274. Action Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Luers) to Secretary of State-Designate Vance1

Representation in Guyana

The Problem

Following an October 19[17] speech by Guyanese Prime Minister Burnham, charging USG complicity in the terrorist bombing of a Cubana flight, our press spokesman called Burnham’s charges bald-[Page 662]faced lies and we withdrew our Chargé, John Blacken. Blacken has been in the U.S. since October.2 The Guyanese have indicated they want him to return, and their Ambassador returned to Washington on the eve of the inauguration. When should we return Blacken to Guyana?


Blacken has especially good rapport with Prime Minister Burnham and Foreign Minister Wills. Burnham’s speech and our reaction aborted what appeared to be a gradual improvement in our relations with that country.

It has been clear for several months that the Guyanese leadership hopes for improved relations with the Carter Administration. Although Burnham has not retracted his charges, neither has he repeated them, and GOG anti-U.S. rhetoric has generally been muted. I think Burnham now understands that we cannot fail to react strongly to allegations of USG involvement in terrorism.

Recent reporting from our Embassy indicates a possible GOG movement toward closer relations with both Cuba and the Soviet Union,3 but I am convinced that it is still both possible and in our interest to get our relations with Guyana back on a more normal footing. Newly returned Guyanese Ambassador Mann has invited me to have drinks with him Sunday. I would like to be able to tell him that we are returning our Charge to Georgetown within the next 10 days.

The GOG would take Blacken’s return as a signal of goodwill and a desire by the new administration to resume normal relations. The move would not pass unnoticed by the Guyanese and Caribbean press, and we might get press inquiries here as well. I think this is desirable. In any event, a failure to return our Charge promptly will also be read as a signal of the intentions of the new administration toward Guyana.

I believe Blacken’s quiet return would serve as a sufficient gesture to the GOG at this time, and I accordingly recommend that he not carry any message from you or President Carter. He can of course state his own hopes for improved relations.

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1. That you authorize Blacken to return to post as soon as possible.

2. That he return with no message from you or the President.4

ALTERNATIVELY, that he return with an oral message from you, indicating our interest in a new beginning and our hope for improved relations.

ALTERNATIVELY, that he return with a written message from you. (If you approve this option, we will prepare an appropriate message for your approval.)

3. That you authorize me to tell Ambassador Mann that Blacken will be returning to post shortly.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770021–2319. Confidential. Drafted by Luers and Heavner. Sent through Habib. Deputy Executive Secretary Frank Ortiz wrote in the margin, “Oral Instructions to ARA by Mr. Habib.”
  2. See footnote 4, Document 273. In telegram 2109 from Georgetown, October 21, 1976, the Embassy reported the Guyanese Foreign Ministry reaction to State Department spokesman Fred Brown’s accusation that Burnham was telling “bald-faced lies” in regard to the Air Cubana crash. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760394–1295)
  3. See footnote 7, Document 273.
  4. There is no indication of approval or disapproval of the recommendations, but, in telegram 16801 to Georgetown, January 25, the Department reported that Blacken would return to Guyana on January 25 to resume his duties. He did not carry a message from the Secretary. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770027–0590)