Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Transcript of an Oral History Project by Former Ambassador James F. Mack

Part of a much longer transcript where James F. Mack speaks of his career, which in various roles took him all over South and Central America. He served as Ambassador to Georgetown, Guyana from 1997 to 2000, under President Bill Clinton.
Mack and his interviewer, Charles Kennedy, touch only briefly on Jonestown itself, but the great value of his well-articulated pedagogical reminiscence is in the overview of political realities during and after Forbes Burnham's years in power. Also he offers, almost as an afterthought, a very informative telling of a scandal which he was forced to deal with during his time in Georgetown, which needs an updating. I will interrupt their My-Dinner-with-Andre delivery style for my own commentary, on both what they put in and leave out.
The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training; Selected and converted, American Memory, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 2007

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress Copyright status not determined; refer to accompanying matter.

The Library of Congress makes digitized historical materials available for education and scholarship.
This transcription is intended to have an accuracy rate of 99.95 percent or greater.

The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project
Interviewed by: Charles Stuart Kennedy
Initial interview date: March 20, 2004
Copyright 2007 ADST

Q: This is a good place to stop! And we will pick this up in 1997 and where did you go?

MACK: I went to Guyana as Ambassador

Q: Okay we will pick it up then.

Today is 20th of February 2006. Jim, you are off to Guyana, 1997?

MACK: That is correct.

Q: How did that appointment come about?

MACK: Well, that was the year in which President Clinton had named a fairly high number of political appointees to fill ambassadorial openings in Latin America. If I remember correctly, there were only two or three posts filled by career people. Georgetown, Guyana was one of them and I was lucky enough to get an appointment..

Q: Well you served in Guyana from '97 to when?

MACK: To 2000.

Q: What was the situation in Guyana as you got ready to go there?

MACK: Well an election was coming up and the situation was getting fairly tense, with racial overtones. Janet Jagan was the presidential candidate of the ruling People's Progressive Party, or PPC, which was Marxist Leninist, and Desmond Hoyte was the candidate of the opposition party, the People's National Congress known as the PNC, which had largely shed its Marxist ideology and had evolved into a more moderate party.

Since most people don't know much about Guyana, let me give you a bit of background. Guyana achieved independence in 1966. About 10 years prior to that, the main pro-independence party, which was a Marxist party, had largely split in two along racial lines between the two largest Guyanese ethnic groups. The group headed by Forbes Burnham, a British educated barrister was predominantly Afro-Guyanese. The other group, headed by Dr. Cheddi Jagan, a US trained dentist, was predominantly Indo-Guyanese, that is to say comprised of descendants of indentured servants who had been brought to Guyana from the Indian subcontinent in the mid-1800s replace the African slaves on the plantations after slavery was abolished in the British empire.

Q: Jagan's wife was American.

MACK: His wife, Janet Rosenberg Jagan, was born an American in the midwest, I think in Chicago, and had met him when he was studying dentistry at Northwestern University just north of the city. In any event, Cheddi had largely built the independence struggle in Guyana. A peaceful struggle I might note. It was basically based on his support from labor unions, especially the sugar cane workers, most of whom were Indo-Guyanese. In fact Jagan's father was a foreman on a sugar plantation and Jagan was raised on one. But the problem for the British, who wanted to extricate itself from Guyana, was that Jagan was an avowed Marxist-Leninist. At the time of independence, the British and Americans were very concerned that Guyana would be the first country, at least in the British Empire, to achieve independence under a Marxist Government. So they changed the electoral system to require that the party or coalition of parties winning the presidency be backed by an absolute majority of the seats in the parliament. The idea was that the parties representing the non-Indo-Guyanese groups, who together formed a slight majority of the population, would join together to defeat Jagan. Even though the two main parties were Marxist, Jagan at the time was considered more extreme, and therefore the greater evil.

