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431. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Oliver) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Bohlen)1


  • Electoral Assistance to Guyanan Prime Minister Burnham—Progress Report

Attached is a [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] memorandum of 22 January2 reporting the progress that has been made in putting into effect the 303 Committeeʼs decision of April 1967 to provide anti-Jagan forces in Guyana with covert support for the next national elections, which are scheduled for late 1968 or early 1969. The bulk of the assistance, whose total cost was estimated at [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], was to go to Prime Minister Forbes Burnham of the Peoples National Congress (PNC); a lesser amount was to go to the PNCʼs junior partner in the government coalition, the United Force (UF).

The Committeeʼs decision was grounded in the belief that as Prime Minister Jagan would be an instrument of Communist influence in Latin America. He is a declared Marxist, and during his years as head of government in 1961–64 demonstrated in a number of ways his close sympathy with both the Soviet Union and Cuba. The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] memorandum of proposal that formed the basis of the Committeeʼs April decision pointed out that in these years some 50 members of his Peopleʼs Progressive Party (PPP) were trained in guerrilla warfare in Cuba; that some 90 PPP youths were currently being educated in Bloc countries; that the Soviet Union during Jaganʼs premiership had given over $3,000,000 in direct support of the PPP; and that Jaganʼs Accabre College, which he established in Guyana in 1965, is a base for Marxist indoctrination of PPP members.

The attached memorandum notes a number of steps that have been taken to implement the 303 Committee decision. A PNC training program in organizational and campaign techniques is in progress [4 lines of source text not declassified] to publicize Guyanaʼs progress and thus attract the maximum number of these voters.

[Page 949]

A nation-wide registration of all Guyanese over 15 has been all but completed; the information it yields will be helpful in indicating likely areas and groups for PNC campaign effort. For its part, the UF has begun working in both urban and rural areas and among its potential supporters in American Indian settlements. Of the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] originally authorized, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] was committed in FY ʼ67. Of the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] programmed for FY 1968 only [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] has been committed thus far, but the report anticipates an early quickening in the pace of outlays.

Despite these endeavors, the election still promises to be a nip-and-tuck affair. The countryʼs vote will once more be cast almost completely along ethnic lines, and there is no solid assurance that Burnhamʼs Negro supporters, even with their strength supplemented by their overseas compatriots, will carry the day against the East Indian supporters of Jagan. The feasibility of Burnhamʼs design to effect a preelection merger with St. Vincent and thus take advantage of that islandʼs largely Negro vote is still uncertain. Guyanaʼs border problems with Venezuela and Surinam are being vigorously exploited by Jagan, as are charges that the United States, and especially the CIA, is involving itself in Guyanaʼs internal affairs.3 But although prospects are thus unclear, they are bright enough to justify keeping to our present course.

I recommend that the attached memorandum be noted in the next 303 Committee meeting.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Guyana 1969, 1970. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. The attached memorandum reported that the PNC claimed to already have 20,000 overseas Guyanese registered, [text not declassified], and that, “according [less than 1 line of source text not declassified],” Cheddi and Janet Jagan and a small hard-core group of Marxists around them had purged the PPP of the majority of its moderate leaders at the party congress in late August 1967.
  3. Jagan charged that the Shoup Registration System International of Pennsylvania was a front for the CIA and would help with the rigging of the coming elections, according to a December 17, 1967, New York Times article, a copy of which was attached but not printed.