Kennedy and British Guiana: A Cold War International History

Fifty Years Without JFK: Rethinking Global Diplomacy
Americas: Panel 2

Kennedy and British Guiana: A Cold War International History
Robert Anthony Waters Jr. (Ohio Northern University)

This paper will re-examine the Kennedy administration's relations with British Guiana and Premier Cheddi Jagan. It is a revisionist account that puts U.S. policy in the larger context of Cuban and Soviet intervention. The paper will do the following:

1) Trace Kennedy's views on British Guiana and explain the reasons for his sometimes tangled policy. Included in this assessment will be the probable role of the U.S.S. Oxford spy ship, which was sent to the Guianese coast shortly before Kennedy turned against Jagan and began to seek his ouster.

2) Examine British Guiana's impact on the "Special Relationship" -- a worried British official wrote that relations between the two countries were at a "tipping point," which the colony could topple if Macmillan did not agree to oust Jagan. Tied to the Special Relationship was British Guiana's impact on U.S. anti-colonial policy: While the U.S. pressured the British to remove Jagan, the British countered with suggestions for a quid pro quo in Kenya, Southern Rhodesia, and British Honduras, and even discussed the possibility of helping in British Guiana as a means to avoid participation in U.S. plans to intervene in Laos. This paper will analyze the success or failure of these colonial bargaining chips.

3) Investigate Jagan's charge that the United States had persuaded Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt to demand changes in the country's borders as a means to pressure Jagan, and explicate the successful U.S. effort to pressure Israel against assisting the Guianese to create a national defense force based on the Israeli model.

4) Describe the Cuban and Soviet intervention in British Guiana, particularly during the anti-government general strike in 1963 and the pro-government sugar workers' strike of 1964.

5) Discuss the administration's effort to use a combination of political pressure and CIA support for intervention by U.S. trade unions in order to oust Jagan and pre-empt independent Guyana from joining the Communist Bloc.

6) Use Kennedy's post-missile crisis British Guiana policy to assess if his foreign policy underwent what Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called a "Great Turning" away from Cold War confrontation in international hot spots.

Institute for the Study of the Americas
Robert Anthony Waters Jr. (Ohio Northern University)
Event date: 
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 - 12:00am
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