The electoral change produced the intended result, at least in the beginning. Forbes Burnham and his largely Afro-Guyanese party called the Peoples National Congress or PNC forged an alliance with a party with strong support from Guyana's Portuguese, Chinese and Amerindian population, plus some non-Marxist Indo-Guyanese businessman. As a consequence it was Burnham, not Jagan, who won the election and therefore it was Burnham, not Jagan, who became independent Guyana's post colonial leader. However, in the end things did not work out as the British had hoped. Burnham himself proceeded to move farther to the left and ended up nationalizing something like 85 percent of the economy -- the bauxite mines, the sugar industry, the rice industry. Even relatively small businesses were nationalized. Of Guyana's large enterprises only the Coca-Coca franchise escaped nationalization. Burnham's actions destroyed the economy and impoverished the country, spurring massive migration abroad of Guyana's population — to the US, Canada, the UK, the Caribbean, Venezuela — to the point where today at least as many Guyanese and their descendants live outside of Guyana as inside. Despite a relatively high birth rate, the country's population has not significantly changed in 40 years. This is almost unheard of in a third world country and gives an idea of how bad the situation there became.
Mack says: "At the time of independence, the British and Americans were very concerned that Guyana would be the first country, at least in the British Empire, to achieve independence under a Marxist Government," but which Mack should have qualified as the potential for the first successful Marxist government to arise out of a former British colony.

Burnham didn't "nationalize" at least one lucrative bauxite mine, where the implication is the government took over a profitable ongoing enterprise, the only difference being formerly privatized profits would be redirected to the public's collective purse. Rather, a subsidiary of the Union Carbide Corporation shuttered its operation at Matthew's Ridge near Jonestown, throwing 600 men out of work, imperiling the welfare of 3,000 family members.

In fact, the earliest mention I could find in the record, an August 26, 1968, New York Times article, Guyana Venture to Close, says the American-led Corporation was acting solely because they were "losing money on the venture":

The Union Carbide Corporation announced over the weekend that Manganese Mines Management, Ltd., a subsidiary, had informed the Government it had decided to cease operations at Matthews Ridge in the northwest district on the Venezuela-Guyana border.
The company, which exported about 100,000 tons of manganese annually, told the Government it was closing down because it was losing money on the venture. The project included a 35-mile-long railway.
The project maintained more than 600 families totaling 3,000 people. The company is cooperating with the Government to develop a 250,000-acre farm and cattle raising settlement. 
The power of a corporation with the international reach of Union Carbide to frustrate the socialist will of a country the size of Guyana seems obvious. The business likely purchased the raw material from itself, so it controlled the market, as well as the manufacturing and shipping. John D. Rockefeller spoke openly of ridding his business of the confine of competition---toothless regulations like the Sherman Antitrust Act notwithstanding. The casual, or clandestine action of cartels often extended across even Cold War boundaries, since a still strong Soviet Union, ideologically sympathetic to the Guyanese government's goals, didn't step in to reestablish the mining operation. Behind the window dressing of American do-goodism, with the development aid and loan forgiveness to help Guyana out, all the cruel constructs of capitalism were being employed as an economic genocide on the Guyanese.

Another Times article, Reynolds Challenges Legality of a Levy On Guyana Bauxite, is dated October 4, 1974, which should have been well along into Burnham's nationalization process, which Ambassador Mack tries to cast as akin to stealing candy from babies, although Forbes Burnham, a London-trained barrister, is clearly willing to let the law of contracts rule supreme. 
In a nutshell---Reynolds, who maintained mines elsewhere in Guyana, objected to a legislative levy on mineral extraction that would cost it $8.5 million in the coming year, which it called "expropriatory." Reynolds countered with an offer that would earn the Guyanese "more than $4 million" in the coming year.

By the contract then in effect however, which Reynolds had negotiated with the Guyanese legislature in 1969, the people of Guyana or their representatives were paid $1.25 million a year for the natural resource. This implies to me that Reynolds was admitting it had been benefiting by a sweetheart deal wherein they only paid, in round numbers, 33-cents on a fair-market dollar, while by the Guyanese adjustment doubled that discount.

The article quotes a spokesperson for Reynolds as saying, "The company always has had excellent relations with Guyana and regrets the Government's decision to impose a tax, which simply makes continued operations economically impossible." Reynolds simply neglects the option of raising the cost of the aluminum in a soda can from, say, two-cents to three  

Reynolds added, in no apparent fear of a Godless Marxism, that the company was prepared to continue its operations there "if allowed to do so."

But a "suborniatory" Reynolds' misuse of the word "expropriatory," which actually means the "politically motivated confiscation of private property,
suggests a role reversal, while the use of words like "impose" a "tax," in place of "purchase" a "commodity," hints at a custom of greased palms,  not public handshakes.

In any event, Burnham was re-elected several times, almost certainly the result of fraud. Early on in his reign, he basically told the other ethnic groups that had supported his election in 1966 that he didn't need them any more, didn't want them in Guyana, and that if they were unhappy they should leave the country. Most of the Chinese and Portuguese Guyanese did just that, largely to Canada. Finally in the mid 80s, I think around 1985, Burnham, a heavy smoker, and sick with lung cancer, died on an operating table. His attending surgeon was Cuban. At that point, the Soviet Union, his main benefactor, was not doing very well either so Guyana too was at a dead end.

