249. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy1


  • 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:

that we offer Jagan technical and economic assistance;
that we prepare the way for the admission of an independent British Guiana to the OAS and the Alliance for Progress;
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.

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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:

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.
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 clipping2 in which Jagan sets forth his own avowed views on the subject of Communism.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr.3
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana, Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 1961. Top Secret.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.