana under Marxist leadership with what this implies for the structure of the economy and the character of its political and social institutions. Moreover there is the possibility, if not the probability, that strong, direct ties with Moscow will emerge as British Guiana achieves independence. Yet a successful US policy in British Guiana should start from the assumption that the Bloc must be precluded from a position of direct or indirect control or even substantial influence.

The UK, which remains the responsible power in British Guiana, is not willing to take a hard line. So long as HMG is prepared to try and get along with Jagan, the United States is faced with a dilemma in its own approach--whether to take a line contrary to the UK, or to accept the UK thesis and hope for the best while seeking to build in safeguards in the form of contingency plans for a reversal of policy. Because of the strength of UK conviction, and given the international climate regarding colonial status, the United States has apparently had no option but to agree with the major lines proposed by the UK.

If, as we suspect, the UK policy cannot be successful in the short time that remains before independence, then US planning should be directed to converting the UK to a program of direct anti-Jagan action. The safeguards built into the USUK working party report should be strengthened and become the focal point for US policy. The time factor--independence for British Guiana is proposed in 1963 at the latest--has not been sufficiently weighed in the current program. It does not seem realistic to expect the institutional, political and economic readjustment of Jagan's thinking in so short a time.

Our pessimism as to the chances of success for the UK approach is also based upon the expected dissatisfaction (already evident) of Jagan with proposals to aid British Guiana's economic development. It is on this question of economic aid to British Guiana that there is likely to be a clash between Jagan's expectations and USUK plans. A key factor in the proposals to get along with Jagan has been the hope that cooperation in British Guiana's development will bring the US and UK into a position of influence while at the same time Jagan and his government would be seized of their internal problems and concentrate their efforts on economic development. This seems a forlorn hope (again given the time factor), and it is more likely that irrational and Marxist dissatisfaction with our methods and deliberateness will work against achievement of our objectives. Certainly the amount of aid which has been offered to Jagan is not sufficient in his eyes. It may be better to stop talking about a fixed sum of money and talk more about the orderly progression of economic planning and assistance on a phased basis. The $5 million in aid being offered is not enough to engage Jagan. We should recognize that it is going to take a lot more money if we pursue a course so heavily dependent upon economic blandishments.

The testing period for this conclusion is the next few weeks. If Jagan is unshakeable and insatiable in his expectations, we will be in a better position to judge our course of action. We should not feel bound by the USUK working party agreement if the premises and the chances of success are shaken. If the possibilities remain obscure after Jagan's visit, we should still seek to strengthen the safeguards which we have built in, and be prepared on short notice to recast our approach. In the final analysis we should plan for the possibility that we will have no reasonable alternative but to work for Jagan's political downfall, which would have to precede the granting of independence. To bring about such a result will require an extensive and carefully coordinated effort, for which much planning has already been done.

It is, therefore, proposed that the present policy for British Guiana be reviewed immediately following the visit of Jagan to Washington. If it develops that the premises underlying policy are clearly questionable, we should be prepared to reopen the matter with the UK.

259. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, October 25, 1961, 11 a.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Oct. 21-Nov. 6, 1961. Secret. Drafted by Tyler. The meeting was held at the White House.

Call of Premier Jagan of British Guiana on the President


The United States:
The President
Under Secretary of State Ball
Professor Arthur Schlesinger
Mr. Richard Goodwin
Mr. William R. Tyler, Acting Asst. Sec., EUR

British Guiana
Premier Cheddi B. Jagan

The greater part of the meeting was taken up by an extensive presentation by Premier Jagan of the economic and social problems of British Guiana and of the plans and goals which Premier Jagan's government has under consideration.

Premier Jagan described himself politically as a socialist and a believer in state planning. At the same time, he was at pains to emphasize the guarantees for political freedom which he had personally incorporated into the British Guiana constitution, such as the democratic freedoms, an independent judiciary, and an independent civil service in the British tradition. While professing to be a follower of Aneurin Bevan, he was evasive on all ideological and doctrinal issues, claiming that he was not sufficiently familiar with theory to distinguish between the various forms of socialism", within which he appeared to include communism. He spoke at all times of the cold war as an issue in which he did not feel himself engaged or committed, but he stressed repeatedly his determination to keep British Guiana free and politically independent. The terminology he used was less forthright than in his speech, and in answer to questions, at the National Press Club luncheon on October 24.

Premier Jagan analyzed the political composition of British Guiana and the antecedents of the recent elections. He said that his political rivals (Burnham of the PNC and D'Aguiar of the UF) had made wild promises of obtaining vast sums of aid, if elected. He said that they had done this irresponsibly and that in the case of D'Aguiar he had undoubtedly received aid from the United States in his campaign. The President interjected to say that the United States Government had certainly not intervened in any way, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of British Guiana. Premier Jagan said that he had not intended to imply this, but that certain forces" had subsidized the political campaign with his opponents. He alluded to certain films shown on street corners by USIS" during the campaign, which were directed against Castro and communism in general, and which had been exploited by his political opponents against him and his party. He said he had no objection to USIS carrying out its program in normal times, but that these particular activities during the pre-election period had constituted intervention against which he had protested. He said he must obtain aid to carry out his urgent domestic program, and that this was a political necessity for him, as he was on the hot seat."

The President stressed to Premier Jagan that the internal system and the political and economic philosophies of a country were, to us, a matter for it to decide. The important thing for us was whether a given country, whether we agreed with its internal system or not, was politically independent. The President pointed out that we had given very considerable sums of aid to Yugoslavia, which is a communist state. He also referred to the considerable amount of aid we had given to Brazil and to India.

Premier Jagan asked whether the United States would consider as a hostile act a commercial agreement between British Guiana and the communist bloc whereby British Guiana would export bauxite in return for the importation of commodities.

The President pointed out that the United States and its allies were engaged in trade with the communist bloc, thus we would not consider trade per se to have political significance. However, if the nature and the extent of trade between British Guiana and the Soviet bloc were such as to create a condition of dependence of the economy of British Guiana on the Soviet bloc, then this would amount to giving the Soviet Union a political instrument for applying pressure and trying to force damaging concessions to its political interests and goals. Under Secretary Ball emphasized the experience of Guinea in this connection.