His successor Desmond Hoyte also was a British trained barrister and had been in Burnham's cabinet for years. Given the ethnic composition of the country, Hoyte's subsequent electoral victory in 1985 also almost certainly came about as a result of fraud, but he turned out to be much more moderate and proceeded to start to open up the economy.

When the Soviet Union finally collapsed, the world changed radically for Guyana. After a couple of failed attempts, Jimmy Carter convinced Desmond Holt to allow an internationally supervised election when he ran for reelection in 1990 or '91. Cheddi Jagan ran again and this time he won. His election was basically due to demographics. The Indo-Guyanese population remained greater than the Afro-Guyanese population. And people tend to vote along racial lines. In fact, the editor of the country's largest newspaper once described elections in Guyana as “a racial census” So Cheddi, a declared Marxist-Leninist, a faithful friend of the former Soviet Union, who for 30 years vacationed on the Black Sea as a guest of the Soviet state, finally became President.

But he was elected after the fall of the Soviet Union, and was simply unable to do a lot of things that he otherwise might have wanted to do. Also, Burnham had already tried those things they had failed utterly. They bankrupted the country and reduced it from the ranks of a middle-income nation at the time of independence to a country only a notch above Haiti in terms of their per capita income. As a consequence, Jagan did not attempt to reverse Hoyte's economic openings, but did little to deepen them either.

Four years into his presidency, Jagan suffered a heart attack. Unlike his predecessor, he was offered US medical treatment by the US Government a gesture which he and Janet Jagan appreciated. In fact, the US Air Force flew him to Walter Reed medical center for treatment, giving him the royal, or I should say presidential treatment. No Cuban doctors for him. Unfortunately, he succumbed a few weeks later to another massive heart attack, without finishing his term. The ruling party named an Afro-Guyanese member of a small coalition partner of Jagan's party to finish it out. When Jagan's party could not agree on a successor, it turned to Jagan's widow Janet Rosenberg Jagan as the party's presidential candidate in 1997. Desmond Hoyte was her opponent, just as he had been her husband's opponent in 1991.

Janet Jagan was a well known figure in Guyana, a major political power in her own right, one of the principal founders of the ruling party, and for years the real organizational force in the PPC party. There were some interesting comparisons to a prominent US power couple in the US at that time and now. Janet also was demonized by Hoyte and his party. Hoyte's campaign was very strident with racial overtones. When Janet Jagan was declared the winner, which was inevitable given the racial makeup of Guyana, things got out of hand.

Q: This was when?

MACK: This was December of 1997. At that point, the Afro-Guyanese population was largely urbanized or lived near the capital, and formed the absolute majority in the capital of Georgetown. When Janet was elected, Hoyte repeatedly claimed massive fraud. It did not matter that OAS and other outside observers did not detect any significant fraud. Afro-Guyanese anger boiled over into rioting and arson. They just could not accept that the PPC had won reelection. Cheddi they had some affection for, but not Janet.

I won't say was situation was totally out of control but it was very, very serious leading CARICOM, the economic association of the English speaking countries in the Caribbean, to intervene and broker discussions between the two parties which led to an uneasy truce that allowed Janet Jagan to take office. Things had been so bad that Janet was hastily sworn in at the presidential residence. And I do not believe Hoyte or his party attended the opening ceremony of the newly elected National Congress. Things were that tense. By the way the Canadian ambassador, the British high commissioner and I worked with a highly respected, and politically independent Afro-Guyanese figure behind the scenes with CARICOM to urge Hoyte to accept the election results and tell his followers to cease their violence.

However, even after the deal, tensions remained high, with the danger of things getting out of hand at any moment. After about a year of this, President Janet Jagan decided to step down on the grounds that she had some heart condition. She was well into her 70s at that point, but always struck me as healthy and vigorous. By the way, I found her very approachable and plain spoken, with a typical mid-western manner, even though she always retained her communist beliefs.

