Skip to main content
British Guiana


Declassified Documents on British Guiana
(Extracted from Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume XII - American Republics. This volume was published by US Department of State, Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, and printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1996).
Posted June 2000

Homepage || Govt. Documents || Speeches || News || History of Guyana


During the late 1950s, the United States Government became increasingly concerned over the political and economic policies of the PPP Government led by Dr. Cheddi Jagan, even though the Government was freely elected by the people of Guyana. Opposition forces consistently accused the PPP Government of being "communist" and this most likely caused the US Government to take a subjective view of the administration.

From the late 1950s and particularly after the re-election of the PPP in 1961, the US Government actively supported efforts to overthrow the Government. Destabilization efforts by local opposition political parties and trade unions, heavily backed by funding from US sources, found ready support from the Kennedy administration.

Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and up to the first half of the 1990s the US Government consistently denied any involvement in Guyana's internal political affairs during the period of the PPP Government in 1961-64. However, in 1996, the US State Department released a number of declassified documents which clearly showed a pattern of US involvement which supported efforts to remove the PPP Government and replace it with one subservient to US interests. Some other documents still remain "classified" despite demands by US historians for their release.

The declassified documents are shown in this collection.

241. Memorandum of Conversation

242. Special National Intelligence Estimate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

259. Memorandum of Conversation

260. Memorandum of Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

268. National Security Action Memorandum No. 135

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

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

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

272. Paper Prepared in the Department of State

273. Memorandum of Conversation

274. Special National Intelligence Estimate

275. Memorandum From the President's' Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy

276. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom

277. Memorandum for the Special Group

278. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy

279. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom

280. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy

281. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Kennedy

282. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to the President's Special Assistant (Dungan)

283. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency

284. Draft Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom

285. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Burdett)

286. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to Director of Central Intelligence Helms

287. Memorandum From the Department of State Executive Secretary (Brubeck) to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)

288. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy

289. Summary of Developments

290. Airgram From the Consulate General in Georgetown to the Department of State

291. Memorandum of Conversation

292. Letter From Premier Jagan to President Kennedy

293. Memorandum for the Record

294. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom

295. Memorandum of Conversation

296. Memorandum for the Record

297. Telegram From the Consulate General in Georgetown to the Department of State

298. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rusk

299. Telegram From the Department of State to the Consulate General in Georgetown

List of Abbreviations


British Guiana

241. Memorandum of Conversation

Georgetown, February 16, 1961


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 BG 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 UK 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 UK 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 UK Sir Ralph stated later in the meeting that BG in its present condition was hardly a good showpiece for what the "old imperialism" either had accomplished or was capable of accomplishing.

(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).
Top Of page


242. Special National Intelligence Estimate

SNIE 87.2 61 Washington, March 21,1961

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 decent. The remainder of the population includes small numbers of British, Portuguese, native Indian, and Chinese residents Partially self-governing 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 achieve 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 over-all 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 antifederation 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 preindependence 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 fume, 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 anticolonialism. 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 (Wl), 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 confronting Jagan, we believe they will do little to interfere with political developments in British Guiana.

(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).
Top Of page


243. Memorandum from the Executive Secretary of the Department of State
(Battle) to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy).
Washington, May 19, 1961

Subject: 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 take over 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 gave 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 joiningthe 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 [1]

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

(Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, March 19-August 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 discussed - in the Task Force?"
Top Of page


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

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

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 US-UK 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."


(Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, May 19-August 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 Chargé).
Top Of page


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

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

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 gave 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 Anglo-American relations. I do not refer to this last point to official circles but to problems of public and Congressional opinion. Cordially yours, Dean Rusk."


(Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, May 19-August 23, 1961. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Rusk).
Top Of page


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

London, August 18,1961

DEAR DEAN, Thank you for your message of the 11th of August [1] 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.

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 Guiana-in 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 nearly 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 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 to us 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,

Alex [2]

1. See Document 245.
2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

(Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, May 19-Aug. 23, 1961. Secret).
Top Of page


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

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

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"


(Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana - Jagan. Top Secret; Niact. Drafted by Burdett and approved by Rusk and U. Alexis Johnson).
Top Of page


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

Washington, August 28,1961

SUBJECT: 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 gave 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. (1)

1. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

(Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 23-Sept. 4, 1961. Confidential).
Top Of page


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

Washington, August 30,1961

SUBJECT: 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 development 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 again would be made after the London conversations.

You will be interested in reading the attached clipping [1] in which Jagan sets forth his own avowed views on the subject of Communism.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr. [2]

1. Not printed.
2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

(Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 1961. Top Secret).
Top Of page


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

Washington, August 31,1961

SUBJECT: British Guiana Paper

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

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 m 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. [2]

1. Not printed.
2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

(Source: Kennedy Library. National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 1961. Top Secret).
Top Of page


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

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

1086. Eyes only Ambassador Bruce. Embtel 876.[1] 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.

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 dispatch 1966. [2]


1. Dated August 29. (Department of State, Central Files, 741D.00/8-2961)
2. Dated April 19. (Ibid., 741D.00/4-1961)

(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).
Top Of page


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

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

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

"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.


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

(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).
Top Of page


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

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

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 f rom the British regarding their willingness to use their "reserve powers" as a last resort. We envisage these various components as parts of an inter-related 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) [1½ 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.

Cordially yours, Dean Rusk" Paper setting forth action program pouched Ambassador September 2. [1]


1. Not found

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


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

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

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

(1) We continue have serious reservations about British assessment Jagan as set forth in London talks in April (London Dispatch 1966)
[2] and in conversation here with Governor Grey (Memcon of April 26).
[3] 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.