The President concluded the formal discussion by saying that he understood and sympathized with the political, economic and social problems which Premier Jagan was facing, and that the United States was disposed and willing to help British Guiana to move toward its economic and social goals within a framework of political freedom and independence. He pointed out that our resources were limited and that we had worldwide commitments, all of which made it necessary for us to examine very carefully specific projects on which we might be in a position to help. The President said that he had made it a rule not to discuss or offer specific sums of money, but that the United States would be prepared to send down to British Guiana as soon as feasible experts who could work with Premier Jagan's government and make recommendations which we would consider sympathetically in the light of our other commitments and of our financial resources.

260. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, October 26, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Oct. 21-Nov. 6, 1961. Confidential. Drafted by Burdett. The meeting was held at the Dupont Plaza Hotel.

U.S. Assistance to British Guiana

Dr. Cheddi B. Jagan, Premier of British Guiana
Mr. Henry J.M. Hubbard, Minister of Trade and Industry
Mr. Clifton C. Low-a-Chee, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Development Planning and Secretary to the Council of Ministers
Mr. Lloyd A. Searwar, Assistant Head of Government Information Services
Mr. John Hennings, Colonial Attach, British Embassy
Dr. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Special Assistant to the President
Mr. William C. Burdett, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State

Dr. Schlesinger called on Premier Jagan to deliver a personal note from the President regretting his inability to accede to a request made by the Premier for a further meeting. The President referred to his crowded schedule including a Cabinet Meeting and official luncheon. He asked the Premier to speak frankly to Dr. Schlesinger who had his complete confidence.

Upon reading the President's letter, Premier Jagan expressed his thanks and his understanding of why the President was unable to receive him. He then made clear his disappointment that the United States was unable to be more responsive to his request for economic assistance. He described British Guiana's development program along the lines used with Mr. Fowler Hamilton earlier in the day. The Premier said that frankly speaking he felt that British Guiana was getting a run around". He detailed the numerous surveys and missions which had visited his country. He asserted that the refusal of the United States to make a specific money offer placed him in an impossible political position. He inquired whether the United States attitude should be attributed to his failure to make a satisfactory political" impression. The Premier referred to a figure of $5 million mentioned by the recent ICA Mission. He asked if the United States could at least undertake to provide this sum.

Dr. Schlesinger assured the Premier that we were most sympathetic to his desire to help the people of British Guiana develop an economic and social program. He recalled that the President had said that the internal system and political and economic organization of a country were for each country to decide for itself. We insisted only that a country remain genuinely free and independent. Dr. Schlesinger explained the necessity for universal standards in the administration of our aid program. We were not able to commit any specific figure until we had an opportunity to examine British Guiana's development program as a whole and the details of the various projects. We would be glad to help British Guiana perhaps in cooperation with Hemisphere organizations to formulate a development program and to work out the details of agreed projects. We would be willing to send a mission of economists and planners down to British Guiana. The United States definitely was not stalling.

The Premier asked whether we could finance part of the gap in the Berrill Plan which had been prepared with British advice. He recognized that we might not be able to accept the expanded Guianese program. Dr. Jagan said he would be glad to receive a mission, but did not want it to take up a lot of time. It was pointed out to him that even the Berrill Plan had not been reviewed in detail by U.S. technicians.

Premier Jagan asked what was he to say when he returned to Georgetown. He would be severely criticized. Was there some statement which he could make? Dr. Schlesinger responded that it might be possible to agree on a statement. Minister Hubbard asked if we had a draft. Dr. Schlesinger circulated a possible statement which might be issued by the State Department.

At this point the Premier had to leave for the airport to catch a plane for New York. The discussion was continued in the car. Dr. Jagan made several suggestions about the draft. He insisted that the mission should only review" British Guiana's own plans. He wished to avoid any inference that the Guianese had not been able themselves to produce a plan. He asked who would decide about the composition of the mission.

After the Premier's departure Minister Hubbard and Mr. Hennings returned to the Department of State and met with Mr. Burdett and Mr. Foster to adjust the draft, taking into account the Premier's suggestions. Agreement was arrived at subject to confirmation by the Premier from New York on October 27.

Note: Agreement on the wording of the statement was reached by Dr. Jagan and Dr. Schlesinger by telephone on October 27.

261. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, January 12, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana--Jagan. Secret.

British Guiana

On January 11, State and AID representatives met with George Ball to decide on British Guiana policy.

At this meeting, State and AID agreed (a) that technical assistance be expanded immediately to approximately $1.5 million; (b) that an economic mission be sent to Georgetown by February 15; and (c) that the Jagan Government be informed of these steps. The remaining question was whether, in addition, we undertake to finance the construction of a road from Atkinson Field to Mackenzie at the cost of $5 million over a couple of years. (George Ball, by the way, is going to make one more effort to draw the Canadians in by asking them to assume part of the cost of the road, if we eventually decide to go ahead on it; Mackenzie is an important ALCAN center.)

State advocated this project on the ground that the key element in the British Guiana action program (as approved by you on September 4) was an across-the-board, wholehearted effort to work with Jagan; that the delay in starting the economic program has given rise to the impression in Georgetown that we are not interested in helping; that this has substantially increased the risk that our action program may not achieve its objectives; that some dramatic commitment is necessary to reestablish credibility and confidence; that expanded technical assistance will not do it, since British Guiana has had a technical assistance program for seven years; that the acid test from their viewpoint is in the field of economic development; and that therefore if we are to recover the momentum achieved at the time of Jagan's visit in October and have a reasonable prospect of achieving the objectives of our policy, we should make an immediate commitment to build the road.

AID opposed the road because (a) the AID statute says that (except in case of waiver) no commitments to such projects be undertaken until feasibility studies are completed, (b) AID doubts that we shoot so much of our wad on a single project, (c) AID is still reluctant to expose itself to congressional criticism or to strengthen Jagan by making early demonstrations of support to his government.

Undersecretary Ball took the AID position, and the road project has been deferred until feasibility studies are completed.

While State/EUR will of course loyally carry out the decision, I believe that it regards the program as, in effect, a reversal of the September policy of a wholehearted try. Their feeling, I think, is that knocking out the road (or some comparable demonstration that we mean business in aiding British Guiana development) means the evisceration of the British Guiana action program and virtually guarantees its failure. They also feel that this will create serious difficulties with the British who have [1 line of source text not declassified] assurance on our part that we were serious about providing economic assistance to British Guiana.