In any event, she decided, ostensibly for health reasons, to step down. I think the real reason was the constant tension with the opposition, with the Afro-Guyanese Party, constantly. She knew she was a red flag to the opposition. In fact, every little issue tended to blow-up into some sort of strife. Labor strife or strife from the street. And so, she decided to step down. In her place the People's Progressive Party Central Committee named Bharrat Jagdeo to finish her term. Jagdeo was a very bright Soviet trained economist of Indo-Guyanese origin. I think he was in his mid or late 30s at the time. He had received his Master's Degree in Economics from Patricio Lumumba University in Moscow along about the time that the Soviet Union was collapsing. Jagdeo was from a small village up the coast from the capital. Years before, the Jagans had identified him as a young man with great leadership promise and had overseen his education and development.

The Jagans brought along other young people in party in the same way, like Jagdeo, and eventually sent them off to the Soviet Union for an education. My guess is that they were grooming Jagdeo for the presidency after Cheddi Jagan had hopefully finished two terms so in a sense his assumption of power was premature but inevitable.

When Jagdeo returned to Guyana after his Soviet education, he was given a senior position in the Ministry of Finance and eventually becoming the Minister. I met with him in that capacity and later as president. I found him much less ideological than Janet Jagan. Must have been something about the water in Moscow since he was there when the Soviet Union collapsed.

I think the party's choice in naming him to finish Janet's term was excellent. I found him pragmatic person, and very, very approachable. When he was president, I was able to get right to the point with him, walk through all the issues and reach conclusions. That was his style. By the way, when Janet Jagan was president, she was always available to see me, unlike the Foreign Minister, Clement Rohee, a party loyalist, who avoided me for months at a time even when I issues important to both our countries to discuss. My guess is that he was under the thrall of regime on a bid island off the coast of Florida. A couple of times I went to President Jagan directly to complain about the Foreign Minister and got what I thought was a very fair hearing.

In any event, that was the situation I walked into. A country that had suffered grievously, through because of Marxist economic policies over the preceding thirty years, a country that had fallen from the ranks of a promising mid-level developing country to one that was just about at the bottom of the scale for the Western Hemisphere next to Haiti. A country that had been hemorrhaging its people, including the best and brightest for over a generation!

Q: Where were the Guyanese people going?

MACK: They were mainly going to New York and Toronto. But a lot of educated Guyanese were going to the English speaking Caribbean countries, most of which were substantially better off economically. Many Caribbean Island States needed skilled people - doctors, nurses, school teaches judges etc. Even Botswana was recruiting Guyanese teachers and nurses . Botswana was short on qualified English-speaking teachers and had the money to pay. So they sought them in a much poorer country. The impact of these losses on Guyana, year after year was very high. Even with several years of growth in the late 80s after Hoyte become president and, Guyana was still losing its best and brightest all over the world. Needless to say, when I got to Georgetown, the lines outside the Embassy consular section were pretty long. One of the first things I did was to set up an appointment system for non-immigrant visa interviews, which ended the problem of lines.

But it was pretty disconcerting when I first arrived, to see lines of people sweltering in the sun and dripping in sweat waiting to get an interview on the chance that they might be allowed to enter the United States on a tourist visa so they could overstay remain in the United States illegally.

But that was the situation in Guyana. We were trying to encourage the private sector. We had training programs to help to private sector organizations develop some economical analysis capability so they could make constructive sound economic policies proposals to the government.

One of the consequences of Guyana's massive out migration was that they had bled so much of its human talent that the government found it very difficult to staff itself adequately. There were simply not enough skilled people around in the country to do all the things that needed to be done. There was a very small, very thin veneer of extraordinarily able, well-educated people. But many of them were over 50 years old at that point. They had been educated under the British system, and for one reason or another they had stayed in Guyana and actually succeeded despite the economic situation. Others had gone to work for international organizations; some became international consultants; somewhere in the private sector, so there was a small group of really stimulating people. Many became wonderful friends. Others would come back to Guyana to visit family — like university professors in the United States, judges in Antigua or the Bahamas or teachers and etc. Others would be working for the UN. The number still living in Guyana was very small. So it made it very difficult for a private company or the government to move ahead.

Q: Did you get any feel in talking to your predecessors who had been there that these socialist or Marxists governments were essentially driving people away. It seemed to be a deliberate policy. Did they understand what they were doing?

MACK: I think Forbes Burnham knew exactly what he was doing back in the late 60s and 70s. I think he felt he could consolidate and maintain power by driving away those people. His successor and fellow PNC party member Desmond Hoyte tried to move the government back to the center. Hoyte had reprivatized a couple of significant businesses and was trying to attract foreign enterprise to come back to Guyana. And he had some success, but when the country started to grow again, it was from a very low base. And while Cheddi Jagan did not welcome these policy changes, which occurred before he took office, he did not really attempt to reverse them. On the other hand, he did not have much of a choice because at that point, he had nobody else to turn to. No socialist country was around to bail him out. Remember Forbes Burnham had received significant assistance from the Soviets and from Cuba during a number of years. But those sources had dried up. So Guyana had nowhere else to go.