(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. Over-generosity and over-attention to Jagan could tempt TWI imitate his tactics.


1. Document 253
2. Dated April 19. (Department of State, Central Files, 741D.00/4-1961)
3. Not further identified.

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


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

Washington, September 7, 1961

SUBJECT: 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.[1] I would have rephrased (1) to read: 'We continue to have serious reservations about British assessment as set forth [etc][2]. . . 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."[3]

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 half-hearted 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.[4]

1. Document 253.
2. All brackets in this paragraph are in the source text.
3. Quote is from telegram 1181, Document 254, not telegram 1165.
4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

Source: Kennedy Library. Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana - Jagan. Secret.
Top Of page


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

Washington, September 9,1961

SUBJECT: British Guiana

I have spoken to Bill Burdett about your memorandum of September 7, 1961
[1] 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.

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;
[2] a telegram containing a letter of instructions for the talks from the Secretary;
[3] and the telegram to which you refer intended to supplement the Secretary's letter.
[4] 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.

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 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.



1. Document 255.
2. For a summary of this paper, see Documents 249 and 250.
3. Document 253.
4. Document 254.

Source: Kennedy Library. Papers of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., British Guiana - Jagan. Secret.
Top Of page


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


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

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.

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.
Top Of page


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

Washington, October 17,1961.

SUBJECT: 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 US-UK interests;
(5) the belief that Jagan himself is not acontrolled 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 connection, 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 in the US-UK 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 US-UK 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 the 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 US-UK 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 re-open the matter with the UK.

Source: Department of State, ARA/NC Files: Lot 67D77, 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
Top Of page


259. Memorandum of Conversation

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

SUBJECT: Call of Premier Jagan of British Guiana on the President


The United States: The President
British Guiana: Cheddi B. Jagan Premier

Under Secretary of State Ball
Professor Arthur Schlesinger
Mr. Richard Goodwin
Mr. William R. Tyler, Acting Asst. Sec.,

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-electionperiod 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.

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.
Top Of page


260. Memorandum of Conversation

Washington, October 26,1961

SUBJECT: 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 Attache, 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.

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.
Top Of page


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

Washington, January 12,1962

SUBJECT: 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, whole-hearted effort to work with Jagan; that the delay in starting the economic program as 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; and 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 whole hearted try. Their feeling, I think, is that knocking out the road (or some comparable demonstration that we mean business in ai


Popular posts from this blog

British Guiana Government Exhibition to Miss Joyclyenne Loncke who will read for a degree in Arts. Source: Government Information Services, BG - Guiana Diary- Vol. XVI No. # 32; of September 25 –October 1, 1960: page 170.

Guiana Scholar Announced ---November 3, 1960
Minister of Community Development and Education, the Honourable Balram Singh Rai, announced on November 3, that the Governor-in-Council has approved of the following awards for the 1960 British Guiana Scholarships.
E. A. C. Thomas – Queen’s College – distinction in Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, and Physics; Miss J. E. Loncke – Private Candidate - distinction in English Literature and Latin. Good in French; W. A. Ramsahoye – Queen’s College – distinction in Mathematics, (Pure, and Applied), Physics and Chemistry.
Sixty-seven candidates (38 boys and 29 girls) had written the examination. The minister sent his personal congratulations to the winners. He also expressed the hope that they would pursue their new…

Identifying Gill Lineage - Descendants of Sancho

Soliciting Information - Gill of Guyana and Barbados.  I am really focusing on the Sancho lineage. I believe it's best to chat about the Gill people from the migration from Barbados to Demerara to the known members of Buxton and Friendship and thus to Golden Grove, Nabaclis and Haslington and their movement beyond Guyana in the twentieth century. I need to be enlightened.  I am soliciting information on the lineage of the kinship of GILL. I need to identify the Sancho ancestor of the members of the kinship of Gill, mentioned below. I am referring to Gill of Buxton-Friendship and their off springs - Arthur Gill and his descendants – of Golden Grove-Nabaclis.  The known members of this Gill kinship of Gill includes; Susan Elizabeth Gill died on Sunday, November 27, 1938.  Ms. Gill was 91 years old. Ms. Gill is the mother of Edith Gill, Irene Gill, Winnie Gill, Arthur Gill, Iris Gill, Oscar Gill, and Princess Gill. Source: The Daily Chronicle - Monday, November 27, 1939: page eight.  Art…

Sancho of Canje,Corentyne, Berbice

"Racism isn't resolved in bed no matter who's sleeping with whom" … Jan Carew
The aim is to identify the ancestry of Sancho.  Wherever Sancho is found, ascertain the relationship to Bentick Sancho, and Tuckness Sancho. It is understood;Sancho of Berbice, Sancho of Guyana, in general,  and Sancho of Suriname are descendants of Bentick Sancho, and Tuckness Sancho.
Sancho of Berbice is found in several locations including; Rose Hall Town,Port Mourant,Corriverton, and New Amsterdam. This Sancho is interested, in Sancho who are about contributing to this process. This Sancho is grateful to Sancho who consider the future generations of Sancho.  This Sancho is with future generations of Sancho will benefit from the effort you and I make today, to know ourselves.
I am interested in the story of the kinships of BENTICK, CAMPBELL, FRIDAY, KISSOON, SANCHO, SOLOMON, and YOUNG (YOUNGE) of Guyana, and the Caribbean basin and the authentic history of the working people of Golden Gr…