I agree with State/EUR that the decision against the road increases the chance that our action program will fail. On the other hand, I do not believe that it makes failure certain. I believe that other steps, if taken with adequate speed and conviction, will do much to restore our credibility; and that, so far as the road is concerned, if our mission recommends it, the commitment of funds to the road may be postponed only from January to June.

However, further delay in the other steps will certainly doom our program in British Guiana. So, in order to make sure that these other steps are taken immediately, I recommend that you send the attached memorandum to Fowler Hamilton./2/

/2/Not printed.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr.

262. Memorandum From President Kennedy to the Administrator of the Agency for International Development (Hamilton)/1/

Washington, January 12, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana II. Secret.

British Guiana

I wish immediate steps to be taken to get an economic mission to British Guiana by February 15 and to expand technical assistance to the level of $1.5 million. I am also requesting immediate action to intensify our observations of political developments in British Guiana and by this and other means extend our program of reinsurance in case the situation should show signs of going sour.

Could you report to me as soon as possible concerning your action on this matter./2/

/2/Printed from an unsigned copy.

263. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Tyler) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, February 18, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana II. Top Secret. Sent through U. Alexis Johnson.

British Guiana


1. U.S. policy towards British Guiana as approved by the President on September 3, 1961, has had two principal components: (a) an effort to work with Premier Cheddi Jagan; [2 lines of source text not declassified].

2. Agreement was reached with the British in September on a coordinated program in accord with this policy. The British attached major importance to a wholehearted effort by the U.S. to work with Jagan involving, among other things, his visit to the U.S. and a U.S. economic assistance program. [51/2 lines of source text not declassified]

3. In implementation of this program the President received Premier Jagan in October/2/ and a real effort was made by top U.S. officials to impress Jagan that we sincerely wish to work with him. Jagan came with exaggerated expectations of what economic assistance we might provide. He was disillusioned by our unresponsiveness. Since October, for a variety of reasons, we have been unable to get our economic assistance program off the ground.

/2/See Document 259.

4. In response to pressure from Jagan including action at the UN, the British have announced readiness to hold a conference in May to approve a constitution and set a date for British Guiana's independence. Independence would presumably occur before the end of 1962. We concurred reluctantly in the British timetable for independence, but in doing so strongly stressed the hope that new elections would be held. The timetable may be stretched out as a result of the current disorders.

5. A strike broke out in Georgetown the week of February 12 in protest against an austerity budget proposed by Jagan sharply increasing rates of taxation. The budget was bitterly attacked by the business community and included measures which would bear upon the low income groups. Our information on the situation in Georgetown is incomplete. However, matters have worsened, the British have moved troops in from Jamaica and flown in two companies from the UK at Jagan's request. The first disorders occurred on February 16 and two people were reported killed when police fired on demonstrators. A series of fires and looting occurred in the main business district. According to the latest report (noon, February 17) the security situation was under control. It should be noted that the strike so far has been limited to Georgetown, the stronghold of the UF and PNC. It has not extended to the country areas where Jagan's strength lies.

6. We asked the British Embassy on February 16 to obtain if possible by February 19 HMG's assessment of the situation including implications for future policies.


1. The policy of trying to work with Jagan has not been really applied in practice subsequent to Jagan's visit to the U.S. Economic assistance was an indispensable part of this program and the U.S. has not carried out the agreement on economic assistance reached during Jagan's visit. Factors beyond the control of State have also intervened. Latest reports indicate that Jagan is increasingly suspicious of the U.S. It is now doubtful that a working relationship can be established with Jagan which would prevent the emergence of a communist or Castrotype state in South America.

[10 paragraphs and 1 heading (21/2 pages of source text) not declassified]

3. That you sign the attached telegram to London containing a message to Lord Home./3/

/3/See Document 264.

264. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, February 19, 1962, 5:16 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana II. Top Secret; Priority; Eyes Only. Repeated to USUN.

4426. For Ambassador Bruce from Secretary. Please deliver following message to Lord Home as soon as possible: Dear Alex: You know from our correspondence in August of last year of my acute concern over the prospects of an independent British Guiana under the leadership of Cheddi Jagan. Subsequent to his victory in the August elections we agreed to try your policy of fostering an effective association between British Guiana and the West and an Anglo-American working party developed an appropriate program. At our request safeguards, including consultations about new elections, were included in case matters went awry. In pursuance of this program the President received Jagan on his visit to this country in October.

I must tell you now that I have reached the conclusion that it is not possible for us to put up with an independent British Guiana under Jagan. We have had no real success in establishing a basis for understanding with him due in part to his grandiose expectations of economic aid. We have continued to receive disturbing reports of communist connections on the part of Jagan and persons closely associated with him. Partly reflective of ever growing concern over Cuba, public and Congressional opinion here is incensed at the thought of our dealing with Jagan. The Marxist-Leninist policy he professes parallels that of Castro which the OAS at the Punta del Este Conference declared incompatible with the Inter-American system. Current happenings in British Guiana indicate Jagan is not master of the situation at home without your support. There is some resemblance to the events of 1953. Thus, the continuation of Jagan in power is leading us to disaster in terms of the colony itself, strains on Anglo-American relations and difficulties for the Inter-American system.

These considerations, I believe, make it mandatory that we concert on remedial steps. I am anxious to have your thoughts on what should be done in the immediate future. In the past your people have held, with considerable conviction, that there was no reasonable alternative to working with Jagan. I am convinced our experience so far, and now the disorders in Georgetown, makes it necessary to reexamine this premise. It seems to me clear that new elections should now be scheduled, and I hope we can agree that Jagan should not accede to power again. Cordially yours, Dean Rusk."


265. Letter From the Representative to the United Nations (Stevenson) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

New York, February 26, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana. Top Secret. A copy was sent to the President.

Dear Dean: I appreciate receiving a copy of your February 19 message to Lord Home about British Guiana, but I am concerned by what may be its implication.

I am of course in agreement that the emergence of British Guiana as an independent state under Cheddi Jagan would be a calamity--from various points of view.

Without knowing any details of the situation in British Guiana, or of the degree of our involvement to date, however, I should like to suggest that the following considerations are among those worth keeping in mind:

1. Action by the United Kingdom which could be pictured as arbitrarily stalling" on an independence date for British Guiana would probably strengthen Jagan's position. Cancellation, or even deferral, of the scheduled May conference would seem to be in this category.

