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


  • Current Situation in British Guiana
The coalition government of Forbes Burnhamʼs Peopleʼs National Congress (PNC) and Peter DʼAguiarʼs United Force (UF), installed as a result of the December 1964 elections, is having some success in restoring responsible government to British Guiana. The coalition is not an easy one, however, since Burnham and DʼAguiar neither like nor trust each other and hold conflicting political views. They are united by their opposition to Cheddi Jagan. Jaganʼs opposition Peopleʼs Progressive Party (PPP) is suffering from increased factionalism caused by conflicting personal ambitions and differences of opinion concerning its role as an opposition party. There is no evidence to indicate that Jagan has lost the political support of the vast majority of the Indian population. Some evidence is coming to light of [Page 914]increased Chinese Communist interest in the PPP, and a number of party leaders recently visited China including two leaders of the militant group within the PPP which reportedly wishes to break away from Jagan and form a Communist Party of British Guiana. Jagan has taken a public position opposing the granting of independence to British Guiana under Burnham, and this also has caused him some difficulties.
The International Commission of Jurists is now conducting an inquiry in British Guiana into the question of racial imbalance in the public service, including the security forces. It is expected to produce a report about 1 October 1965. The British Government has informed Burnham of its intention to convene a conference in London to devise a constitution for British Guiana and to set a date for independence. This conference will take place once the International Commission of Juristsʼ report has been submitted, and a date of 2 November 1965 is tentatively established. If this sequence of events is not interrupted, it is expected that British Guiana will achieve independence in the spring of 1966.
The security situation in the country remains disturbed and Jagan is believed to be directing arson and sabotage activities, attempting to increase these to such an extent that the British Government will be forced to delay the independence conference. The leadership of the Guiana Agricultural Workersʼ Union (GAWU), which is loyal to Jagan, plans a major strike effort on the sugar estates during August and September. This could lead to racial violence, and it may be Jaganʼs intention to utilize the strike for this purpose. Local security forces continue to be less than adequate, and the presence of 1300 British troops is still required to insure internal security.
The United States Government is providing approximately $12,000,000 in financial aid to the Burnham government, some of these funds being useful for attacking unemployment in the Georgetown area. The economic situation is slightly improved in British Guiana although the governmentʼs inability to find a market for its rice crop is causing some unrest, particularly among the Indian population, and provides Jagan a handy criticism of the government.

The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] program in British Guiana has three objectives:

to obtain intelligence on the PPPʼs capabilities and intentions, particularly Jaganʼs plans in the immediate future;
to keep Burnham and DʼAguiar working together in the coalition government, and to keep their parties organized in support of the coalition government and prepared for a quick election if one should be necessary; and
to counter Jaganʼs efforts to gain control of organized labor in British Guiana.

[1 paragraph (8 lines of source text) not declassified]

The following items are suggested for discussion at the forthcoming meeting:
the current situation in British Guiana;
current United States Government policy with respect to British Guiana;
anticipated problems in the immediate pre-independence and post-independence period. The withdrawal of British troops from British Guiana and the inadequacy of local security forces are of immediate concern.
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] maintaining covert channels to Burnham and DʼAguiar and how this should be carried out.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, British Guiana, Vol. III, Memos, 12/64–11/65. Another copy is in Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files: Job 80–B01285A, Chronological File DDCI & DCI, 1 Jan–31 Dec 65. Secret; Eyes Only.