178. Telegram From the Embassy in Jamaica to the Department of State1

2852. Dept pass to USIA/ILA for George Miller; Lima and Quito pass to official party. Subject: Mrs. Carter’s Visit: How It Went.

1. The May 30–31 visit of Mrs. Carter to Kingston went very well, alterations to the program caused by vagaries of weather notwithstanding. All arrangements worked, and cooperation extended by Government of Jamaica (GOJ) was thorough and effective. All meetings were marked by warmth and cordiality, and leavened by relaxed good humor. Insofar as the ordinary Jamaican was concerned, it was very much a visit by a kind of queen, and thus a matter of great pleasure and satisfaction.

2. Insofar as the substantive side of the visit was concerned, Mrs. Carter had seven hours of talks with Prime Minister Manley over the twenty-four hours she was in town.2 Whatever concrete may emerge from these discussions, it is clear that Manley saw the visit in large measure as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to his domestic critics that he is acceptable to the US and that there is no question as to the legitimacy of his government. His purposes did not require that Mrs. Carter announce any assistance program; it was sufficient to have the President of the US send his wife to visit Jamaica. He has not abandoned his desire for American assistance, but he needs equally to reassure his own party’s moderate wing that his commitment to “non-alignment” is real, and does not jeopardize older relationships. In addition, the opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), which has so consciously and publicly identified itself with the US (and continues to note that the Manley government speaks for only a little more than half of Jamaica) suggests by implication that it (the JLP) would have greater access to the USG. Manley surely welcomed a powerfully symbolic event which demonstrated that this is not necessarily the case. These opportunities Mrs. Carter’s visit provided, and in a way which could not have been done by senior officials of the USG who, after all, are required to treat with those who (as the case may be) wish the US either well or ill.

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3. Jamaica went on, of course, being Jamaica, the visit notwithstanding. While Mrs. Carter captured most attention, other things continued to happen on the periphery.

—The BOJ3 announced on May 31 that it had concluded an agreement with Cuba in Havana covering continued cooperation in economic and technical matters. The agreement, signed on behalf of Jamaica by Minister of Mines Dudley Thompson, provides for collaboration in agriculture, construction, tourism, fishing, public health, the food industry, sports and education.

—Stokeley Carmichael arrived on May 29 to speak at an African Liberation Day Rally. His remarks were prominently featured on the front page of the daily news on the morning of Mrs. Carter’s arrival.

—Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC), the state-owned radio and television company, carried the last program in a week-long series on African Liberation Week on the evening of Mrs. Carter’s stay. The program, made up of man-in-the-street remarks by Jamaicans, unvaryingly laid the blame for African problems on “American imperialism”.

JLP leader Eddie Seaga was summoned on May 31 to answer charges of felonious assault. (See Kingston 2847)4

These developments underscored once again—but this time for the radicals in the ruling party—Jamaica’s new commitment to even-handed “non-alignment”. They allowed Manley to assert, if required, that notwithstanding the visit of Mrs. Carter and the need for American assistance, Jamaica will act as it best sees fit.

4. Insofar as we are concerned, Mrs. Carter’s visit very substantially reinforces our continuing contention to the Jamaicans that we have no interest in “destabilizing” their country. Clearly, Mrs. Carter would not have scheduled a stop here had that been the case. In addition, the visit will help here and elsewhere to buttress our contention that we are quite prepared to cooperate with countries which have or seek to create socio-economic systems which are quite different from those found in North America or Western Europe. Insofar as the Jamaicans are concerned, the endorsement of Michael Manley which the visit suggests will be seen as the beginning of more harmonious relations in which American sympathy for and generosity toward Jamaica will figure prominently. Although there was no mention of American assistance in Mrs. Carter’s discussions with Michael Manley, Jamaicans will [Page 438] quickly place the recent visit of the technical team to study economic cooperation in juxtaposition with Mrs. Carter’s stop. Whether we intend it or not, this linkage will be seen as presaging relatively substantial assistance. If it is not forthcoming in relatively generous fashion, the lustre may very rapidly fade from the memory of Mrs. Carter’s visit.

5. Reporting on substantive talks will be done by Mrs. Carter’s party; draft memcons provided separately to Ambassador Todman and Mr. Pastor.5 Media reaction reported septel.6

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770197–0147. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated for information to Lima, Quito, Bridgetown, Georgetown, Nassau, and Port of Spain.
  2. An account of the First Lady’s meetings with Manley is in telegram 3616 from Quito, June 2. (Carter Library, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 30, Mrs. Carter, Latin America and the Caribbean, Kingston 5/30/77–6/13/77)
  3. Bank of Jamaica.
  4. In telegram 2847 from Kingston, June 2, Dorrance discussed assault charges filed against opposition leader Edward Seaga that stemmed from an incident during the 1976 elections in Jamaica. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770197–0485) Telegram 4074 from Kingston, July 28, reported Seaga was acquitted of all charges on July 27. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770271–1048)
  5. See footnote 2 above.
  6. Telegram 2848 from Kingston, June 2. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770195–0756)