2. Substantial U.S. involvement in the situation would probably be impossible to conceal over a period of time.

3. Disclosure of U.S. involvement would (a) probably strengthen Jagan, (b) undermine our carefully nurtured position of anti-colonialism among the new nations of Asia and Africa, (c) grievously damage our position in Latin America. (Against this, I suppose that a successful operation, if discreet, might enhance our standing in some Latin-American quarters.)

4. The damaging effect of such disclosure would be magnified if the U.S. involvement disclosed were of the character which might be inferred from the last sentence of your letter.

If our best intelligence is that new elections would result in the ouster of Jagan, then certainly we ought to encourage the U.K. to arrange for such elections, to be conducted under U.K. supervision, with effective protection against intimidation and rigging by Jagan's people. Whatever part the U.S. might play should, it seems to me, be carefully considered in the light of the risks mentioned above.

I would be grateful if you could keep me au courant with the situation, and I would in particular appreciate having an early CIA briefing on what their role may have been or what may be contemplated.


Adlai E. Stevenson

266. Letter From Foreign Secretary Home to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

London, February 26, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, William H. Brubeck Series, British Guiana, Jan. 1961-April 1962. Top Secret.

My Dear Dean, Thank you for your letter on British Guiana./2/ From our past discussions we have known your preoccupations and you have known the efforts which we have made despite setbacks to provide for the orderly development of this territory. We are studying what best to do now to discharge our responsibilities and when we have decided, we shall be glad to see in a more official way what can be done to concert our action and yours.

/2/See Document 264.

Meanwhile there are some general thoughts which I should like to put to you privately and with the same frankness with which you wrote. I do so not only because I think this is right between us, but because you have often shown in the conversations which the two of us have had, that you recognise the sustained efforts over long periods that we have made in our dependent territories to try to ensure that they have a reasonable chance of using and not abusing freedom when they get it. This must depend to a large extent on the progress of each different territory and its readiness to run its own affairs. But once this process has gone as far as it now has, there is bound to be an added risk over timing in the remaining dependent territories which are still either backward or have peculiar racial or other difficulties. This was inherent in the problem from the beginning.

Now it was your historic role to have been for long years the first crusader and the prime mover in urging colonial emancipation. The communists are now in the van. Why? Amongst other things because premature independence is a gift for them.

What I do not think possible is to beat them by cancelling the ticket for independence and particularly if this is only to be done in the single instance of British Guiana. You say that it is not possible for you to put up with an independent British Guiana under Jagan" and that Jagan should not accede to power again". How would you suggest that this can be done in a democracy? And even if a device could be found, it would almost certainly be transparent and in such circumstances if democratic processes are to be allowed, it will be extremely hard to provide a reasonable prospect that any successor regime will be more stable and more mature.

So I would say to you that we cannot now go back on the course we have set ourselves of bringing these dependent territories to self-government. Nor is it any good deluding ourselves that we can now set aside a single territory such as British Guiana for some sort of special treatment.

This of course does not mean that we should not try to mitigate the dangers in British Guiana as elsewhere in the areas of the Americas and elsewhere. You will know our present concern over Kenya, the Federation and other territories in East Africa. I take comfort from your letter to think that you will be ready to understand and support us in solving these problems. I do not want to go into them further here. But I should like to draw your attention to another territory in the area of the Americas, British Honduras. It will be difficult enough to provide for the future wellbeing of this territory. We now have in addition the President of Guatemala using language reminiscent of Hitler to press his claim. The Guatemalans", he said publicly on February 20, would maintain their unshakeable determination to regain Belize." As the present regime in Guatemala would hardly have come into being without your support in 1954 and since, I shall be asking you to use your good offices at the right time to prevent another possible misadventure on your doorstep.

Let us by all means try and do what is possible to prevent the communists and others from perverting our common aim of doing our best to assure a timely and orderly development of independence in the remaining dependent territories. But we must do this across the board and you will realise that while territories like British Guiana may be of special concern to you in your hemisphere, there are others of at least equal importance to us elsewhere.

Yours ever,


267. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, March 8, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British GuianaJagan. No classification marking.

Memoranda on British Guiana to State and CIA/2/

/2/Neither printed.

The point of these two memoranda is that both State and CIA are under the impression that a firm decision has been taken to get rid of the Jagan government.

The desired effect is to make sure that nothing is done until you have had a chance to talk with Hugh Fraser.

The attached memcons will give you an impression of current British attitudes.

British Guiana has 600,000 inhabitants. Jagan would no doubt be gratified to know that the American and British governments are spending more man-hours per capita on British Guiana than on any other current problem!

Arthur Schlesinger, jr./3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to the Ambassador to the United Kingdom (Bruce)

February 27, 1962.


British Guiana

I had lunch today with Iain MacLeod and Reginald Maudling. The subject of British Guiana came up; and MacLeod made the following assertions:

1. Jagan is not a Communist. He is a naive, London School of Economics Marxist filled with charm, personal honesty and juvenile nationalism.

2. The tax problem which caused the trouble was not a Marxist program. It was a severely orthodox program of a Crippsian" sort appropriate for a developed nation like Great Britain but wholly unsuited for an immature and volatile country like British Guiana.

3. If another election is held before independence Jagan will win.

4. Jagan is infinitely preferable to Burnham. If I had to make the choice between Jagan and Burnham as head of my country I would choose Jagan any day of the week."

Maudling was rather silent during this conversation not, I think, because of disagreement, but because he preferred to let MacLeod take the initiative. He did say jovially at one point, If you Americans care so much about British Guiana, why don't you take it over? Nothing would please us more." As we were breaking up Maudling expressed privately to me his puzzlement over the Secretary's letter to the Foreign Minister. I said I was returning to Washington at the end of the week. He said it might be a good idea for us to have a talk before I go back.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, jr./5/

/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to the Ambassador to the United Kingdom (Bruce)

March 1, 1962.

/6/Secret. A typed note at the bottom of the last page of the source text reads: (Page 2 was not proofed by Mr. Schlesinger)."

