365. Memorandum for the 303 Committee, Washington, May 23, 1969.1 2

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23 May 1969

MEMORANDUM FOR: The 303 Committee
SUBJECT: Proposal for Support to the People’s National Congress Party of Guyana

1. SUMMARY

Prime Minister Forbes Burnham of Guyana, who has previously received covert assistance from CIA, requested that the Agency provide $10,000 a month for two years to support his efforts to build his party, the People’s National Congress (PNC), into an effective, permanently organized political party. Ambassador Delmar Carlson [text not declassified] recommend approval of this request in the amount of $5,000 per month for two years, with the understanding that Burnham be aware that the subsidy would be reviewed at the end of the first year and could be terminated if the PNC had not made satisfactory progress. Burnham has been told that we are seeking policy approval for the $5,000 monthly subsidy.

Assistant Secretary Charles Meyer concurs in this proposal.

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2. PROBLEM

To support Prime Minister Burnham’s efforts to maintain and strengthen the PNC as a well-organized party that can continue to serve as a bulwark against Cheddi Jagan’s accession to power in Guyana.

3. FACTORS BEARING ON THE PROBLEM

a. Background

The United States Government determined in 1962 that Cheddi Jagan would not be desirable as the head of government in Guyana. CIA was instructed to provide guidance and support to the PNC and to the small, conservative United Force (UF) party in the 1964 election campaign. These two parties formed a coalition after the election and took over the government, with Forbes Burnham becoming Prime Minister. New elections were scheduled for December 1968 and, as a result of a 303 Committee decision of 7 April 1967, CIA was again instructed to support the PNC and the UF. In the 1968 elections the PNC used its control of the government to pad the electoral rolls and win a slim majority of the vote. The official results gave the PNC 30 seats in the legislative assembly, the People’s Progressive Party (Jagan’s party) 19 seats and the UF 4 seats. Leaders of the PPP and the UF attacked the elections as being dishonest, but their charges had little effect in Guyana and stirred almost no [Page 3] interest abroad.

b. Origin of the Requirement

In February 1969 Burnham asked [text not declassified] for a subsidy of $10,000 a month for two years to help him establish the PNC on a permanent basis. (NOTE: He had made little effort after the 1964 contest to put his party on a permanent footing.) Burnham indicated he would use this subsidy to maintain a small corps of paid PNC organizers, to keep open essential sections of the central party office, and to continue party information activities as needed.

After considering Burnham’s request, the Ambassador [text not declassified] concluded that a subsidy was desirable and $5,000 per month for two years would adequately meet the PNC’s requirements. In addition, [text not declassified] recommended it be agreed with Burnham that the subsidy would be reviewed after one year and could be terminated if the PNC had not made satisfactory progress toward establishing permanent party machinery. Burnham understands that we are seeking policy approval for this subsidy.

c. Relationship to Previous 303 Committee Actions

The Special Group granted approval for CIA to provide financial support to the [text not declassified] [Page 4] in 1962 and 1963 and CIA was instructed to support the UF and the PNC in the 1964 elections. On 7 April 1967 the 303 Committee approved a proposal to support the UF and the PNC again for the 1968 elections. Subsequent progress reports described in detail the successful action taken by CIA under this decision.

d. Operational Objectives

The objective of this proposal is to support the PNC’s efforts to become a permanently established and well-organized political party that will be able to contest the next national elections under optimum conditions.

There is no evidence to indicate that Burnham has made any significant inroads into the East Indian electorate so far. If present population and voting trends continue, Burnham would lose to Jagan in an honest election. Thus one should look at this subsidy as a means of improving the PNC’s ability to turn out all possible pro-Burnham votes.

e. [text not declassified]

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f. Risks Involved

There was no exposure of United States Government or CIA involvement in the 1964 and 1968 elections. The only significant adverse publicity arising from the 1968 elections was aired on two television programs in Britain in December 1968 and January 1969. The telecasts revealed discrepancies in the voting in Guyana and charged that the voting of over-seas Guyanese in Britain (and to a far lesser extent in the United States) was rigged. The broadcasts did not mention [Page 6] any involvement by the United States Government or CIA; they had little impact and were more than offset by the generally favorable coverage provided by most news media.

Jagan of course has a long history of publicly accusing CIA and the United States and British Governments of opposing him and aiding Burnham. We can expect these charges to continue, but with little effect.

Although the personnel involved will exercise all due caution, it is impossible to eliminate every risk attached to a covert operation of this type. However, given the moderate amount of the subsidy, the small number of people involved [text not declassified]

g. Contingency Plan

We can rely on Burnham to use whatever resources are available to him, including those in the Government of Guyana, to cover up or limit the compromise or disclosure of this operation. [text not declassified]

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4. COORDINATION

a. The American Ambassador to Guyana, Delmar Carlson, and the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Charles Meyer, concur in this proposal.

b. [text not declassified]

5. RECOMMENDATION

It is recommended that the 303 Committee approve a subsidy to the PNC of $5,000 per month for two years with the understanding that at the end of the first year the subsidy would be reviewed and could be terminated if the PNC had not made satisfactory progress toward establishing a permanent party mechanism.

  1. Source: National Security Council, NSC Intelligence Files, Country Files, Guyana, 23 May 1969–6 February 1973. Secret; Eyes Only. A handwritten note at the bottom of the first page reads, “Approved by the 303 Committee on 17 June 1969 with a proviso re additional source of funds (see minute).”
  2. The memorandum contained proposed objectives for U.S. covert aid to Guyana with emphasis given to strengthening Burnham’s People’s National Congress Party. It recommended continuing the same level of secret support.