391. Telegram From the Consulate General in British Guiana to the Department of State1
IN 86222. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] pass following message from Carlson to Shullaw:
In discussions with Burnham at his initiative early this week I found him relaxed and confident. He apparently believes election largely matter of getting vote out and having organized to do so along [Page 881]lines of U.S. party he foresees no particular problem. Every week or so he plans to spend few days in countryside talking to small groups and has already done so in African pockets of Corantyne. He prefers this method rather than mass meetings in order minimize problem of security. He plans no concentrated campaign with mass meetings until last 3–4 weeks before December 7 election. His party manifesto will appear at start that phase of campaign. In meantime he plans issue separate pamphlets unemployment, education, roads, and rice.
Burnham was especially interested in any ammunition we could provide to counter Jagan's exploitation of theme that Cuban rice market depends on his continuation in office. I told him we were aware of this problem and would see what we could develop.
Burnham also much interested in what specifics he could promise in way of projects. I suggested (1) improvement of East Coast road; (2) maintenance of sea wall; (3) airport improvements, including new terminal building; (4) Berbice Bar cut. Re sea wall I pointed out he could claim regime jeopardized lives and property by failure do maintenance work over last few years. He could call attention to break in wall and flooding near Buxton early this year. He picked this up with alacrity. He also apparently liked Berbice Bar cut (which incidentally may improve his relations with New Amsterdam PNC boss Kendall who is not always enthusiastic about Burnham). He was all for East Coast road, but also suggested desirability improving road from New Amsterdam to Skeldon in Corantyne, saying need was especially great because not only is road in miserable condition but also there is no railroad. He also wanted Atkinson–Mackenzie road (estimated total cost U.S. $8 million) and mentioned desirability developing road to Potaro and eventually on to Brazil. He thought this road would open up agricultural areas. Although he sought my immediate approval to road in Corantyne and Atkinson–Mackenzie road, I made clear I was not in position to go beyond East Coast road without further authorization. He asked me to look particularly into possible authorization of Corantyne road. He has in mind after very brief respite following election to announce full-scale program. He would like during four-year term to complete as many short-range projects as possible and to have made sufficient start on number of long-range projects that public can clearly see what future portends from Burnham administration. Shortly after announcing his program he apparently wishes to make tour abroad, not only for purposes prestige or recognition but also to collect commitments for financial or economic assistance. He did not specify what countries he has in mind but it will undoubtedly include Germany and U.S. He mentioned that Jagan had apparently been given much attention when he visited Washington in 1961. I have little doubt that Burnham will expect be received by the President and that he is already leading up to this suggestion.[Page 882]
Comment: It would be politically desirable for Burnham to advocate Corantyne road since it would so clearly benefit Indian community as well as have immediate impact as adjunct of East Coast road. This road passes through rice and sugar areas from New Amsterdam to Skeldon and is 48 miles long. In 1949–53 this road was rebuilt and paved reportedly at a cost of about U.S. $3 million, but because of faulty engineering and construction it deteriorated almost completely after 4 years. Since then it has been occasionally patched. It is estimated that rehabilitation and paving with asphalt could be done for about U.S. $1.5 million. It is suggested that Department explore feasibility of permitting me inform Burnham Corantyne road may also be improved.2 The Department may wish consider whether touch base Colonial Office to obtain their concurrence to substitute Corantyne road for some other project or projects of equivalent value now on U.S.–U.K. agreed list. (Actually this road could be considered part of East Coast road.) Burnham will doubtlessly be raising matter of both Corantyne and possibly Atkinson–Mackenzie road with me shortly in order start preparing pamphlet on roads. Therefore, sooner we can decide whether we bless Corantyne road at least in principle the better.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, British Guiana, Vol. II, Memos, 12/63–7/64. Secret.↩
- In an unnumbered telegram to Carlson dated October 7, Shullaw reported that Burnham could be assured that the United States would assist British Guiana in road improvement projects and that this would include East Coast roads at least as far as Skelton. Regarding the Atkinson–MacKenzie road, Shullaw said that “assurances must be hedged at this time,” due to the question of how best to finance all the road projects. (Ibid.)↩