British Guiana

I had a talk this afternoon with Maudling, the Colonial Secretary, on the subject of British Guiana. He expressed total bafflement as to what the next steps might be. So far as independence is concerned, he thinks that the preparatory conference should be held as scheduled in May but that actual independence will certainly be postponed, perhaps as long as a year. He sees no point in holding elections before independence because he believes that an election campaign would only rekindle the racial animosities without changing the composition of the British Guiana Government.

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] He does not regard Jagan as a disciplined Communist but rather as [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. He says that he would not trust Jagan [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. He added that it is his understanding that Burnham is, if possible, worse. He is reluctant to take any action which will make Jagan a martyr. He does not feel that Britain can consistently dislodge a democratically elected government.

His general view is that Britain wants to get out of British Guiana as quickly as possible. He said that he would be glad to turn the whole area over to the United States tomorrow. [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] He added that he is thinking of sending his Parliamentary Secretary, Hugh Fraser, over there next week to make an on-the-spot report. This has not been cleared with the Prime Minister but if Fraser should go he would probably stop in Washington on his way back.

Maudling said at one point that while he himself thought it inconceivable," responsible people" had said that CIA had played a role in stimulating the recent riots. I said that this of course was inconceivable and that I could assure him that this was not the case.

He mentioned the Foreign Secretary's letter and conveyed the impression that it had given the Cabinet great pleasure. He repeated with particular relish the sentence that the British might be willing to delay the independence process in British Guiana if the Americans would not insist on expediting it everywhere else. I took the occasion to correct Lord Home's apparent belief that the revolution of 1954 had brought the Ydigoras regime into power in Guatemala.

We also had some conversation about Trinidad. Maudling, [1 line of source text not declassified] warned me to expect more trouble over the Chagoramas Base. Maudling said that he had taken a drive past the base and could not see why we needed it so desperately. He also said that Williams was disturbed over what he regarded as the American failure to finance certain projects mentioned in the Agreement with Trinidad. Though the language of the Agreement commits the United States only to participate" in the financing, Williams insists that Ambassador Whitney assured him that this was a form of language adopted to make things palatable to Congress and that the United States would in fact underwrite the project completely. Maudling says that the failure of the language to state the extent of participation leads him to believe that Williams may be correct on this point.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, jr./7/

/7/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

268. National Security Action Memorandum No. 135/1/

Washington, March 8, 1962.

/1/Source: Department of State, NSAM Files: Lot 72 D 316. Secret. Copies were sent to Attorney General Kennedy, McNamara, McCone, and General Maxwell D. Taylor.

The Secretary of State

British Guiana

No final decision will be taken on our policy toward British Guiana and the Jagan government until (a) the Secretary of State has a chance to discuss the matter with Lord Home in Geneva, and (b) Hugh Fraser completes his on-the-spot survey in British Guiana for the Colonial Office.

The questions which we must answer before we reach our decision include the following:

1. Can Great Britain be persuaded to delay independence for a year?

2. If Great Britain refuses to delay the date of independence, would a new election before independence be possible? If so, would Jagan win or lose? If he lost, what are the alternatives?

3. What are the possibilities and limitations of United States action in the situation?

John F. Kennedy/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that indicates Kennedy signed the original.

269. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland) to the Representative to the United Nations (Stevenson)/1/

Washington, March 9, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana II. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Burdett.

Dear Adlai: We had hoped to brief you during your visit to Washington March 8 on all aspects of our present thinking about British Guiana as you requested in your letter of February 26 to the Secretary./2/ The Secretary plans to discuss this delicate problem with Lord Home in Geneva. Until we know the outcome of this discussion and have learned of the results of the on-the-spot survey which Hugh Fraser, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Colonial Office, is making we will not reach any final policy decisions. CIA, by the way, was in no way involved in the recent disturbances in Georgetown.

/2/Document 265.

We are bringing again to the Secretary's attention your pertinent comments about the effects of actions we might take on the position at the UN.

On your next trip down I hope we will have a chance to fill you in completely on this rapidly moving situation.


Harlan Cleveland/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

270. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State/1/

Geneva, March 13, 1962, midnight.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, William H. Brubeck Series, British Guiana, Jan. 1961-April 1962. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London eyes only for the Ambassador and Wisner.

Secto 28. Eyes only Acting Secretary. Re Secto 22 sent London 690./2/ Lord Home and I discussed British Guiana. He fully understands and sympathizes with our basic plan that Britain must not leave behind another Castro situation in this hemisphere. Fraser will return through Washington to see President. Home said Fraser would recommend a commission to study causes of recent disorders in British Guiana. Such a commission would delay independence and its report would muddy situation sufficiently to reopen Britain's present commitments as to schedule. Home seems ready to accept continuation British responsibility for a period despite their anxiety to settle troublesome and expensive problem.

/2/Not found.

[1 paragraph (31/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

For present I do not believe covert action with or without British is indicated. Home does not want to go down that trail until overt possibilities of delay are fully exploited. It is quite clear, however, that he does not exclude such action if delay and procrastination do not succeed.

I am convinced that he fully understands seriousness our view and wants to cooperate as intimate ally in finding answer which is acceptable to us.

Dept please have Wisner advised not to pressure matter for time being.


271. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Ball to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, March 15, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, William H. Brubeck Series, British Guiana, Jan. 1961-April 1962. Secret; Eyes Only.

British Guiana

The British Ambassador is bringing Hugh Fraser, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Colonial Office, to call on you at 5:00 P.M., March 16, to discuss British Guiana.

The press quotes Mr. Fraser as stating in Georgetown: (1) racialism is a greater danger than political differences; (2) all political parties must accept the inevitability of independence; (3) Britain was not aware of any Communist threat to British Guiana.

In his talk with the Secretary in Geneva about British Guiana, Lord Home seemed ready to accept a continuation of British responsibility for a period." The Secretary reported that he did not believe covert action with or without British participation was indicated for the present. He added it was clear [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. The Secretary's report on this conversation is enclosed (Tab A)./2/ There may be differences between the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office about British Guiana.

/2/None of the tabs is printed.

In seeking Mr. Fraser's assessment you may wish to inquire about: (1) the extent of Communist association on the part of Jagan and his colleagues; (2) alternative leaders to Jagan; (3) the probable outcome of any new election; (4) how long might independence be delayed; and, (5) what might be done prior to independence to alter the difficult situation we now face. Unless steps are taken Jagan and the PPP are likely to remain in power.

