272. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- This course would be generally favored in the UN.
- 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.)
- 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.
- The Jagan Government would vigorously oppose postponement in the UN and elsewhere. Burnham and D’Aguair favor postponement.
- The UK is strongly opposed to substantial postponement.
- 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.
- 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.
- There might be opposition from the Labor Party in the UK.
- The UK would be faced with continuing heavy expenditure estimated roughly at $20 million a year.
- A portion of the limited British strategic reserve might be tied down indefinitely in British Guiana.
- In return for delay the British probably would ask:
- Public support for postponing independence including active lobbying and voting in the UN.
- 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.
- Shouldering part of the financial burden.
- Account of the diversion of troops to British Guiana when pressing the UK about military commitments elsewhere.
- 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.
- A program designed to bring about the removal of Cheddi Jagan.
- 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.
- Covert U.S. political action would be required and we would be obliged to follow up by a continuing aid program.
- 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”.
- A non-PPP Government probably would accept a postponement of the independence date thus somewhat easing problems in the reconvened General Assembly.
- Before proceeding on such a course of action we would need
reasonable assurance of positive answers to the following
- Can we topple Jagan while maintaining at least a facade of democratic institutions?
- Can the PPP be defeated in new elections without obvious interference?
- Can alternative leaders better than Cheddi Jagan be found?
- A prerequisite should be at least British acquiescence.
- 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 [Page 558] 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.
- Radical Solution
- Some drastic solutions might be considered such as establishment of an OAS trusteeship for British Guiana.
- 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.
- However, great practical difficulties would be faced, e.g., the OAS charter makes no provision for trusteeships. Considerable additional study would be required.
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, William H. Brubeck Series, British Guiana, Jan. 1961-April 1962. Secret; Eyes Only. Transmitted to the White House.↩