392. Backchannel Message From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

For Ambassador Bruce from Shullaw. There follows a paper on our interest in British Guiana which you may draw on in talking with Harold Wilson, should he become Prime Minister.2 Wilson will undoubtedly have [Page 883] a very tight schedule and countless other problems but we believe it would be best to go straight to him personally on this subject rather than to his Colonial Affairs Minister. So far as we can tell developments in BG are in accordance with our policy objectives and we hope Wilson will agree to continue along the charted course.


(May be left with Mr. Wilson should he request it)

Since August 1961 the problems of British Guiana as it approaches independence have been discussed at the highest levels of our two governments with a view to seeking ways whereby the colony may obtain independence without posing a threat to the security of its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere.

As you know, Latin America is an area of the greatest importance to us. The establishment of an independent government in British Guiana under leadership which has been markedly receptive to communist ideas and vulnerable to communist subversion would create an intolerable situation for the United States and other countries in the Hemisphere. Previous British Governments have shown an understanding of this situation [1 line of source text not declassified] affording a full opportunity for the United States to express its views. [2½ lines of source text not declassified] The President hopes you will share with him the conviction that it should continue along present lines.

It is the opinion of the United States Government that the proposed elections in British Guiana under Proportional Representation, despite the difficulties entailed, provide a democratic means through which the aspirations of all the people and races of British Guiana can be faithfully reflected. We believe that if the electorate participates fully in the elections the results can provide a basis for the formation of a representative government in which the possibility of communist infiltration will be significantly reduced. It is our intention to do what we can to assist a non-communist government in British Guiana so that the country at the earliest practicable date may attain independence with economic and social stability and have the prospect of playing a useful role in the hemisphere and in the community of free nations.3

  1. Source: Department of State,INR/IL Historical Files, British Guiana, Policy Papers, 1964. Secret. Drafted by Cobb.
  2. In an October 13 memorandum to Bundy, Chase stated that this cable was redrafted to delete mention of a possible JohnsonWilson telephone call and instead stressed the need for Bruce to talk personally to Wilson, who was “sensitive to the US–UK Alliance.” A notation in Bundyʼs handwriting on the memorandum reads “OK, MB.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, British Guiana, Vol. II Memos, 12/63–7/64)
  3. Bruce did not get an opportunity to talk to Wilson personally (the British Labor Party won the general parliamentary elections of October 15 and Harold Wilson, as party leader, became Prime Minister) and transmit this message, but did give it to Patrick Gordon Walker, the new Labor Foreign Secretary; see Document 394.