371. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson1


  • Visit of British Prime Minister Home; British Guiana

I recommend you make the following points to Sir Alec Home regarding British Guiana:

You are as concerned as President Kennedy over British Guiana.
Emergence of another Communist state in this hemisphere cannot be accepted; there is grave risk of Jaganʼs establishing a Castro-type regime should he attain independence.
Prime Minister Macmillan and President Kennedy agreed that British Guiana should not become independent under Jagan2 and that a change of government must be sought.
Jagan must be defeated in the next election.
Suspension of the constitution and imposition of direct rule would help defeat Jagan.
Direct British control over internal security, strengthening the police, and a broad interpretation of the powers reserved to the UK in foreign affairs to prevent entry of personnel and funds from Cuba would help overcome the atmosphere of intimidation Jagan is trying to create.

Sir Alec will probably (1) confirm the Macmillan/Kennedy understanding; (2) endorse the importance of assuring Jaganʼs defeat; [Page 853] (3) question the feasibility of a resumption of direct UK rule unless the grounds can be publicly shown to be fully justified.

Dean Rusk 3


Paper Prepared by the Department of State



In a letter of July 18, 1963, to President Kennedy from Prime Minister Macmillan4 the British advised us of their decision “… to impose a system of proportional representation without a referendum and then to hold elections under a new system”. This letter also informed us of a British expectation to “renew direct rule for a period of six months to a year while a new constitution is introduced and new elections held under it”. The latter assertion was made on a British assumption that Jagan would resign when informed of the new electoral system at a Constitutional Conference held October 22–31. He did not do so, but has repeatedly stated that he does not feel bound to accept the British decisions.

Jagan seems uncertain and a little desperate but he is unlikely to resign voluntarily. No occasion has yet arisen to show whether he will obstruct the carrying out of the decisions but probably he will try to hang on, temporizing and avoiding flagrantly illegal acts. His regime has been organizing a protest march on Georgetown as well as secretly promoting a rash of arson in the countryside. The regime is likely to try to foster an atmosphere of intimidation and potential terror in an effort to attract international attention and more particularly to discourage opponents of the regime.

While the UK agrees as to the importance of getting rid of Jagan, it is reluctant to impose direct rule unless Jaganʼs actions so clearly call for such a course as to pose no presentational problems for the UK. In addition, the UK tends to put somewhat less weight than we do on the advantages of such a step. The UK believes that Jagan would pose as a martyr and could be more dangerous in opposition than as Premier.

In view of the above circumstances, we think it desirable that the UK increase security and interpret its reserved powers in the foreign affairs field broadly in order to frustrate communist aid to the Jagan regime.

  1. Source: Department of State,INR/IL Historical Files, British Guiana Chronological File 1964. Top Secret. Drafted by Burdett on February 5 and forwarded to McGeorge Bundy under cover of a February 7 memorandum in which Burnett assumed Bundy would “wish to talk to the President personally” about it.
  2. Documentation on the Kennedy administrationʼs policies toward British Guiana is in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XII.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  4. A copy is in the National Archives, RG 59, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, UK/Macmillan.