Q: Well did you ever talk a heart to heart conversation with Cheddi or Janet Jagan to say look what has happen to you?

MACK: Cheddi Jagan had died 6 months before I arrived. And I never had an ideological conversation with Janet Jagan. We are talking about a fully formed person her mid-70s who had worked on behalf of her Marxist beliefs her entire adult life. I just don't think that kind of conversation would have been productive. My guess is that she would have blamed Guyana's problem on the excesses and corruption of the Burnham government, not on any basic flaws in Marxist thought. I did make a number of speeches on the importance of free enterprise, foreign and domestic private investment, open markets, and less restrictive regulatory regimes to Guyana's economic development, but my focus was on the business community.

I do remember once that I had an informal conversation with one of the top leaders of Jagan's PPC party right after the Fifteenth Party Congress. I had run into him at a cocktail party. The newspapers had reported his speech stating the ruling party's “unswerving commitment to Marxist Leninist principles.” We had always been friendly so I went up to him and in the course of our conversation, I referred to his remarks, and said bluntly “you don't really still believe that stuff do you.” His response was in a serious but friendly tone. “Oh! Absolutely I believe it” he said. We are committed to this. Basically, our time will come.” I was a bit surprised, but he was being very serious, not hostile at all, but serious. That was the worldview of those of his generation in the party leadership. These folks were in their fifties or up at that time.

The party did all the things you would expect of a Marxist party. May-Day was a big deal. The party leadership would establish slogans for each May-Day celebration. And the faithful would chant them like “Forward ever, Backward never”. They would sing the “Internationale” But they were always very friendly toward me. Nobody was hostile to me. There was no tension. One of Jagan's key deputies, a 1970s Howard University trained medical doctor with whom I had a very good relationship, would always address me, half-jokingly as “comrade ambassador”. With the exception of the Foreign Minister, I had access to anyone I wanted in the government. They were perfectly willing to see me. They invited me to everything. And the U.S. had significant assistance programs there and of course, an active Peace Corps program.

Q: We are talking about a time when the Soviet Union ceased to be the Soviet Union, I think by '92. And reverberations all over Eastern Europe. The whole system, essentially Marxist-Leninism just died on the American and European campuses, I think.

MACK: Well I don't think the average Indo-Guyanese guy in Guyana who voted loyally for the PPC cared about Marxism at all. But the party leadership did. The old line people. Especially those over 50 and were raised in this dogma. And remember they worked harder than anyone else in the party. They were moving all around the country all the time tending to their grassroot party organizations. They were constantly organizing and fertilizing the faith of the Party cadre. This was a party organized like the communist party. It was a communist party! But it was operating when communism's time had clearly passed.

Q: You mentioned the Foreign Minister several times in not the most friendly terms. Who was he?

MACK: His name was Clement Rohee. He had been Foreign Minister for quite a while when I arrived. He always seemed to have plenty of time to sign trade and cultural agreements with Cuba, but did not have much time for the Ambassador of the United States which was providing fifteen million dollars a year in assistance. Remember this was a country with 800,000 people. We had also a large Peace Corp contingent. And of course the US was the largest market for Guyana's exports. In our meetings he was civil, but he would put me off for 6 weeks at a time before he would agree to see me. It was very, very frustrating. On two occasions I actually wrote letters to the President Jagan essentially saying look, I have some serious business to conduct with your government and I can't seem to get any time with the Foreign Minister. She immediately called me in and we talked.

Q: At that point what were the American interests?

MACK: They were not huge. There were a number of American businesses there. Gold mining companies, although the largest was Canadian, a US owned bauxite mining operation, fish processing companies, a large box company. The tropical timber industry was large but not in American hands. We were concerned about the high level of illegal immigration to the US from and through Guyana. Drug trafficking was an issue. Tough we never had a permanent DEA Agent we did have a multiple ton cocaine bust of a ship passing through Georgetown. And we were concerned with Guyana simply because it was a very poor in the Western Hemisphere that we wanted to see develop. But I cannot say that United States had absolutely critical foreign policy interests either because Guyana's geographic or proximity issue or because they produced a strategic mineral unavailable elsewhere. That would be a vast overstatement.

