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421. Memorandum Prepared for the 303 Committee1


  • Support to Anti-Jagan Political Parties in Guyana

1. Summary

It is established U.S. Government policy that Cheddi Jagan, East Indian Marxist leader of the pro-Communist Peopleʼs Progressive Party (PPP) in Guyana, will not be permitted to take over the government of an independent Guyana. Jagan has the electoral support of the East Indians, who are approximately 50% of the total population of Guyana. It is believed that Jagan has a good chance of coming to power in the [Page 931]next elections unless steps are taken to prevent this. Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, leader of the majority Peopleʼs National Congress (PNC) in the coalition, is aware of the problem, and has stated that he is fully prepared to utilize the electoral machinery at his disposal to ensure his own re-election. Burnham has initiated steps for electoral registration of Guyanese at home and abroad,2 and has requested financial assistance [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for the PNC campaign. It is recommended that he and his party be provided with covert support in order to assure his victory at the polls. At the same time, it is believed that support to Peter DʼAguiar and his United Force (UF), the minority party in the coalition government, is also essential in order to offset Jaganʼs solidly entrenched East Indian electoral support. It is recommended that the 303 Committee approve the courses of action outlined in this paper at a cost of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].3

2. Problem

To prevent the election of Cheddi Jagan in the next elections in Guyana.

3. Factors Bearing on the Problem


Origin of the Requirement

Under the Guyana Constitution, new elections for the National Assembly must take place prior to 31 March 1969, and can take place at any time should the Prime Minister bring about the dissolution of the Parliament.

Prime Minister Forbes Burnham of Guyana is aware that the U.S. Government is opposed to Cheddi Jaganʼs assumption of power in Guyana. He is also acutely conscious of the racial factors in the country which work to Jaganʼs advantage, and he realizes that he must immediately initiate a vigorous campaign if he is to defeat Jagan.

Burnham has personally undertaken the task of reorganizing the PNC, which has not functioned in many areas since the last elections. [Page 932]He plans to establish campaign headquarters in Georgetown and other urban areas where the African vote is concentrated, and will also send organizers throughout Guyana to re-enlist PNC supporters who have been inactive in party affairs since the last elections. At the same time, Burnham is sending a trusted political adviser abroad to survey the potential absentee vote which he can expect from Guyanese residing in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and the West Indies.

Burnham believes that he would have great difficulty ensuring his own re-election without support from the U.S. Government. He has requested financial support [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for staff and campaign expenses, motor vehicles, small boats, printing equipment, and transistorized public address systems. He also wishes to contract for the services of an American public relations firm to improve his image abroad and counteract Jaganʼs propaganda in the foreign press.

Since we believe that there is a good likelihood that Jagan can be elected in Guyana unless the entire non-East Indian electorate is mobilized against him, we also believe that campaign support must be provided to Peter DʼAguiar, the head of the United Force (UF) and Burnhamʼs coalition partner.



The U.S. Government determined in 1962 that Cheddi Jagan would not be acceptable as the head of government in an independent Guyana. When elections were scheduled for December 1964, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] was instructed to ensure Jaganʼs defeat by the provision of guidance and support to Burnham and DʼAguiar, leaders of Guyanaʼs two anti-Jagan political parties. This was accomplished. Burnham and DʼAguiar established a coalition government which is now in power. This is, however, an uneasy arrangement and Burnham desires a PNC majority in the Assembly to result from the forthcoming election. While we are not yet persuaded that Burnhamʼs objective is feasible, we believe it is essential that he wage a vigorous campaign against Jagan from this moment on.

The following tabs provide further background: Tab A, Background to the Jagan Problem; Tab B, Burnham and DʼAguiar; Tab C, Other Courses of Action.4


Relationship to Previous 303 Committee Actions

Action to remove Jagan from power in British Guiana was considered by the Special Group during the period 6 April 1961–23 May [Page 933]1963. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] financial support to the British Guiana Trades Union Council during the strikes of 1962 and 1963 was approved. The Special Group did not approve other political action against Jagan during that period because of British Government concern. Since early 1963, political action operations in Guyana have not been the subject of Special Group consideration.


Pertinent U.S. Policy Considerations

U.S. policy towards Guyana has since 1962 been to prevent the return to power of a Communist government headed by Cheddi Jagan.


Operational Objectives

To prevent the installation of a Jagan-led government in Guyana by providing support to the PNC and the UF for the purpose of assuring an electoral victory for the non-Jagan parties.

