281. Action Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Devine) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • Recommendation for Appointment with President Carter for Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham

Issue for Decision:

Whether to recommend that the President receive Prime Minister Forbes Burnham of Guyana during the period of October 17–21 or October 31 through November 4.

Essential Factors:

Guyana’s Prime Minister Burnham has asked our Embassy to transmit to President Carter his desire for a meeting with the President in late October or early November. Prime Minister Burnham will be visiting Canada on October 25–30 to meet Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. He is prepared to come to Washington during the week of October 31–November 4 if a meeting can be arranged then. If this timing is inconvenient, he could visit Washington between October 21–24.

Prime Minister Burnham was unable to attend the signing of the Panama Canal Treaties because of severe economic and political problems at home. However, he fully endorsed the Treaties and sent to the signing ceremony his Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.

The call would be an excellent opportunity to reinforce the trend toward moderation in Guyana’s policies and can strengthen those within the GOG who favor moving closer to the United States. It would confirm the positive reaction to the visit to Guyana by Ambassador Young this August. That visit served to indicate to the Guyanese leaders our desire for better relations.

A meeting between President Carter and Prime Minister Burnham can also bolster Burnham’s determination to maintain Guyana’s relatively good human rights record. In view of Burnham’s present economic and political stress, including an ongoing sugar worker strike organized by his communist opponent, Cheddi Jagan, such bolstering would be timely and useful.

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That you approve the transmittal of the attached Tarnoff-Brzezinski Memorandum recommending that the President receive Burnham sometime during the period of October 21–24 or October 31–November 4.2

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850157–0252. Confidential. Drafted by Tumminia; cleared by Bova. Sent through Habib. A written note on the first page reads, “Not necessary to go to Secy; approved by P.”
  2. Although Habib checked the approve option, the meeting did not occur. The memorandum is attached but not printed.