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437. Memorandum for the Files1


  • Meeting of Guyana Prime Minister Burnham with the President, Friday, July 26, 1968—5:30 p.m.2

Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, accompanied by Ambassador JOHN Carter, paid a courtesy call on the President. Assistant Secretary Oliver was also present.

After an exchange of greetings the Prime Minister described the Venezuelan decree claiming nine miles of territorial waters beyond the three-mile limit off the disputed territory of Essequibo. Mr. Burnham also mentioned the Venezuelan warning to firms seeking concessions in the disputed territory. He said the warning had already scared off one Canadian investor. In making the presentation, the Prime Minister gave no indication that he was seeking Presidential help.3

The President inquired about the outlook for the elections in Guyana. The Prime Minister expressed optimism. While no date has been set for the election, he thought it would be in early December.

The President, mentioning his interest in regional integration, asked the Prime Minister how he saw the Caribbean Development Bank shaping up. The Prime Minister described past difficulties with Jamaica. He noted that recently there seemed to be a change in the Jamaican attitude which gives some reason to hope they would join the Bank and bring the Bahamas and British Honduras with them.

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Mr. Burnham added that on his way back he expected to talk to Prime Minister Shearer about the Bank.

The President said he would like to be as helpful to Guyana as he could. He told the Prime Minister he could give careful consideration to any proposals he wished to make. Mr. Burnham thanked him for his understanding and willingness to support him.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Guyana, (Brit. G.), Vol. I, Cables, Memos, and Misc., 5/66–11/68. Confidential. Drafted by Bowdler.
  2. In a July 24 memorandum to the President, Rusk advised that although Burnhamʼs U.S. visit was private and unofficial, he had come to Washington to discuss his governmentʼs concerns about Venezuelaʼs recent territorial waters decree with Katzenbach. Rusk recommended that Johnson meet with Burnham for a brief courtesy call because “Burnham needs to demonstrate in Georgetown that he has received highest level consideration of the Guyana position on the recent Venezuelan decree,” adding that Cheddi Jaganʼs newspapers “have taunted Burnham that U.S. silence on the decree constitutes tacit approval of this new Venezuelan claim.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 GUYANA)
  3. In a July 23 memorandum to Johnson, Rostow stated that the appointment “must be handled in such a way that it does not offend our Venezuelan friends. This is manageable and the Prime Minister will certainly play ball.” Rostow added that “State is doing all possible to defuse the incident without taking sides on the territorial dispute. So far, these efforts seem to be meeting with success.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Guyana (Brit. G.), Vol. I, Cables, Memos, and Misc., 5/66–11/68)