851D.20/36: Airgram

The Consul at Cayenne (LaMont) to the Secretary of State

A–37. Reference my telegram No. 13, March 14, 6 p.m.18 Contrary to the opinion expressed in my A–34, March 9, 10 a.m.,18 I believe there is now definite prospect of a revolt against the existing regime, instigated in a large measure by the special broadcasts from the United States to the French Antilles and French Guiana.

One movement is led by Dr. Romaine Parfaite, a French army medical officer with the rank of a major. I believe that his plans are not as yet definitely fixed but that he has in mind using Captain François Freuchet and the Senegalese troops if possible and if not he feels certain that they will take no hostile action. If Parfaite is not able to have the use of Senegalese he may have to rely on natives who would be considerably less useful. The latter talk loudly and at length against the existing regime but are anything but courageous when it comes to action. In a conversation yesterday Parfaite asked me to inquire of my Government if it would assist by sending planes or a vessel to prevent hostile action by the gunboat Mouttet which is now at St. Laurent but which might return to Cayenne at any time, and whether Martinique would be prevented from sending troops to retake the Colony once the present regime was overthrown. I told him I would bring his inquiry to the attention of my Government but added that I thought he would have nothing to worry about once he had control of Cayenne.

I believe that Dr. Parfaite is obtaining a certain amount of assistance and advice from Albert Darnal19 (my A–26 February 12, 10 a.m.18) but believe he is convinced that Darnal and other local leaders will take no risks themselves. If he has to make use of natives, however, he may use men obtained through Darnal.

In connection with a new government Parfaite says that nothing has been decided as yet. He speaks vaguely of a temporary committee composed of five Frenchmen and five natives to decide whether to [Page 250]affiliate with de Gaulle21 or Giraud,22 or possibly a popular vote to decide. With reference to an election on such a matter I pointed out that its inadvisability seemed worthy of study as both factions were apparently fighting for the same end: to free France, and an election might divide the population on this extraneous issue. He said he thought most of the local anti-Vichy Frenchmen would be in favor of affiliation with Giraud but that most of the natives favored de Gaulle.

This conspiracy may depend to a considerable extent on the cooperation of Freuchet. In a private conversation with me, Freuchet said that in case of a revolt against the present regime the troops would take no action. He could easily carry through the revolt himself if he wished but while he is strongly anti-Vichy, he apparently hesitates to take any action.

Colonel Yvan Vanegue, the commander of local troops, is not being included in the conspiracy because his opinions are unknown.

There is an increasing shortage of food in Cayenne and this has caused discontent as well as the broadcasts from the United States. A group of women planned a demonstration Sunday morning March 14th based on the shortage of food but it was decided to postpone it for a week or two until reserve stocks were consumed and the Government would be able to do nothing to alleviate the situation. Flour stocks are reported to be nearly exhausted, practically no fresh meat has been obtainable for several months, and very frequently no fish is obtainable as well as fresh vegetables. For days at a time the public market is completely empty. Furthermore, one of the heaviest rainfalls on record during the past 2 weeks is believed to have done considerable agricultural damage. According to a rumor in Cayenne, the S.S. Guadeloupe while in New Orleans passed to the Free French movement and if this is true no relief is in sight from current food shortages as this vessel brought supplies from the United States.

There is a remote possibility that a revolt here might get out of hand and some of the present officials assassinated. This seems quite unlikely as long as the movement is controlled by responsible persons, but if the movement should get in the hands of the local population, especially the women, anything might happen. In this connection it should be noted that during election riots in 1928 several persons were killed by a mob of local women.

LaMont
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. President of the “Conseil Général” under the former regime.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Gen. Charles de Gaulle, President of the French National Committee in London.
  6. Gen. Henri Honoré Giraud, French High Commissioner of French North Africa.