265. Letter From the Representative to the United Nations (Stevenson) to Secretary of State Rusk1

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:

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.
Substantial U.S. involvement in the situation would probably be impossible to conceal over a period of time.
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.)
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
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, British Guiana. Top Secret. A copy was sent to the President.