397. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • British Guiana


  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
    • J. Harold Shullaw, Director, EUR/BNA
  • UK
    • Patrick Gordon Walker, Foreign Secretary
    • The Lord Harlech, British Ambassador
    • Sir Harold Caccia, Permanent Under-Secretary, Foreign Office

By way of background the Secretary described the great problem in the Western Hemisphere of ensuring that the long overdue social and economic revolution is carried out democratically and without communist exploitation. He noted that the long tradition of the Monroe Doctrine means the strongest possible feeling in the United States against foreign intervention in this Hemisphere. In the case of Cuba, the two non-negotiable points are the Soviet presence and Cuban interference in the affairs of other Hemisphere countries. Castro has shown no willingness to cease this interference although the Cubans have suffered reverses in the case of Venezuela and the recent election in Chile.

The prospect that the United Kingdom might leave behind in an independent British Guiana a second Castro regime would be a major concern to the United States. Jagan has received aid from Castro and has meddled in Surinam. We cannot take a chance on him [1 line of source text not declassified]. Proportional Representation offers the possibility of unseating Jagan and obviating the need for direct British administration. We are prepared to give substantial assistance to a non-communist, non-Jagan government. The Secretary described the British Guiana problem as a gut issue on which we need the help of the British Government. He expressed the hope that the elections in British Guiana would be held as scheduled. [1½ lines of source text not declassified]

In his reply, the Foreign Secretary remarked that a Labor Government could not do less than the Conservatives with respect to trade [Page 889] possibilities with Cuba. He said, however, that he would look into the suggestion made earlier by the Secretary that Britain as an alternative to trading with Cuba attempt to improve its trade ties with other Latin American countries. The Secretary said he would send the Foreign Secretary a message on what we thought might be done to strengthen UK relations with the Hemisphere.

With respect to British Guiana, the Foreign Secretary gave the assurance that his Government would proceed with the elections as scheduled. [2 lines of source text not declassified] The Foreign Secretary said he had a very unfavorable opinion of Burnham who is a thoroughly unreliable person. Regardless of the outcome, the election will provide no answer to the problem of racial conflict and therefore there is little prospect of early independence emerging from it. The previous Government committed itself to an early post-election conference on independence, which in the view of the Labor Government, was not desirable. He thought the preferable course of development would be along the lines of self-government with a Commonwealth Court consisting perhaps of Indians, Nigerians and Canadians to deal with the racial conflict. The actual date for independence could be fuzzed. The Foreign Secretary expressed the hope that even if British Guiana does not obtain early independence, it will nevertheless be possible for the United States to furnish aid. He added that Eric Williams on a recent visit to London had advised strongly against early independence.

The Secretary replied that we would be quite happy to see an indefinite continuation of British authority in British Guiana. Perhaps the Organization of American States might ask the British Government not to grant independence while racial strife continues.

Mr. Tyler added the comment that a BurnhamJagan coalition would make it impossible to get Congressional approval of aid for British Guiana. The Foreign Secretary indicated that he recognized a BurnhamJagan coalition would not work although the British Government could not take a public position to this effect.

[1 paragraph (3 lines) of source text not declassified]

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Carlson–Department Messages, Vol. 2, 10/2/64–12/31/64. Secret. Drafted by Shullaw. The meeting was held in Secretary Ruskʼs office. The memorandum indicates it is an advance copy; no final or approved copy has been found.