Q: Now at one point way back we were concerned about Guyana was part of an expanding crescent in Caribbean that include Cuba and Granada..

MACK: Actually there is some truth to that. During the “Cold War” Guyana was quite an interesting place. The Soviets had a huge Embassy, the Chinese had a large presence as well as Yugoslavs and the Romanians. Even by the time I got there the North Koreans still maintained an Embassy, the Chinese were building a brand new embassy, and, of course, the Cubans were there, in fairly large numbers — medical people and sports trainers. As you know Cuba was renting out their medical people and athletic coaches all over Latin America and the Caribbean.

There is an interesting story I would like to tell you. The Soviet Embassy, I guess in the mid-80s, was built on a choice piece of land on the coast donated by the government. U.S. had wanted to build a new embassy as well but did not want to accept the property where the government wanted to put us because it had been confiscated from its owners by the Burnham government without compensation. Therefore, we decided to build our modern bomb proof on the same plot of land on which the Ambassador's old wooden residence had been located, but with an exemption from the new State Department setback standards since there was simply not enough room. .

The Soviets Embassy was a large compound that contained not only the chancery, but also, in the typical soviet manner, the apartments and recreation facilities for the twenty five or so Soviet families. By the time I arrived the Soviet Union no longer existed and the Soviet Embassy was now the Russian Embassy. However, Russia at that point had fallen on very hard economic times and could not keep the entire compound going.To compensate they built a lousy chain link fence right down the middle of the compound and turned the apartments into a hotel and athletic facilitiepool, tennis court, weight room into a private club open to all who wanted to pay the monthly fee the “Ambassador” club. They also rented our their recreation hall, which was converted into a night club, called “Night Flight”. Since there were few sports facilities around, I joined the “Ambassador Club” for a time.

I should note that the Russian Ambassador was very friendly as was the Chinese Ambassador. There were only 12 ambassadors in Guyana. Of course I was restricted on my contacts with the Cuban ambassador, but the remember there were only 12 foreign embassies in Guyana. It was a small place, and the Cuban was the Dean of the diplomatic corps based on his length of service Georgetown . And also since I was one of the few Spanish speakers around, I got invited to social events for the Spanish speaking community at which the Cuban ambassador was almost always present.. When I was with the Cuban in such situations, we spoke mostly of baseball and he told dirty jokes. In fact, there was a custom that each month one of the 12 foreign Ambassadors would host a lunch for the other 11 ambassadors. And in that situation I had to invite the Cuban as the Dean of the diplomatic corps. I was unable to communicate at all with the North Korean since he spoke no language I knew, and certainly not English. At that time, the 3-4 North Korean diplomats in Georgetown survived by selling contraband, liquor, you name it, they had brought in under their diplomatic privileges. I communicated with the Russian, Venezuelan, Colombian, and Cuban ambassadors in Spanish. None of them spoke decent English.

Q: Did Guyana have any border problems at the time?

MACK: Guyana had has a long standing border problem with Venezuela. Actually was more than a border problem, an existential problem since Venezuela claimed at least two thirds of Guyana's national territory. The problem dated back to the nineteenth century when Guyana was a still British colony. The dispute had been settled by international arbitration in the early 1900s, which, while Guyana was still British Guyana, largely in Guyana's favor. A prominent American whose name I cannot recall was one of the arbiters. Venezuela accepted the ruling for forty, fifty or sixty years. However, I think in the early 1960s, one of the assistants of the arbitration panel now on his death bed alleged that arbitration decision had been cooked. The Venezuelan Government immediately seized on this alleged confession to declare the arbitration decision null and void and reinstated its claim.

I personally think that British historical British claim is probably correct given that the Dutch and then the British had established plantations along the coast of the disputed area over 300 years before Guyana's independence. But while I was in Guyana, the Chavez government did not push the issue.

Q: Was there any residue of Jonestown?

MACK: No! There was no residue of Jonestown, site of the mass suicide of over 800 American followers of the California sect led by the Rev. Jim Jones. By the way, I visited the place 20 year after the end and found virtually nothing. You would not know that almost a 1000 people lived there. The jungle had reclaimed it., except for couple of rusty old tractors and other farm implements. By the way Jonestown is located in an extremely isolated area in Western Guyana not far from Venezuela. No roads link the area to the outside world. Everything had to move by air or boat . It was very inaccessible. That is why Rev Jones was able to do get away with the things he did in Jonestown away from the scrutiny of the world. Unless you were invited at the time, you could have not gotten into the settlement even if you were physically able to get to the front gate which itself would have been difficult.

