189. Telegram 591 From the Consulate General in Belize City to the Department of State1
591. Subject: Premier Price’s Intentions in Regard to Independence. Ref: (A) State 202411 Notal; (B) Guatemala 4860; (C) Guatemala 4939 Notal.
1. Col. Fraser-Orr, Commander British Forces Belize, called at ConGen to discuss a memcon he was preparing at Governor Posnett’s request summarizing comments made by Premier Price during and after a dinner I gave for Kilday (Deputy Director ARA/CEN) September 28.[Page 529]
2. According to Fraser-Orr’s memcon, Price had said (inter alia) (A) that “if progress toward independence was not made quickly enough there might be some merit in presenting Guatemala with a fait accompli by a UDI (Unilateral Declaration Independence), trusting world opinion or pressure from the UN to prevent any military adventure by Guatemala;” and (B) “that if Britain would not provide a defense guarantee perhaps a defense guarantee could be negotiated with other friendly countries in the Caribbean area.”
3. I was present during most of conversation Fraser-Orr’s memcon referred to, and I think the colonel’s account of what was said suggests a greater degree of substance and seriousness than warranted by the circumstances in which conversation took place.
4. The Premier was in an uncharacteristically jovial mood at the dinner, and there was an element of friendly banter in the conversation which took place afterward. Price’s reference to a UDI seemed to me to be jocular in tone, and I had the impression at the time that he was simply giving the lion’s tail a friendly little twist just to test the colonel’s reflexes. The Premier did discuss the independence problem, covering mostly familiar ground, and he did speculate about other possible means of restraining Guatemala if GOB decided to opt for independence without a British defense guarantee, including recourse to world opinion, agreements with neighboring countries, and support for Belize in the UN and other international bodies. My appraisal of Price’s remarks at the time, however, was that he had said nothing significantly new. Col. Fraser-Orr thought otherwise, however, and the memcon went to the Governor as reported above.
5. Comment: My concern is that some of the eventual readers of the colonel’s memcon, not knowing the context and circumstances, might find in it confirmation of earlier reports (reftels) that Price had a surprise up his sleeve. In my opinion, this would be reading too much into what Price said at my place that evening. Governor Posnett, with whom I have had two long discussions in the last month about Price’s intentions, gave no credence to the reports (relayed to him here from the Foreign and Colonial Office (FCO) which Guatemalan President Laugerud and FonMin Molina cited in their recent conversations (refs B and C) with Ambassador Meloy, attributing these to Colonel Dubois, Guatemalan Consul General here, of whose competence H.E. has a low regard. Consequently, I think he will take Fraser-Orr’s memcon with a grain or two of salt. However, it may cause some concern in the FCO, which might cause the matter to be raised in London, Washington and Guatemala.
6. More comment: On the more general question posed by reference A, no evidence that I have been able to adduce so far supports the hypothesis that Price is planning a surprise bid for independence. It is no [Page 530] secret that he has been visiting nearby countries and that he has been trying to drum up support for Belizean independence. While he apparently got some assurances of moral support and some helpful statements in the UNGA, he still has a long way to go for a regional defense guarantee, as he doubtless knows. As for support from the UN and other bodies, my estimate is that Price is intelligent and realistic enough to realize that at this stage he could not rely on any of these organizations to rescue Belize from the predictable reaction of Guatemala to a preciptate declaration of independence. By now, he probably recognizes he will probably never get a defense guarantee from the British; consequently he is striving to develop alternatives. To be seen to be striving is more than enough to satisfy his domestic political needs, as the Belizean body politic does not seem to attach great urgency to the attainment of independence. Granted, this is not enough to satisfy Price’s aspirations for Belize, and after the elections he will probably continue, and may intensify, his efforts to find viable alternatives leading toward independence, but I do not foresee him embarking on a dangerous UDI gamble until he has completely exhausted all other possible courses of action.
Summary: The Consulate General reported on Prime Minister Price’s efforts to win support around the Caribbean for Belizean independence and British concerns that he might go too far and present Guatemala with a fait accompli for military intervention.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D740284–0649. Confidential. Repeated to Georgetown, Guatemala City, Kingston, London, Mexico City, and USUN. Fraser-Orr’s memorandum of conversation was not found. Telegram 202411 to Guatemala City, September 13, is ibid., D740258–0261. Telegram 4860 from Guatemala City, September 6, is ibid., D740248–0746. Telegram 4939 from Guatemala City, September 11, is Document 188↩