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415. Memorandum From Gordon Chase of the National Security Council Staff to the Presidentʼs Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • British Guiana

Today I had lunch with Del Carlson who is presently in town on consultations. Here are some of the points which came up.


BG Security Forces—The way matters now stand, (a) independence is likely to come in April 1966 and (b) the British will want to take out their troops a few days before independence. Unfortunately, the local BG security forces will not be in a position to handle the security job effectively before September, 1966. The problem—to delay independence (not likely) or to keep the British troops in place after independence.

Del said that the British have not yet made a firm decision on this matter and that we might be able to convince them to keep troops in BG after independence. I indicated to Del that we will be happy to lend [Page 918]a hand in this effort when he and State give us the word.2 He assured me that he and State will have our offer clearly in mind.


Burnhamʼs VisitBurnham is expected to come to the United States sometime in early December. Del emphasized that the trappings of the visit are as important as the visit itself. He urged that, in addition to the appointment with the President (which is a “must”), we should try to give Burnham some red-carpet treatment. For example, it would be wonderful if we could get Burnham into Blair House.3

I told Del that we will be as helpful as we can.


Venezuela/British Guiana Border DisputeDel said that the Venezuelan claim against British Guiana (Venezuela is claiming about one-half of BG as its own) irritates the hell out of Burnham and that the Venezuelans seem to be getting more serious as time goes on. Del thought that we should look very hard at this one in the fairly near future to see if we should be doing anything. For example, we could urge both parties to go to the International Court of Justice; [4 lines of source text not declassified]4

I told Del that I would look into the matter to see if there is anything that we should be doing at this stage of the game.


East IndiansDel said that we are so far getting nowhere with respect to building up an alternative East Indian party. He went on to say, however, that the situation is still very fluid and that we should probably wait until after independence before we get to work on this problem in earnest. The big hope is that we can locate an alternative East Indian leader; so far no one of any stature appears to be on the horizon. A lesser hope is that Burnham will, by sensible and progressive policies, be able to win the East Indians over to his side. Burnham, however, is not at all confident that he can ever translate East Indian acceptance of his regime into East Indian votes. Neither is Del.

Del added that even if the East Indians cannot be wooed away from Jagan, Burnham will probably do whatever is necessary to win [Page 919]the election in 1968. This could take the form of importing Negroes from other Caribbean countries or, in a pinch, establishing literacy tests for Guianese voters. Literacy tests would hurt the East Indian population more than the Negro population.

Carlsonʼs AvailabilityCarlson will be in Washington for the next week or so; he will, of course, be delighted to come over and talk to you if you want to get an up-to-date briefing. Are you interested?

Yes. Set it up.

Not this time.5

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, British Guiana, Vol. III, Memos, 12/64–11/65. Secret.
  2. In a September 21 memorandum to Chase, Cobb reported that during the next exchange of views with the British Embassy, the Department of State planned to present the advantages of keeping British forces in British Guiana until September 1966. (Ibid.)
  3. A marginal notation in Bundyʼs handwriting next to this sentence reads: “This should be easy.”
  4. At a meeting between Secretary Rusk and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Irabarren Borges on October 7 Rusk “expressed the hope that the Venezuelan Government would pursue this matter bilaterally with the U.K. and not seek to involve the U.S. at this point ‘since we have more than enough other problems.’” (Memorandum of conversation, October 7; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 BR GU–VEN)
  5. Bundy checked this option.