[Omitted here is subsection e., “Cover Considerations.”]


Risks Involved

Jagan has consistently and publicly accused the U.S. and U.K. Governments of having undermined him and of having aided Burnham. It is expected that he will continue to reiterate these charges and to accuse the U.S. and U.K. of supporting Burnham, regardless of what course of action Burnham may follow. Jagan has cried wolf so often in the past that a reiteration of the same charges is not expected to carry much impact, particularly if the timing of the operation is handled appropriately. In this connection, Burnham is thinking of utilizing voting machines in certain districts in Guyana, knowing that this will attract Jaganʼs attention and lead to charges of fraud. Since Burnham does not intend to rig the machines, and the tallies will in fact be accurate, he believes this will not only divert Jaganʼs attention during the election campaign but will add credibility to the results after the fact.

Burnham has been made aware that the U.S. Government will attach the utmost importance to tight security practices in the event that support is provided to him as proposed in this paper. He recognizes that any exposure of this support will reflect on him as well as on the U.S. Government, and he is prepared to deny receipt of any such aid. American and British press coverage of the 1968 elections must be expected to be relatively intensive, and it is likely that some British and American correspondents may be favorably predisposed to Jagan. For this reason, it will be essential that Burnham not only counter Jaganʼs assertion that Burnham represents a minority of the electorate, but also that the U.S. Governmentʼs involvement not be revealed in any way. Recent publicity resulting from the Ramparts exposures had led to charges in the press that AFL/CIO assistance to the British Guiana Trades Union Council during the general strike of 1964 was in fact CIA [Page 934]action and overthrew the Jagan government. There has been no allegation in the aftermath of the Ramparts exposures that the U.S. Government was involved in the December 1964 election. Therefore, it is believed that since the AFL/CIO is not involved in this proposed course of action in any way, and since there has been no exposure of U.S. Government involvement in the 1964 elections, necessary risks involved in the proposed course of action can be undertaken with appropriate safeguards.

The present security forces in Guyana are considered adequate to contain limited or sporadic violence. However, should Jagan resort to large-scale violence such as occurred during the 1962–64 period, the present security forces would not be adequate. If this should occur, it is problematical as to whether the U.K. could be persuaded to send in British troops, even if Burnham so requested. In any event, the British would have difficulties in sea-lift and logistical support.


Other Courses of Action

In recent months various methods for dealing with the Jagan problem have been considered by the Department of State [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], and discussed with representatives of the British Government. The proposed course of action outlined in this paper is believed to represent the most desirable course of action under current circumstances. Should it appear, as the election campaign develops, that this proposed course of action is not sufficient, other actions may become necessary to supplement this proposal. Whichever courses of action are pursued, it is believed necessary that we anticipate that elections will be held in Guyana no later than March 1969 and support to Burnham for the PNC and to DʼAguiar for the UF is essential in any case. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] will continue to monitor the Guyana situation to permit identification and evaluation of other courses of action should Jagan depart from his current strategy or should it appear that he is likely to win an election despite our best efforts to prevent this. These other courses of action are outlined in Tab C.


Timing of the Operation

[6½ lines of source text not declassified] For this reason, we recommend the immediate and continuing injection of fiscal support to both the PNC and the UF, and we propose to maintain close contact with Burnham and DʼAguiar and their principal associates in order to influence the course of the election wherever necessary. This should be initiated at the earliest possible date, so that alternate tactics can be considered.

[Omitted here is Section 4., “Coordination.”]

[Page 935]

5. Recommendation

It is recommended that the 303 Committee approve this proposed course of action at a level not to exceed [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, 303 Committee Records, April, 1967. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. In a meeting [text not declassified] on September 16, 1966, Burnham requested money for various political purposes and outlined his plans to issue identification cards to all Guyanans above the age of 10, and to identify and register all Guyanans of African ancestry in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States in order to get their absentee votes in the next elections. “Conversely, Burnham acknowledged with a smile, East Indians living abroad may have trouble getting registered and, if registered, getting ballots.” (Ibid., [file name not declassified] Telegrams and Reports, 1965)
  3. According to an April 10 memorandum for the record, the 303 Committee approved this proposal at its April 7 meeting. [text not declassified] emphasized during the Committeeʼs discussion the importance of starting early in the implementation of the proposal. (Ibid., Guyana 1969, 1970)
  4. All attached but not printed.