Q: What was the Peace Corps doing?

MACK: Oh! The Peace Corps was very active. They were working in health, they taught school, they worked in community development. Having been a former Peace Corps volunteer myself, I was very close to the director and the volunteers. I visited the volunteers frequently. However, Guyana was a challenging place for volunteers because of threats to their personal security. Shortly before I had arrived there had been a spate of assaults on volunteers including rapes to the point that the Peace Corps came close to leaving the country. The attacks were criminal in nature, not politically motivated. There was a high level of violent crime in Guyana in general. Most volunteers physically stood out and were seen as easy targets by the criminal element. In the end the Peace Corps decided to stay but did remove the volunteers from urban areas. They had originally thought the volunteers would be safe there since they had placed them with families thinking that their living with local families would give them protection. That turned out not be the case given the high level of criminality in the community.

Security in the rural areas turned out to be much better. However, even there life was not easy for volunteers. The climate is very hot and humid. Even though trade winds blow through the Guyana coast, for those without electricity life was hard.

Q: What was USAID doing?

MACK: AID was helping to strengthen private sector organizations. They worked in health and they financed the reconstruction of sea walls or dikes. Remember much of Guyana's coast is three or four feet below sea level at high tide. First the Dutch and then the British built sea walls all along the coast for 150 miles to reclaim tidal swamps for agriculture. Sea walls need to be maintained. And they were not well maintained under the Burnham government after independence. A lot of sections had crumbled and collapsed. A lot of rock had be brought in from the interior to rebuild the walls. By the way there is no surface rock on the coast. It is all mud. Rock had be brought from inland. It was quite expensive.

We did some training of judges and prosecutors and helped them rewrite some legal codes and things like that.

Q: Did you find as Ambassador that the State Department had no particular interest in Guyana?

MACK: Yes. Interest was very, very limited. We were way off Washington's radar scope.

Q: At one time it was pretty high up on the scope. This was when the Cubans were active and all. We all knew the name of Cheddi and Janet Jagan..

MACK: That is correct. That was during the cold war.

Q: Did we have any bilateral interest at all?

MACK: Nothing huge. Nothing to compare with Venezuela or Mexico.

Q: You left there in 2000?

MACK: I did.

Q: And then what?

MACK: Before we go there, I should tell you about one scandal that hit us in Guyana. While I was there an untenured Junior Officer named Tom Carroll arrived at post as a rotational office. He had come from the US Interest Section in Taiwan. What I did not know, since the Department did not tell me, was that Carroll had left Taiwan early under a cloud. And he went to work first in the consulate session as our one non immigrant Visa Officer. Remember, we were a very small post. Sometime after his arrival, I would imagine three to six months after his arrival, he fell in with a crowd of visa fixers. And he went into business with them. And over a period of about a year, he sold about a thousand visas, for I would say between five or ten thousand dollars apiece. It turned out that he had made arrangements to be paid at home by the fixer.

Carroll arrived I think in 1998 I believe and was assigned to the Consulate Session as the Visa Officer working with non-immigrants. His refusal rate was, in fact, twice as high as his predecessor. And he created an image of somebody who was very committed to his job and who took his responsibility of adjudicating non-immigrant visa applicants very seriously. By the way, among the first-time applicants, our refusal rate was historically about 90%. Even counting all applicants our refusal rate normally was about seventy percent, to give you an idea. I will not talk about his supervisor, the head of the consular section, but obviously Carroll was not well supervised. Over time, unbeknownst to me and unbeknownst to his supervisor, Carroll began to sell visas in cahoots with a known Guyanese visa fixer. He covered his tracks well since his refusal rate remained well above that of his predecessor.

About a year before I left, and about ten months after Carroll arrived, I began to get reports from various sources alleging he was selling visas. By the way these such allegations are constant at high-refusal posts.

Q: Oh Yes! I was a consular all of my career, but you have to take such allegations seriously.

MACK: You have to take them seriously. When I first heard about his alleged involvement, I was somewhat skeptical I have to confess because Carroll had been very, very assiduous in tracking down visa scams and that sort of thing, particularly involving Chinese migrants. He spoke fluent Mandarin by the way. The Chinese came through Hong Kong, some of them with visas they had purchased from the Surinamese Embassy in Beijing. They transited the Netherlands where the authorities simply let them continue on to Suriname. Eventually they made their way to Guyana by boat and on to Venezuela and up through the Caribbean to the US.

