361. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Vaky) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • Tripartite Consultations on the Caribbean

We held consultations with the Governments of the United Kingdom and Canada on the Caribbean in the Department on May 2–3. Concrete results were limited because both governments are constrained by the proximity of elections. However, the talks were extremely valuable in sharing information on trends in the Caribbean, [Page 897] clarifying the views of our respective governments toward those trends, and beginning a process of policy and program coordination.

The U.K. and Canada shared our concern about trends in Grenada, particularly the growing Cuban role and Grenada’s relations with Guyana and Jamaica. However, they are not convinced that the situation in Grenada is irretrievable. They see Bishop as essentially a pragmatist who understands the need for foreign assistance and investment as well as cordial relations with his neighbors. They believe elections and a return to constitutional rule are still possible, though these may not happen quickly. While concerned about Cuba, they feel Cuba’s Caribbean policy continues to be one of discreet support for its friends and exploiting targets of opportunity, such as Grenada, rather than as an all-out effort to achieve domination in the Caribbean region.

All three governments agreed that the main problem lies in strengthening the states of the Eastern Caribbean to prevent targets of opportunity which can be exploited by Cuba or others from appearing. Our primary emphasis should be on reassuring the states of the Eastern Caribbean, assisting them as required, and enhancing interdependence and mutual support among them. It was further agreed that Barbadian leadership would be essential here, and that we should also encourage a more active role by Trinidad.

While somewhat more sanguine about events in Grenada and the Eastern Caribbean than we, the U.K. and Canada were even more concerned than we about the growing ideological split in CARICOM. They see the split arising from the steady drift to the left of Guyana, and, to a lesser extent, Jamaica. The Grenada coup contributes to the split, in their view, but is not its cause. The U.K. indicated that it may be necessary for it to reduce its assistance to Guyana and Jamaica as a result.

While there were some differences in view on Caribbean trends and their significance, there was little disagreement on what should be done. In the economic area, it was agreed that more assistance should be channeled into the Eastern Caribbean, and concentrated in programs that generate employment and meet basic human needs. It was agreed that the Eastern Caribbean should get a bigger share of funds made available through the Caribbean Development Facility, and that bilateral assistance should also be increased as much as possible. Problems of absorptive capacity and the limitations of the Caribbean Development Bank were noted, and it was agreed these issues should be given special attention. The Canadians indicated that they would continue their assistance program in the Eastern Caribbean at about current levels.

It was also agreed to give a higher priority to security assistance to the Eastern Caribbean. The U.K. acknowledged that it should take [Page 898] the lead in this field, but indicated support from others, particularly the U.S., would be appreciated.

It was agreed that emphasis should be placed on improving individual police forces of the island states. The U.S. noted its constraints on providing assistance to the police. The possibility of a regional coast guard was also discussed, and it was agreed that such an organization, although expensive, had the potential for meeting a number of real needs. All three governments were strongly negative about the idea for a regional security force or SWAT team. The three governments recognized the danger of strengthening and perhaps perpetuating corrupt or repressive governments by providing legitimate security assistance. The Canadian Government indicated that it did little or nothing in the security field now and probably would not do much more in the future.

In the intelligence field, the three governments agreed increased coverage and improved coordination was essential. Specifically, it was agreed to regularize the process of coordination and exchange of information on the Caribbean that has gone on for some years by holding meetings of intelligence specialists, both collectors and analysts, on a periodic basis. It was also agreed that it might be desirable to include the French and Dutch in at least some of these meetings. The U.K. said it would explore this possibility during consultations with the French and Dutch scheduled for June.

The meeting closed with agreement to resume consultations once the U.K. and Canadian Governments have sorted themselves out, perhaps as early as June.2

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P790085–2520. Secret. Drafted by Hewitt on May 4. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates that Vance saw it.
  2. Habib traveled to London for another round of tripartite discussions July 5–6. He prepared a paper on the U.S. strategy for the Caribbean, which he sent to Vance in telegram Tosec 60164/169039 to Seoul, June 30. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790296–0708) Vance’s comments on the paper were transmitted in telegram Secto 6120 from Bali, July 2. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840125–1248, D790299–1232) In telegram 13237 from London, July 6, the Embassy reported that the group agreed to: 1) maintain and strengthen democratic institutions in the Caribbean in order to counter Cuban activity, 2) strengthen moderate governments in particular, 3) support each state, individually, to improve defense capabilities in the region, 4) consider the possibility of a regional coast guard, 5) improve British and American diplomatic representation in the region, and 6) allow the British to take the lead in discussing these issues with Caribbean, European, and Central American governments. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790308–0295)