379. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Call on Premier Cheddi Jagan


  • Premier Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana
  • Delmar R. Carlson, American Consul General, British Guiana
  • William B. Cobb, Jr., British Guiana Desk Officer, Washington

We were received by Premier Jagan in his darkened, air-conditioned office. Jagan explained that because of astigmatism his eyes suffered from the intense glare and therefore he was more comfortable in a dim office.

Jagan said he was most discouraged about the situation in British Guiana. The efforts of the sugar workers to throw off the burden of the company union had led to tension in the community and racial animosities had been aroused. He did not know what would happen now. The struggle against the company union, and the BGTUC is nothing but a company union nowadays, should be resolved and he had appointed a committee to try to resolve it but only the sugar workers were willing to cooperate.

On the political scene he was also discouraged. The British Government had imposed PR although it was admittedly a most unsatisfactory voting method and he wondered what it might lead to. The British had pushed him around since he first organized the PPP and had changed the system on him time and again gerrymandering districts, changing the number of districts, and now even PR. It was most discouraging and Indian voters might well become disenchanted with [Page 864] the so-called parliamentary system of democracy and turn elsewhere if the Guiana experience was any example. Perhaps it was a result of the cold war tensions but parliamentarianism and democracy seemed on the way out. In Latin America for example there are many more dictatorships today than ever before since World War II.

“No matter what I try to do,” Jagan said, “I can get no where. I am opposed by everyone, including the CIA which I suppose is the American Government. I laid my cards on the table to President Kennedy, and he gave me to understand that he would help me but he didnʼt and I can only conclude that he was a liar or that he was influenced to change his decision. The people in BG know that I am trying to help them. They are not dumb. But they see that I am being frustrated by every turn. When I see newspaper correspondents they distort what I tell them. I am being maligned by a press agency in Miami, presumably run by Cuban refugees, which has distributed an article saying that I advocated wiping out the Negroes in B.G. This is completely untrue-itʼs a deliberate distortion.”2

In his rambling exposition Jagan mentioned that he listened often to the VOA, and referred specifically to a panel program which discussed the situation in Vietnam. He said that one of the speakers pointed out that the war in Vietnam was being lost because it was not supported by 80% of the population. He inferred that the turmoil in South East Asia was a direct result of American involvement.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 19 BR GU. No classification marking. Drafted by Cobb. The meeting was held in Jaganʼs office.
  2. Telegram 403 from Georgetown, May 30, reported Carlsonʼs observations of the meeting with Jagan, including Jaganʼs view that the United States turned against him after what he thought had been a successful visit to Washington, presumably because “pressure had been brought on President by right wing groups or by CIA.” Jagan visited the United States and met with President Kennedy on October 25, 1961; for a memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XII, Document 259. Jagan also felt the only answer to the present situation was a grand coalition but that “speaking man to man,” Burnham would not join in because the United States would not let him. Carlson reported that he responded that he could not believe that the Premier, or Burnham, or DʼAguiar were or could be puppets of anybody. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15 BR GU)