433. Memorandum Prepared for the 303 Committee1
- Support to Anti-Jagan Political Parties in Guyana: Progress Report
On 7 April 1967 the 303 Committee approved2 a proposal to support anti-Jagan political parties in Guyana in the national elections scheduled for late 1968 or early 1969. Previous progress reports on this activity were considered by the 303 Committee on 7 August 19673 and 16 February 1968.4
This progress report describes current and projected activities in the election campaigns of the People's National Congress (PNC) and the United Force (UF), notes a new turn in Prime Minister Forbes Burnham's electoral strategy and describes the current state of Guyana's border disputes with Venezuela and Surinam.
This report also refers to the previous progress report on this activity, considered by the 303 Committee on 16 February 1968, which stated that of the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] originally approved by the Committee, approximately [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] were spent in FY 1967 and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] were programmed for FY 1968. This report further points out that these funds have now been spent and it is estimated that an additional [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] will be needed for the remainder of FY 1968 and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] will be needed in FY 1969. Approval for the expenditure of this amount is recommended.5 (The [less than 1 line of source text [Page 952]not declassified] are available [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Of the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] needed for FY 1969, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] are available or programmed [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]; the remaining [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] would have to be provided from the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Reserve for FY 1969.)
2. Current Activities
Preparations for the elections are proceeding satisfactorily with the following activities now under way:
A. Campaign in Guyana
The campaign organizations of the People's National Congress (PNC) led by Prime Minister Forbes Burnham and the United Force (UF) led by Peter D'Aguiar have been set up in Guyana and both these parties are now engaged in their electoral campaigns. Due to its larger size and the wider and more varied activities demanded of it, the PNC is more advanced in its state of organization than is the UF. PNC offices have been set up at the precinct level throughout the populated areas of the country and party activists have begun to canvass potential voters. The UF began its campaign later than the PNC due to its smaller size and the somewhat more restricted area in which it must organize. However, the UF campaign is now beginning to get underway, party organizers are canvassing urban areas where most UF voters are located and are also making an increasing number of visits to the interior, where Amerindian voters, who made up approximately one third of the UF vote in 1964, are located.6 The UF and the PNC each has a campaign manager in Guyana [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Both of these are professional political organizers and are doing an excellent job in getting the parties organized for the elections.
B. Guyana National Census and Voter Registration
The Government of Guyana is carrying out a census of all citizens 14 years of age and over who reside in Guyana. The names of Guyanese of voting age will be drawn from the census list to compose the voter registration lists for the elections. All three parties, the PNC, the UF and the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) led by Cheddi Jagan, are now working to make sure that their adherents are properly registered. [3 lines of source text not declassified] The Government of Guyana at one time planned to have the census completed in early 1968; however [Page 953]various delays have occurred and the government recently said privately that the census will not be completed until the end of July, at which time registration will be closed. Due to these delays, the government's contract with the company expired, company representatives who were in Guyana returned to the US, and Guyanese are completing the census without the company's help. Prime Minister Burnham recently said that he believes the registration can be completed in time to permit elections to be held in early December 1968 but that there is a possibility that they may not be held until February 1969. According to the constitution, elections must be held by the end of March 1969.
C. Registration of Overseas Voters
The main thrust of present PNC and UF efforts overseas is to get potential voters registered. This will be strictly a registration of voters as no census is being conducted in overseas areas. This registration effort is going slowly but reasonably satisfactorily in the US and Great Britain but has run into snags in Canada. Steps are being taken to correct this problem. It is difficult to estimate what the total number of overseas registrants will be as there are no figures to be used as a basis for such an estimate. There may be as many as 20,000 potential voters in Great Britain and possibly 15,000 in the US and Canada. As many as 25,000 of these may be supporters of the PNC and the UF.
3. New Developments
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] representatives met with Prime Minister Forbes Burnham in late April to discuss operational matters related to the electoral campaign. At this meeting Burnham stated unequivocally that he plans to conduct the registration and voting in such a manner that the PNC will emerge with an absolute majority in the Guyana National Assembly. Burnham said that he will never again allow the life of his government to depend upon his coalition partner Peter D'Aguiar and that if the voting should turn out in such a manner that he could not form a government without the help of D'Aguiar, he would refuse to form a government. Burnham said that he plans to register 17, 18, 19 and 20 year old PNC adherents (minimum voting age is 21 years) to make up part of the vote he needs and will direct his campaign in such a way as to attract enough additional East Indian voters to put the PNC approximately on a par with the PPP in Guyana. The additional votes he would need to give the PNC an absolute majority would come from the overseas Guyanese. On the other hand Ambassador Carlson [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in Georgetown have commented that they believe this is wishful thinking by Burnham. They believe Burnham would encounter insurmountable administrative and organizational difficulties [Page 954]in attempting to rig the elections to the extent necessary to assure the PNC an absolute majority.
It should be noted that Burnham's plans to get an absolute majority in the elections constitute a basic change in strategy. Planning heretofore had been based upon the PNC and UF running separately but re-forming the coalition after the elections. Burnham will probably still be willing to have a coalition government after the elections but wants an absolute majority so that the coalition will be formed on his terms and so that the life of his government will not depend on the UF and Peter D'Aguiar.
[Omitted here are sections 4–8, “Additional Development,” “Security,” “Coordination,” “Future Plans,” and “Recommendations.”]
- Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Guyana 1969, 1970. Secret; Eyes Only.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 421.↩
- See footnote 5, Document 423.↩
- The 303 Committee meetings on August 7, 1967, and February 16, 1968, were review and discussion, rather than decision, meetings. The facts noted in Document 431 and in the January 22 memorandum cited in footnote 2 thereto were among the topics reviewed at the February 16 meeting.↩
- According to the minutes of the July 12 meeting of the 303 Committee, [name not declassified] acknowledged “the seemingly high costs for such a ‘postage stamp’ country election but indicated that known Cuban or Soviet subsidies to Jagan are on almost the same scale.” The additional funding was approved by the Committee. (Memorandum from McAfee to Oliver, July 16; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Guyana 1969, 1970)↩
- According to a July 2 memorandum from Oliver to Bohlen, part of the additional funds was for PNC and UF motor vehicles and boats to reach Amerindian voters and funds to contact overseas voters. (Ibid.)↩