You may wish to say: (1) the Secretary's talk with Lord Home was reassuring, particularly the indication the British are ready to accept a postponement of independence; (2) the British are well aware of our views on Jagan and his colleagues; (3) we should jointly examine in detail the possibilities open to us and the repercussions of alternative courses.

Staff papers are enclosed giving a chronology of events (Tab B) and comments on possible courses of action (Tab C).

George W. Ball

272. Paper Prepared in the Department of State/1/

Washington, March 15, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, William H. Brubeck Series, British Guiana, Jan. 1961-April 1962. Secret; Eyes Only. Transmitted to the White House.

Possible Courses of Action in British Guiana

This paper points out the possibilities and limitations bearing on three possible courses of action and notes a fourth. Many permutations are possible. An early decision on U.S. policy is desirable because events are tending to constrict our options.

I. Support Jagan in the hope of associating a British Guiana under his leadership with the West, particularly the Inter-American system. This would be a continuation of the policy agreed to with the British in September 1961.

A. The advantages are--Jagan is now in power. He leads the largest and most cohesive party in the country. He is the ablest leader in British Guiana. This course is favored by the UK. The disadvantages arise from the Communist associations of Jagan and his colleagues. However, there is no conclusive evidence that Jagan in under Communist control. Also, during the recent disturbances he appeared incapable of controlling the situation without the support of British troops.

B. Jagan's suspicions of the United States have grown since his visit here in October because of our failure to implement the economic agreements reached with him in October and the activities of private American individuals and organizations in the February disturbances. CIA was not involved. It is now much more difficult than ever to convince Jagan that we are sincerely prepared to support him. The prospects for success of a policy of trying to associate a British Guiana led by Jagan with the West have thus decreased substantially since September.

C. A vocal section of the U.S. public, several members of Congress and U.S. labor unions are strongly opposed to working with Jagan. We have received since Jagan's visit 113 Congressional letters and 2,400 public letters critical of a policy of working with him. A high level effort would be required to obtain public support for such a policy. We would need to find ways to prevent private Americans, e.g. individuals, labor unions, large companies having investments in British Guiana, and rightwing groups (such as the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade") from intervening in British Guiana contrary to this policy.

D. We would need to carry out our economic agreement of October 1961 and be prepared to extend economic development assistance on a continuing basis at a figure in excess of $5 million per year.

E. This course would be generally favored in the UN.

II. Postponement of independence by the UK for a substantial period, say until 1964. (The period" mentioned by Lord Home to the Secretary is probably much shorter. We probably could persuade the British to delay independence for one year from now, i.e., the spring of 1963.)

A. This would defer the decision on whether we should take steps to remove Jagan. It would provide a further period of British tutorship during which the splits within the colony might heal and more responsible leadership might emerge.

B. The Jagan Government would vigorously oppose postponement in the UN and elsewhere. Burnham and D'Aguair favor postponement.

C. The UK is strongly opposed to substantial postponement.

1. Lord Home in his letter of February 26 to the Secretary stated that HMG cannot make an exception in the single instance of British Guiana to its worldwide decolonization policy.

2. The UK would be faced by strong attacks in the UN from the Afro-Asians and possibly some Latin Americans. Just before the recess of the last General Assembly Sir Hugh Foot stated in the Fourth Committee that no decision had been made to postpone the independence conference in May despite the February riots. This was done to avoid debate on an item calling for early independence for British Guiana. Although the resumed session of the 16th General Assembly decided to limit its session in June exclusively" to the question of Ruanda-Urundi, we and the UK must be prepared for the addition of British Guiana to the agenda if independence is postponed. The Soviets and extreme Afro-Asians would be severely critical. However, this situation might be manageable in the UN if a reasonable rationale for delay in independence can be developed. The key would be whether the Latin Americans can be convinced through discreet consultations that premature independence could result in a Castroist toehold in British Guiana. The French Africans might also be alerted to the consequences for the negro population if a Jagan-East Indian independent Government emerges which might not maintain democratic Government. Nevertheless, the U.S. would find itself in a very awkward position and if this course of action is decided upon careful and extensive consultations would be required.

3. There might be opposition from the Labor Party in the UK.

4. The UK would be faced with continuing heavy expenditure estimated roughly at $20 million a year.

5. A portion of the limited British strategic reserve might be tied down indefinitely in British Guiana.

D. In return for delay the British probably would ask:

1. Public support for postponing independence including active lobbying and voting in the UN.

2. A quid pro quo with respect to other British colonies, that is, U.S. support should Britain for its own reasons judge it desirable to slow down progress towards independence, e.g., in Kenya.

3. Shouldering part of the financial burden.

4. Account of the diversion of troops to British Guiana when pressing the UK about military commitments elsewhere.

E. Instead of announcing a postponement of independence the British could just stall for a limited number of months by such devices as a Commonwealth Commission to investigate the February disorders (the press has announced its appointment) and thorough airing of the Venezuelan claim. Such stratagems probably would provoke adverse world reactions, notably in the UN. Unless accompanied by other moves Jagan probably would remain in power.

III. A program designed to bring about the removal of Cheddi Jagan.

A. The program should fit within the framework of existing democratic institutions and would probably result in some slippage in the independence day, e.g., to the first half of 1963.

B. Covert U.S. political action would be required and we would be obliged to follow up by a continuing aid program.

C. Disclosure of U.S. involvement would undermine our carefully nurtured position of anti-colonialism among the new nations of Asia and Africa and damage our position in Latin America. It could also strengthen Jagan over the long term if he became a martyr of Yankee imperialism".

D. A non-PPP Government probably would accept a postponement of the independence date thus somewhat easing problems in the reconvened General Assembly.

E. Before proceeding on such a course of action we would need reasonable assurance of positive answers to the following questions:

1. Can we topple Jagan while maintaining at least a facade of democratic institutions?

2. Can the PPP be defeated in new elections without obvious interference?

3. Can alternative leaders better than Cheddi Jagan be found?

F. A prerequisite should be at least British acquiescence.

G. We would have to be prepared to pay a heavy price in terms of world public opinion in the UN if evidence were presented showing any U.S. covert activities. Even if the extent of U.S. covert involvement were not disclosed, the Soviet bloc and Castro would make the most of another Guatemala" and another Cuba". While we probably could escape censure in the UN, our anti-colonialist image would be severely damaged, our position in Latin America undermined, and our credibility as a supporter of the principle of nonintervention would be severely diminished.

