283. Memorandum From Robert Pastor of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Dinner with the Guyanese Ambassador

At the request of Laurence Mann, the Guyanese Ambassador to the U.S. and a friend, I dined with him on Tuesday, February 21, 1978. It was one of the less pleasant dinners I have ever had.

Though extremely cosmopolitan and sophisticated like a diplomat should, he went directly to the point. Prime Minister Forbes Burnham wants to see the President. This is an election year in Guyana, and Burnham wants to show the moderate elements of his party that his pursuit of moderation in 1977 paid off.

The more radical elements of the party want him to accept an invitation to Moscow which was extended to him last year, but Burnham believes in Carter and wants desperately to meet with him.

I simply responded that in my judgment the chances of a meeting between the Prime Minister and the President were not good this year, and I explained the problems of scheduling. He was visibly shaken, as if his life, and certainly his career, were on the line. He said repeatedly, “I can’t take that message to Burnham. He won’t believe that this is a scheduling problem.” (See Tab A for a confirmation of the seriousness with which Burnham views this matter.)2

He wouldn’t leave the subject despite my repeated efforts. I did not have the courage to explain directly why Burnham just doesn’t rank on our list of top priorities, though I tried to indirectly suggest reasons why that would be the case. He was so distraught that he didn’t read my message. He told me that the Prime Minister wanted him to speak to Secretary Vance; and I didn’t discourage him from making that effort. When we finished, after repeating for the thirteenth time why a meeting was critical, he asked if the decision was final. I broke, and said that while the chances were poor, I wouldn’t want to put it quite as final as he did, and promised to get back to him.

We discussed several other issues; one of interest to you was the Horn. Guyana is as non-aligned as any third world nation, but they [Page 684] have supported the Cubans’ efforts. I explained in some detail our reasons for concern, and he responded by saying two things: (1) he had never heard the information which I relayed (though he should have, because I essentially repeated what was in the papers), and he was persuaded by my arguments, and (2) he recommended that we use our Ambassadors more often to brief on more subjects like this. He said that Guyana has very little access to good outside information, and we would score points if our Ambassadors would brief a country’s leaders more often.

I have spoken to Deputy Assistant Secretary John Bushnell of ARA, and he persuaded me that we shouldn’t give a definite “no” to Burnham for two reasons: first, we don’t want to give away an important chip if we don’t have to. If Burnham continues to hope for a visit he is less likely to attack the US. Secondly, something might come up—at the U.N., at a Panama ratification ceremony, who knows? Why say “no”, when events may create a “yes”. I think his suggestion has some merit to it, even if it is cynical. And so, unless you disapprove, I will call Ambassador Mann and tell him: I continue to believe that the chances for a meeting in 1978 are not good, but there is a small possibility at the end of the year. But we can’t promise anything, one way or the other at this time.3

Addendum: Our Ambassador to Guyana, James Burke, is in town, and I will be speaking to him early next week. I want to explore with him the possibility of the President’s trying to assuage some of Burnham’s concerns by sending a letter to him.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 24, Folder: Guyana, 1/77–12/78. Confidential.
  2. Not attached and not found.
  3. Brzezinski checked the disapprove option.