185. Briefing Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Saunders) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • Jamaica’s Manley

US-Jamaican relations have improved substantially during the past year, but we continue to receive clandestine and other reports that point to Prime Minister Manley’s hostility toward the US. We also continue to get reports that, despite a slowdown in his government’s movement toward authoritarianism, Manley is persisting in authoritarian-like behavior. At Under Secretary Cooper’s suggestion we have examined Manley’s recent activities in these areas. We conclude that:

Manley will take whatever actions he deems necessary to obtain needed assistance and to insure his continuation in power;2

Manley’s rapprochement with the US results not from a change of attitude toward the US on his part but rather from a reluctant decision to seek improved relations for purely pragmatic economic reasons;

Manley undoubtedly plans to maintain close relations with the Cubans, to champion Third World causes, and to expand ties with Eastern Europe.3

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Manley Needs But Distrusts US

Manley is torn between his fundamental distrust of the US and his urgent need for US aid.

—On the one hand, his ideological outlook forces him to see the US as the chief exploiter of the Third World. Frictions with previous US administrations undoubtedly contributed to these sentiments, as did his perception of Washington as a supporter of South Africa and his apparent view that past US “failures” to assist him economically were deliberately aimed at ousting him.

—On the other hand, Jamaica’s economic situation requires him to reach some sort of understanding with the US and other Western sources of aid. His seeming perception that President Carter is more understanding of Jamaica than his predecessors facilitated rapprochement by allowing him to believe that it is the US, and not Jamaica, which has changed policies. Nonetheless, he continues to feel that Washington will not in the long run willingly tolerate a socialist state on its doorstep.

We believe that Manley, given his personality and the stresses of Jamaica’s political turbulence and economic plight, will continue to act from time to time—generally in private or covertly—in ways that reflect distrust of and hostility toward the US. As long as his need for (and his expectation of) US understanding and support outweigh the perceived internal pressures pushing him toward radical courses, however, he will so conduct himself as to maintain a viable relationship with the US.

The conflict between these two competing drives is illustrated in a number of developments over the past year or so:

—Following the PNP’s election victory in December 1976, the government shifted sharply to the left, with radicals in virtual control of all ministries dealing with the economy.

—Only when efforts to obtain needed economic assistance from the Arabs, Eastern Europe, and other nations untainted by capitalism or “neo-colonialism” failed, did Jamaica turn to the US.4

—During Castro’s visit last October, Manley—in language far sharper and more polemical than the Cuban leader’s—denounced the “neo-colonialists” who had “worked for years to keep the two countries apart.”5

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—Last November, Manley gave implicit credence to Penthouse magazine’s allegations of CIA intervention in Jamaica and linked them to claims by former government official D.K. Duncan that he (Duncan) had been poisoned.6 (Manley later privately denied that he believed that CIA was involved in Duncan’s “poisoning.”)7

—The same month, speaking privately to Ambassador Irving, Manley rejected assurances that the CIA was not “out to get him.” He insisted that the US administration did not know with certainty what was going on in “the lower echelons of the CIA.”8

—Clandestine sources report that, as recently as the end of last year, Manley was instructing the Special Branch that the US should be treated as an enemy9 country—instructions almost identical to ones he had issued in 1976 at the height of Jamaican accusations of US attempts at “destabilization.”

—The Deputy Governor of the Bank of Jamaica told an Embassy Kingston officer late in January that Manley was trying to force him to falsify10 statistics in order to satisfy IMF requirements.

—Several clandestine reports have indicated that Manley is continuing his efforts, with Cuban assistance, to politicize the police and has been pressuring the Special (intelligence) Branch to cover up details of a recent shootout that could embarrass the regime.

Manley’s Views

Of Himself. Manley believes that he is the “natural” ruler of Jamaica (his father was a famous pre-independence Premier). His charismatic (and often demagogic) nature craves popular adulation, a hunger which makes it difficult for him to take unpopular decisions.11 Caught between a drive to do what his messianic nature conceives to be “right” and this need for approval, he usually adopts a pragmatic course; he then rationalizes that his move is either a temporary diversion from, or “really” a vindication of, his previous policy.