IV. Radical Solution

A. Some drastic solutions might be considered such as establishment of an OAS trusteeship for British Guiana.

B. The UK would be delighted to be relieved of responsibility; we could postpone a decision on Jagan; we would be relieved of public uneasiness and opposition both domestically and internationally.

C. However, great practical difficulties would be faced, e.g., the OAS charter makes no provision for trusteeships. Considerable additional study would be required.

273. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, March 17, 1962.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana II. Secret. Drafted by Foster and approved in G on March 21.

British Guiana


George C. McGhee, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, M
U. Alexis Johnson, Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs, G
William R. Tyler, Acting Assistant Secretary, EUR
Woodruff Wallner, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs, IO
William C. Burdett, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, EUR
Thomas Hughes, Deputy Director for Intelligence and Research, INR
Loren Walsh, Special Assistant, INR/DDC
Rockwood H. Foster, Acting Officer in Charge, West Indian Affairs, BNA

Arthur Schlesinger, White House
Ralph Dungan, White House

Hugh Fraser, British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Colonies
D.A. Greenhill, Head of Chancery, British Embassy

Mr. Johnson welcomed Mr. Fraser and asked if he would give his analysis and forecast of the situation in British Guiana.

Mr. Fraser expressed his appreciation for the opportunity of talking with officials of the United States Government. He explained, however, that he was in a difficult position since he had not yet been able to report his findings to the British Government. He asked, therefore, that anything he said be taken as preliminary and subject to modification by his Cabinet colleagues in London.

He said that the situation in British Guiana was tricky. The affairs of the colony were puffed up out of all proportion to their true importance. He felt that this was partially the fault of the British in sending troops and suspending the constitution in 1953. Jagan's visit to the United States and the hostile American reaction to him had also contributed to the inflated importance of the colony. [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] He felt we should all keep a sense of humor and proportion in considering the situation. Mr. Johnson interjected to say that Jagan had at least symbolic importance for us and we would not think it funny if another country in South America were to go communist.

Mr. Fraser stated that the racial tension between Africans and East Indians in the colony was the central problem. This made matters particularly difficult for the United Kingdom which planned to get out of the colony as soon as possible. He felt that the elections of August 1961 had been the last chance for Burnham and the Africans in the colony. From now on there would be more Indians of voting age than Africans. It was his understanding that by the middle of the 1970's there would be a ratio of almost 2 Indians to 1 African in the population.

Mr. Fraser said that he felt British Guiana was in the United States' sphere of influence. The danger lay in the real possibility that chaos would come to the colony and bring communism after it. He did not feel that communism would come first and then bring chaos with it. He believed that the Indians were not naturally inclined towards communism. They were an acquisitive people and had a strong ethnic loyalty to their own kind. This racialism had been stimulated by Burnham's African bias and by the actions of D'Aguiar.

Mr. Fraser felt that Jagan was a nice man but he was surrounded by a mildly sinister group of advisors, several of whom were the worst kind of anti-colonialist. He did not take Benn seriously and thought Jacob to be a theoretical Marxist. Kelshall was in his opinion a smart adventurer but not necessarily a communist. Rai was definitely anticommunist but not a very staunch person.

He thought it likely that the PPP would win another election since there was no clear alternative to Jagan's leadership. He thought that the United States was now unpopular with the leaders of all the parties. The United States had promised to send a mission to British Guiana but had not done so. This failure of the United States to act tended to throw the Indian merchants behind Jagan since the recent riots give them no moderate alternative. If the United States continues to stay out of the situation he believed all moderate Indian elements would increasingly tend to back Jagan. Mr. Fraser believed that both Burnham and D'Aguiar want the U.S. aid mission to come to the colony before Jagan's control becomes even tighter.

He felt that the Indian commercial community might well put pressure on Jagan to move to the right if the United States adopted a more friendly attitude. Mr. Fraser had urged Jagan to move to the right and to indicate publicly that private capital was welcome in British Guiana. He had urged Jagan to consider himself as the premier of a country and not just the head of a political party.

Mr. Fraser felt that the main contribution of his recent visit to Georgetown was to get the agreement of Jagan, Burnham and D'Aguiar to sit down together and discuss the constitution. He explained that the conference in May which would be held in London was to set a date for independence and to work out the method by which independence for the colony will be achieved. All political leaders in British Guiana want independence but each has a particular timetable and certain requirements for it. D'Aguiar wants it delayed and a referendum held, Burnham wants it soon but with some form of proportional representation and Jagan wants it immediately without provisions which diminish his present political advantage.

Mr. Fraser said he had assured all three leaders that the conference would be held in May as previously scheduled. He expected, however, that this conference might well break down on the question of an agreed constitution. In that case, the matter would have to be given to a U.K. appointed commission to consider. He felt that the constitution would have to contain certain safeguards for minorities in the colony. Both Burnham and D'Aguiar seem to favor some form of proportional representation. Mr. Fraser himself had not reached a decision on this matter but was favorably inclined to the idea at the moment. He mentioned the possibility of establishing a second legislative chamber. He was considering the idea of sending a constitutional expert from the United Kingdom to British Guiana to advise the three leaders as appropriate on the details of constitutions worked out in other countries with similar problems.

Mr. Fraser emphasized his feeling that a delay in British Guiana's independence would not help matters. He did not believe that the Jagan regime was communist. He did feel, however, that there were certain sinister implications in the apparatus being set up to penetrate the trade union movement and the educational institutions. Even these actions were not necessarily communist inclined but could be largely a result of Indian chauvinism. He emphasized that the danger lay in chaos rather than in communism. Jagan himself had said to Fraser that the Africans would never accept a communist-dominated Indian Government and that he would never accept a communist-dominated African Government.

Mr. Fraser explained that the independence conference to be held in May would discuss two things; a date for British Guiana's independence and the means for achieving it. Essentially it would be a constituent assembly of all parties whose recommendations were only advisory to the British Government. It was necessary to produce a constitution which was not only agreeable to all three political parties but consistent with British democratic tradition.

In discussing Burnham, Fraser said that he was intelligent and opportunistic. He was, however, an African and would lose out in the long run unless he broadened the base of his support. He pointed out that Burnham had campaigned almost entirely on a racial basis during the last election. He had not even bothered to issue an election manifesto.

