378. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of Plans of the Central Intelligence Agency (Helms) to the Presidentʼs Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • British Guiana
On 21 May 1964 the Consul General in Georgetown [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reported that [3 lines of source text not declassified] it was now evident that the security situation had reached the point where it would be essential for a state of emergency to be declared.2 The Governor has urged both Cheddi and Janet Jagan to end the strike on the sugar estates and to give him the necessary advice of the Council of Ministers to declare a state of emergency, as reported in my memorandum of 21 May.3 The Governor has reported that Premier Jagan would be prepared to give him the advice of his Ministers on either 22 or 23 May; he said the legal documents were ready for the emergency order, but there were still a few decisions yet to be made. However, the Jagan emergency order may not contain sufficient powers to control the situation, such as the right to search and detain without a warrant.
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] wished that influence could be brought to bear on Richard Ishmael, president of the Manpower Citizensʼ Association (MPCA), which is the anti-Jagan sugar workersʼ union, to co-operate with the pro-Jagan arbitration committee which has been set up to mediate the dispute. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] representatives pointed out to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that this would be giving in to Jagan and that Ishmael probably would not follow [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] advice in this matter. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] agreed with this, but said that he would not like [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to urge defiance from Ishmael.
In view of the above, a [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] State [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] cable has been sent to the Consul General [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] [Page 862] in Georgetown,4 giving [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] the following guidance:
  • “a. Our principal objective is to defeat the PPP in the forthcoming elections and to bring into power a coalition government of the Peopleʼs National Congress, the United Force, and alternative East Indian party(ies), headed by Linden Forbes Burnham. While retaining tactical flexibility, all our moves must be directed at attainment of this objective.
  • “b. We believe that in terms of accomplishing our objective things at this time are going well despite the current wave of violence. Registration of voters to date and the increasing nervousness of the PPP support this assessment.
  • “c. Therefore, we should make every effort to adhere to the present schedule, i.e., elections under proportional representation in early November, and to avoid being deflected from our present course. The PPP is clearly making every effort to upset this schedule.
  • “d. We believe that resumption of direct British rule at this stage would impede the attainment of our objective. Resumption could delay elections, make it easier for the British Labour Party, if it comes to power, to tamper with Sandysʼ decision, and give the PPP additional campaign issues.
  • “e. We share the view of the Governor that the declaration of a state of emergency probably will be required to cope with the security situation. The British may have to buttress the declaration by dispatching additional troops to British Guiana. We see advantages in the declaration resulting from ʼadviceʼ of the Ministers. If ʼadviceʼ from the Ministers is not forthcoming,5 declaration by a special Order in Council may well be necessary.
  • “f. Tactically we would prefer to allow HMG on its own initiative, without urgings by the U.S., to arrive at the conclusion that a declaration of emergency and probably the dispatch of additional troops are required.
  • “g. We agree with your reasons that it would be disadvantageous for the MPCA to consent to co-operate with the committee to investigate the sugar dispute, which is obviously stacked in favor of the PPP. We also agree that Ishmael is not likely to co-operate. In discussions locally you should continue to take the position that Ishmael should be allowed to make his own decision.
  • “h. [1 line of source text not declassified]”
A copy of this memorandum is being sent to Mr. William C. Burdett of the Department of State. Ambassador Bruce in London has been informed of the above.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, British Guiana, Special File. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. [text not declassified] State [text not declassified] telegram from Georgetown, unnumbered, May 21. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, British Guiana 1964 [file name not declassified] Progress Report [file name not declassified] State Memos)
  3. Memorandum from Helms to Bundy, May 21. (Ibid.)
  4. No other copy of this cable has been found.
  5. In telegram 298 to Georgetown, May 22, the Department reported that the British Embassy in Washington had informed it that, under pressure from the Governor and the Commissioner of Police, Jagan had notified the Governor that he would “advise” the Governor to declare a state of emergency on May 22 or 23. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–8 BR GU)