CIA and Guyana
Posted on 2010-05-23
In an NIE focused on the short term, the major conclusions were:
There was a potential for violence after British troops leave in October 1966, which the NIE said Guyanese security forces probably can control if the violence is sporadic. Tthe probability of violence will depend on Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, leader of the Negro party (the PNC), and of Cheddi Jagan, leader of the East Indian party (the PPP). Burnham's moderate government has kept Jagan's side in control. The estimate said that if violence went out of control, and the US agreed, Britain would probably send troops on Burnham's request.
British Guiana will probably make a relatively smooth transition to independence, but racial suspicions between East Indians and Negroes will continue to dominate Guyanese politics...The governing coalition of Burnham, a professed but pragmatic socialist, and the conservative United Force leader, Peter D’Aguiar, will continue to be a tenuous one. ...chances are that a common fear of Jagan will hold the coalition together.The governing coalition of Burnham, a professed but pragmatic socialist, and the conservative United Force leader, Peter D’Aguiar, will continue to be a tenuous one. Friction between the partners over patronage and fiscal issues will probably be intensified after independence, but chances are that a common fear of Jagan will hold the coalition together.
No matter who was in power, Guyana would need foreign capital. Burnham, while a neutralist by nature, would keep "tolerable terms with the US, UK, and Canada. If Jagan took power, he would still need to get help, and while his Marxist affiliations would get some help from the Communist bloc, "they probably would furnish only token quantities of aid. 421. /1/
A covert action to help Burnham retain power was proposed to the 303 Committee: "It is established U.S. Government policy that Cheddi Jagan, East Indian Marxist leader of the pro-Communist People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in Guyana, will not be permitted to take over the government of an independent Guyana. Jagan has the electoral support of the East Indians, who are approximately 50% of the total population of Guyana. It is believed that Jagan has a good chance of coming to power in the next elections unless steps are taken to prevent this...Since we believe that there is a good likelihood that Jagan can be elected in Guyana unless the entire non-East Indian electorate is mobilized against him, we also believe that campaign support must be provided to Peter D’Aguiar, the head of the United Force (UF) and Burnham’s coalition partner."
The proposal said that Burnham had taken steps to ensure the absentee votes of supporters, but not those of the opposition. "Burnham has initiated steps for electoral registration of Guyanese at home and abroad,In a meeting [deleted] on September 16, 1966, Burnham requested money for various political purposes and outlined his plans to issue identification cards to all Guyanans above the age of 10, and to identify and register all Guyanans of African ancestry in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States in order to get their absentee votes in the next elections.
"Conversely, Burnham acknowledged with a smile, East Indians living abroad may have trouble getting registered and, if registered, getting ballots." and has requested financial assistance [deleted] for the PNC campaign. It is recommended that he and his party be provided with covert support in order to assure his victory at the polls. At the same time, it is believed that support to Peter D’Aguiar and his United Force (UF), the minority party in the coalition government, is also essential in order to offset Jagan’s solidly entrenched East Indian electoral support.
The 303 Committee was asked to approve the proposed actions, whose cost was deleted from the declassified document. According to an April 10 memorandum for the record, 'the 303 Committee approved this proposal at its April 7 meeting. [deleted] emphasized during the Committee’s discussion the importance of starting early in the implementation of the proposal. The urgency came from the mechanisms by which Burnham could call for elections, which must take place before 31 March 1969 but could take place whenever the Prime Minister dissolves Parliament.
Burnham has taken personal responsibility both for organizing his inactive party in Guyana, as well as sending an advisor to survey the amount of expatriate support on which he can rely.
"Burnham believes that he would have great difficulty ensuring his own re-election without support from the U.S. Government. He has requested financial support [deleted] for staff and campaign expenses, motor vehicles, small boats, printing equipment, and transistorized public address systems. He also wishes to contract for the services of an American public relations firm to improve his image abroad and counteract Jagan’s propaganda in the foreign press. See document for non-redacted parts of plan.