AMERICAN INVOLVEMENT IN GUYANA IN 1953
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The political policies of the United States administration played a decisive role in influencing the British Government to remove the PPP Government from power in Guyana. The British Government acted under pressure from the US administration which, by then, had given itself the "right" to oppose any policy which it felt was not supportive of imperialist interests.
Since 1940, the United States had established a firm political and military interest in Guyana, and during the Second World War, the British Government allowed the USA to set up a naval base on the Essequibo River and an air base at Atkinson Field at Timehri (which after the war was transformed into an international airport). The United States continued to maintain its military facilities at this airport even after the war ended. (It was not until the 1970s that the military "rights" the USA held regarding the use of this airport were finally rescinded).
The early 1950s was the period of the communist witch hunt initiated by Joseph McCarthy and his political supporters in the USA. Any progressive tendency was labelled by them as communist, and this label was soon plastered on the progressive policies of the PPP. Locally, the label already existed, and the Party and its leaders were always attacked since its inception by local anti communists.
In the United States concerns began to be voiced as soon as the PPP won the general election in April 1953. The American press, in particular, began to show deep interest in Guyana. Time magazine wrote that a Communist Government was being established in the British Empire, thus warning Britain of the "danger". And Americans were warned that a Communist Government was being set up at America's back door. Communism, they were told, was the opposite of democracy. Around the same time, an American journalist of international repute, Drew Pearson, expressed alarm that while the US Government was trying to preserve democracy in the Far East and elsewhere, it was allowing a communist government to be established in its neighbourhood.
The US State Department also began to take a strong interest in Guyanese affairs. The US Vice Consul stationed in Trinidad made repeated visits to Guyana after April 1953. No doubt, the US Government was also worried that if Guyana became communist, it may pose a security threat for the Panama Canal, since in their estimation, Russia would be able to obtain port facilities in Guyana.
In September 1953, a US Congressman, Mr. Jackson, was a guest of the Governor, Sir Alfred Savage. When he finally departed, he stated that Guyana was within the strategic zone of the USA.
American officials were also busy in London. Just before the announcement of the suspension of the constitution, the British Colonial Secretary, Oliver Lyttelton, and other leading members of the British Government, met with US officials in London. The representatives of the US Government, no doubt, pressured the British to remove the PPP Government from office.
On the 4 October, British Secretary of State for the Colonies Oliver Lyttelton, Home Secretary Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, and Senior Legal Assistant to the Commonwealth Relations Office, Sir Sydney Abrahams, journeyed to Balmoral Castle in Scotland to confer with Queen Elizabeth. It was on their return to London that the Order in-Council on the suspension of the constitution bearing the Queen's signature was announced. Lyttelton had, shortly after his return to London, denied that the visit to the Queen had anything to do with the possibility of the removal of the PPP Government of Guyana. He claimed that the visit was normal for one of the members of the Queen's Privy Council!
On 9 October, 1953, the New York Herald Tribune stated: "The British Guiana affair is of vital interest to the United States - not because of the internal events within that colony but because of its strategic juxtaposition. Venezuela is the synonym for the two very important items to the United States - oil and iron ore."
The English journal, Church Times, on the 16 October, 1953 stated that the Venezuela Guyana frontier where new iron deposits were discovered was in dispute and declared, "This is one reason for the American interest in the deterioration of the situation." (No doubt, the US was interested in having "friendly" governments both in Guyana and Venezuela which would give the Americans a free hand in exploiting the wealth of the two countries).
The US investors were also worried that the PPP Government would interfere with their business in Guyana. The American interests in the country then were the Demerara Bauxite Company and Sprostons Ltd. and were both subsidiaries of the Aluminium Company of Canada, which itself was tied up with the giant monopoly, the Aluminium Company of America. Other American interests were the Reynolds Metal Company which was mining bauxite at Kwakwani, and the Kennecot Corporation and Harvey Aluminium Inc. which were prospecting for bauxite. The London Daily Mail correspondent reported from Georgetown on the 9 October, 1953: "It is reported here reliably that the anxieties of the US Government played a not inconsiderable part in Britain's decision to sent troops to British Guiana. For the Americans have installations built during the war at the Atkinson airfield near here."
Following the suspension of the constitution, the Washington Post admitted that the election of the PPP caused alarm in US Government circles. It stated that the overthrow of the PPP was necessary and suggested that real authoritative power for the Governor must be established by Britain. (Actually, the Governor always held authoritative power during the period of the PPP Government in 1953. He used this power in attempts to restrict the PPP from carrying out its progressive policies. The PPP felt that the Governor had both too much power under the Constitution, but it had no power to take it away).
At about the same time, the New York Times on the 13 October, 1953 made the following comment:
"Ever since President Monroe, in December 1823, proclaimed the Doctrine that bears his name, in the name of the United States alone instead of jointly with Great Britain (as has been suggested by British Foreign Secretary Canning, its basic originator), the United States has been pledged to resist every threat of force made by a Power of the Eastern Hemisphere against an established local regime in the Americas. Now for the first time since the Monroe Doctrine was announced, the United States has approved the forceful overthrow of such a local regime by an Eastern Hemisphere Power - in this instance, Great Britain - moreover of local Government chosen in free elections and operating under a constitution."
Despite the statement (See Chapter 134) by Colonial Secretary Lyttelton during a debate in the British Parliament on 22 October, 1953 that ". . . . No representations of any kind were received from the US Government before Her Majesty's Government made their decision," the US State Department quickly expressed satisfaction over the actions of the British Government. The US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs, Henry Byroade, issued a statement on the 31 October, 1953 in which he warned about the rate at which colonial people must be granted their independence - thus implying that Britain must make sure that the colony had a pro imperialist Government. On the 2 November, 1953 the Times of London reported: "It is significant that it should have been an American who . . . . felt compelled to issue a warning against the hasty shedding of their responsibilities by the Imperial powers. . . . Mr. Henry Byroade, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs. . . . adds a clear declaration of the perils of "premature independence."
The removal of the PPP by the British Government, by both constitutional and military means, and the setting up subsequently of a puppet nominated Interim Government were, therefore, very much welcomed by the US administration.