Of Human Rights. Manley’s confidence in his destiny to rule Jamaica also conflicts with a genuine commitment to Western-style democracy and human rights.12 The latter requires acceptance of a legitimate opposition, but it is hard for Manley to admit that he may be wrong or that [Page 462] his critics are not opposing him for base purposes. As long as things are going well, this inconsistency remains submerged. When he sees a serious challenge, however, he becomes receptive to such ideas as a one-party state or the temptation of “saving democracy from itself”—as he reportedly did in 1976, when it appeared for a while that his ruling Peoples National Party (PNP) might lose the upcoming elections. Moreover, though Manley does not agree with those who feel “political” human rights, such as free elections, are unimportant, he lays much more stress on social and economic rights.13

Of the Press. Manley supports freedom of the press, but he also believes press activities should reflect the objectives of the society in which it exists. In a speech last September, Manley warned the Daily Gleaner—Jamaica’s most respected and usually anti-PNP newspaper—that “freedom of the press is not a one-way street for capitalism, but must express the views of the majority.” If any part of the media fails to do so, “the government has no obligation to support it, either economically or otherwise.”

These views carry over into the international sphere, where Manley feels that most of the Western press does not address the needs of developing countries. Moreover, in his view, Western media frequently—if often unwittingly—are used as a tool by capitalist regimes to help undermine socialist governments (e.g., by publishing stories of high crime rates in Jamaica and thus discouraging tourists).

Of the World. Underlying Manley’s perspective of foreign affairs is a strong ideological bias.14 While not a doctrinaire socialist bound by a rigid dogma, he does see the world as distinctly divided between the haves and have-nots, the developed nations and the underdeveloped. In his view, the former, regardless of the good intentions of any particular leader, will inevitably seek to exploit the latter, and the latter, in turn, can hope to obtain justice only by sticking together. Consequently, he reasons, Jamaica must side with the Third World, break its old economic dependence on the West, and balance its political ties by expanding relations with the Marxist world—in short, it must become non-aligned.15

Of Jamaica’s Problems. Manley faces major economic and political problems. Jamaica has a substantial balance of payments deficit, large foreign debts (the debt-servicing charges alone amount to 18 percent of its exports), and an unemployment rate as high as 30 percent. Without [Page 463] massive outside aid, economic collapse is almost certain. But in order to obtain that assistance, the government must adopt austerity measures set by the developed world—measures which Manley feels are neither “right” nor popular. (He is certainly correct about their unpopularity.)

Manley’s efforts to meet the demands of foreign lenders, moreover, have forced him to turn increasingly to the moderates within his own party. Aside from going against his personal sympathies, this course has weakened the factional balance within the PNP upon which Manley’s power depends. He must now somehow maintain his “radical” credentials (a major reason for Castro’s October visit) without losing the support of the moderates. Having paid this price for external assistance, he is not about to forfeit it docilely because of “marginal” failure to meet some statistical criterion, especially when he believes the requirement is irrelevant anyway.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 25, Jamaica, 1–7/78. Secret; Noforn; Orcon; Exdis. Drafted by Lampert in INR/RAR. Sent through Cooper. Kirk initialed for Saunders.
  2. Pastor circled “whatever actions” and wrote in the margin, “What proof? free elections.”
  3. Pastor circled “to champion” and wrote in the margin, “in same category—betrays bias ag [against] 3rd world.”
  4. Pastor marked this point and wrote in the margin, “Crap—he turned because of Carter, —Nov. 1976: critical, —Mrs. Carter.”
  5. Pastor drew an arrow and wrote in the margin, “play ideology to radical—move back.” Castro visited Jamaica on October 20, 1977. (Telegram 6190 from Havana, October 21; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770388–0166)
  6. Pastor wrote in the margin, “worst case.”
  7. See Document 181.
  8. Pastor wrote in the margin, “He’s probably right.”
  9. Pastor circled “enemy” and wrote in the margin, “skeptical.”
  10. Pastor circled the word “falsify.”
  11. Pastor wrote in the margin, “much more pragmatic.”
  12. Pastor underlined the second half of this sentence and wrote in the margin, “contradicts first page.”
  13. Pastor underlined the last phrase and wrote in the margin, “most people in 3rd world.”
  14. Pastor wrote in the margin, “not as strong as this memo.”
  15. Pastor underlined the phrase “it must become non-aligned” and wrote in the margin, “what’s wrong with that?”