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435. Telegram From the Ambassador to Guyana (Carlson) to the Department of State 1

For Hill ARA/NC from Amb Carlson.

Had long discussion with Prime Minister Burnham June 27 on variety subjects but my primary purpose was to assess his attitude re dimension of possible electoral results and whether reports referred to in your message to me of June 21st2 should be viewed as definitive.
I first touched on status of possibility SA loan,3 mentioning that while great progress had been made toward authorization and I was hopeful, it was at the moment still not certain. There was, however, another matter involved in this which was of concern to me. Some of the friends of Guyana in Washington had recently become apprehensive as to whether Prime Minister might plan Tammany Hall tactics on so [Page 957]massive a scale as to taint the results, raise questions of legitimacy, and embarrass the U.S. I was sure that he would no more want to have us all in the funny papers than would our friends in Washington. I said I assumed that Sonny Ramphal had already mentioned to him that John Hill has expressed this anxiety to Ramphal in New York. In addition, an ingredient in the discussion in Washington of my request for SA funding had been question as to whether election was to be so fixed as to make such funding unnecessary thereby saving US several million dollars. (Burnham seemed impressed by this point.) Moreover because of our strong support of the Burnham administration in the past, which was well known, and the closeness of GOG–USG relations what he does will inevitably affect our image too.
Burnham asked what these people thought was reasonable and I told him the matter was not one of any precise equation but simply one of dimension. We wanted him to win; we had backed him to the hilt; neither of us wanted a scandal. He agreed. I asked him what he really expected electorally. He said he foresaw the PNC in about the same range of votes in Guyana as the PPP; i.e., roughly even, perhaps not quite as much as the PPP, or perhaps slightly more but in general about the same order of magnitude. Burnham told me he expects work hard on Muslims and hopes have some success as well as with various other non-Africans so as to give PNC more multi-racial image. He hoped part of this process could take place before election and mentioned various individuals including Kit Nascimento and Ann Jardim.
As far as overseas was concerned, he thought registration of as many as 50,000 was within realm of possibility because of ease with which persons can qualify as Guyanese, i.e., descendant if mother was Guyanese and even foreign wives of Guyanese under the law qualify. He was urging his agents to work vigorously toward this large registration but he thought prospect was not good for high voter participation overseas. He expected not more than about 30,000 to vote if registration went high as 50,000. We agreed that overseas vote should be heavily PNC, i.e., 75–90% (with him more inclined to the latter figure). We agreed that it was entirely logical that it should be heavily PNC.
Since all indications from collateral reporting showed that his intentions were much more reasonable than had been feared this was far as I thought it necessary to go. Our conversation generally tended to confirm reports from several other sources few days before [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that Burnham is not planning or expecting massive rig. ([less than 1 line of source text not declassified]) reports that he is mentally prepared to accept plurality and is hoping for 26 seats with thought that if coalition is not reestablished (presumably due DʼAguiar on scene trying set terms) that he will be able persuade at least two if not three UF legislators to join him in forming majority.
  1. Source: Department of State,INR/IL Historical Files, Carlson—Department Messages [file name not declassified], Vol. 4, July 7, 1965–February 14, 1969. Secret.
  2. In a June 21 telegram Hill had advised Carlson to warn Burnham not to rig the election so extremely as to show an African majority in the population. (Ibid.)
  3. Supporting Assistance loan, which could provide over $2 million for small public works projects, reducing unemployment and resulting in maximum political impact during the pre-election period. In a June 28 telegram [text not declassified], on Carlsonʼs behalf, requested [name not declassified] immediate intercession, since the loan agreement had to be signed prior to the end of the fiscal year (June 30) and Gaud was reluctant to proceed. Carlson planned a direct appeal to the Secretary of State “if dayʼs events require,” but the loan was approved without this proving necessary. (Ibid.)