It had become clear to Fraser in his discussions that Jagan thinks D'Aguiar and the CIA were probably responsible for the recent riots. D'Aguiar believes Jagan instigated the civil disorder deliberately. Burnham damns all parties concerned. Mr. Fraser felt nevertheless that all elements were shocked by the racial factor in the recent riots. He pointed out that Jagan could easily have called in the Indian canecutters from the field to attack the African rioters. This was probably prevented by the rapid British action in bringing troops to the city. The violence in Georgetown had been directed mainly against Indian shops. The demonstrations had begun as a nonracial, public protest against Jagan's budget. The causes of the rioting would be determined by the Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry which had recently been announced.

In response to a question, Mr. Fraser did not believe that there was an alternate Indian leader within the PPP who could command support equal to Jagan. Rai had been spoken of in this connection but Fraser seriously doubted whether he had the capacity to lead the PPP.

In discussing the Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry, Mr. Fraser emphasized that its terms of reference were deliberately being kept narrow. Jagan had initially asked for a United Nations commission which would have placed the problem squarely into a cold war situation. Mr. Fraser had talked him out of this and obtained his agreement to a commission appointed by the United Kingdom. He explained that the United Kingdom had strong moral obligation to hold such an inquiry in view of the presence of British troops in the colony. He did not feel that this inquiry would damage Jagan's position. He emphasized that it would not in all probability delay independence.

In response to a question, Mr. Fraser expressed the opinion that independence would come possibly at the end of 1962 but more probably in early 1963. He emphasized strongly that it would be madness to attempt to delay independence and maintain British Guiana's colonial status with British bayonets. He felt the situation would not improve and delaying independence would make things worse.

Mr. Johnson said that we were worried about things getting worse in the colony and wondered what would happen when the troops were pulled out. Mr. Fraser said that the police force which was now largely African would have to be strengthened. Safeguards would be put into the constitution. He felt that British troops should be pulled out as soon as possible and that the number should be cut down to two companies immediately.

Mr. Fraser said he was aware of the recent offer by Cuba to take a large number of British Guiana students. It was clear to him that an independent British Guiana would have a neutralist foreign policy.

Mr. Fraser urged in the strongest possible terms the importance of the United States sending the economic mission to British Guiana as soon as possible. He said that the time was psychologically right for such a mission and it would have a most favorable impact on the people there. Mr. Johnson expressed his concern at the amount of aid which Jagan demanded from the United States. Since this amount was so disproportionate with that available to be given he wondered whether the dispatch of a United States mission and the provision of a very modest amount of money would only cause more trouble. Mr. Schlesinger added that we must also think of the effect on other Latin American countries of aid to British Guiana. He pointed out that on a per capita basis a significant grant of United States aid to British Guiana would place our program out of balance with that being given to an important country such as Brazil.

Mr. Fraser indicated that Jagan was desperate for money. He had tried to get it from the United States, Canada and the Soviet Bloc with no success. The key to the situation in his view was some alleviation by the West now of Jagan's financial problem. The arrival of a U.S. mission would make people in the colony feel that they belonged to the free world and had not been cast into outer darkness. Jagan himself liked strutting on the world stage and was probably bored with the prospect of tending to his internal domestic knitting.

Mr. Fraser indicated that the British planned to leave British Guiana quickly but they hoped to leave conditions there as tidy as possible. He said the British companies in the colony were not worried about this and that Bookers and Alcan were not worried about nationalization. He indicated that the United Kingdom upon leaving the colony would probably agree to providing to British Guiana the balance of the Colonial Development and Welfare commitment already made. This commitment was approximately 8 million pounds sterling.

Mr. Fraser thought it was [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to send his wife Janet up to Canada wearing a red shirt. He thought it unlikely that Canada would make a substantial economic contribution.

Mr. Johnson said that the United States would like to feel more confident that the withdrawal of British troops and the granting of independence to British Guiana would not bring chaos and a communist controlled government. He reminded Mr. Fraser that we thought of this situation partly in terms of our Cuban experience. Castro had originally been presented as a reformer. We do not intend to be taken in twice. He felt it important that the United States and the United Kingdom work very closely at all levels on the problem of British Guiana in order to prevent catastrophe from taking place there. Mr. Fraser agreed entirely but expressed the opinion that the problem of communism would get worse if a United States mission did not go to the colony soon. He felt there was a real possibility that the Soviets might decide to send such a mission if there was no constructive action by the West. Mr. Johnson suggested the advisability of discussions between the U.S. and U.K. about a political action program. Mr. Fraser did not respond.

Mr. Schlesinger and Mr. Dungan mentioned the difficult domestic problem which the United States faced with regard to Jagan. The provision by the United Kingdom of a constitutional advisor would not help to allay fears in Congress and among the American people about the future of the colony. The Administration would be subject to severe criticism particularly from the right wing along the lines that a United States mission was being sent to help Jagan, the communist. The activities of Mr. Sluis of the Christian anti-Communist Crusade made matters worse. The Administration was already facing considerable opposition to the foreign aid legislation before Congress. Criticism of aid to Jagan would not help politically in getting this important legislation approved. Jagan has made things very difficult by his behavior in the United States. It would be helpful if he would take some action to better his United States public image and destroy the parallel in the American public mind with Castro. It would help a great deal if Jagan would do something about this or if some other figure were to arise as the leader of British Guiana.

Mr. Fraser felt that neither Bookers nor Alcan would wish to get involved in British Guiana's politics. Bookers probably considered Jagan to be the best leader of the lot. Any attempt to dump Jagan or to manipulate the political molecules in the situation would be tricky and apt to be counterproductive. If proportional representation became part of the British Guiana constitution this might help in affecting the outcome of a new election. He stressed, however, that such a solution could not be imposed either by the United States or the United Kingdom. We must maneuver British Guianese opinion into wanting some kind of an adjustment in the present political machinery.

Mr. Johnson ended the meeting by expressing his thanks to Mr. Fraser for his comprehensive presentation and analysis of the situation. He urged that the closest contact between United States and the United Kingdom Governments be maintained. He promised that the United States Government would take a hard look at the possibility of sending the economic mission to British Guiana. There might be some possibility of connecting it with the recent disaster in Georgetown and placing it in a humanitarian frame of reference.

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