In any event, an investigation into Carroll was launched first by our post security officer, later assisted by others sent from Washington. By September of 1999, a serious investigation was underway and it was pretty clear to me that Carroll had in fact sold visas. Only a few of us in the embassy then knew an investigation was underway. Keep in mind ours was a small embassy. The American staff of only fifteen, almost all of whom frequently socialized together, from the lowest to the highest ranking. I regularly played basketball with him, Carroll. He and his wife were frequently at my house. It was that kind of post, like a family. Yet, at the same time I knew an investigation was going on. Of course, I couldn't let on even to my wife. To make a long story short, Carroll was led to believe that another consular officer was willing to sell visas. Since Carroll wanted to keep his business going after he left post, he propositioned the other officer to go into business with him for part of the proceeds.

Keep in mind I knew all this was going on. You can imagine living like this at a small post. When Carroll was about to leave post for home leave and his next assignment, I threw a big farewell party for him. The short of it is that when Carroll returned to Chicago for home leave, he was arrested by federal agents. He was given an opportunity to cooperate with the prosecutors for a reduced sentence but despite the incontrovertible evidence against him, including tapes of his propositions to the other officer, he refused and was sentenced to twenty-one years in jail. Two of his Guyanese confederates were caught in the US and are serving time. I think this was the first successful prosecution of US consular officer for visa fixing for many years. I think Carroll is getting out this year after serving six years. The FBI recovered over a million dollars in cash and gold bullion from several safe deposit boxes. My guess is that he has several million more stashed somewhere that was not recovered. Possibly in Taiwan since his wife was Taiwanese and I believe we have no extradition treaty in Taiwan.

Q: Well, what was his background?</hi>

MACK: He was an American from Chicago. At least one of his parents was Irish since it turned out he had an Irish passport as well as a diplomatic passport. By the way we don't have an extradition treaty with either Ireland or Taiwan so he was never granted bail. I have to admit I liked Carroll. While he did have a very short fuse, he was smart and energetic and would have made an excellent commercial officer if he could have controlled his temper. In the beginning it never occurred to me that he was selling visas. It was a tragic situation and absolutely devastated my American staff when I brought them in Sunday to announce his arrest. People were absolutely devastated. They could not believe it. These were people who had socialized with him, eaten lunch with him, worked on the visa line with him. They just couldn't believe it. They felt utterly, utterly betrayed. I stayed on an extra month in order just to see this thing through. To make sure he departed post as planned and after his arrest to help the staff heal because they were so devastated by this.

It was not only a sad situation, it did not have to happen. If the US Foreign Service personnel system had been willing to tell me that this guy had a checkered past I would have looked at him in a different way; but I presume they wanted to give him an opportunity to start with a clean slate to be able to get tenure. And the Foreign Service paid the price.

Q: Did you find out what his problem in Taiwan was?

MACK: I never was officially told. I think it may have been some sort of sexual harassment problem, possibly related to visas. I am not sure. But let me tell you another story about this guy that he himself had told me before I knew he was involved in selling visas. His first Foreign Service assignment had been to Beijing. As a junior rotational office there, he had spent some time working with the visa section chief, a former marine, who was later indicted for visa fraud, that means selling visas, but who beat the rap. Carroll actually told me this. It never occurred to me then that Carroll had learned from this officer and came to Georgetown with criminal intent.

Q: That very seldom ever happens.

MACK: I am not so sure. Apparently the Foreign Service has passed these people along quite a bit. Carroll is not the first Junior Officer or non-Junior officer I have served with who has been investigated for visa fraud. He is only the first one I have worked with who was convicted and served time. But I know for a fact that others with whom I have served were associated with visa fraud, and in one case proven to be involved in a visa selling scheme. That particular guy was not prosecuted and allowed to retire since the investigators could not prove he personally took any money. The Foreign Service has a problem here. After Carroll was arrested, I sent my A-100 classmate Mary Ryan, then serving Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, a cable on this with some recommendations for changes in training at FSI. Once I returned from Georgetown, I personally told her then-deputy, Maura Harty, of my concerns. Both are very capable officers, but I did not feel I got a very sympathetic response. Both were very protective to their consular officers. So what can I say.

Q: In 2000 you left. Where did you go?

MACK: I returned to Washington. The US Congress was about ready to pass the Plan Colombia Support Act. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Ambassador Tom Pickering, for whom I worked many years prior in El Salvador, asked me to come back and head up a new Inter-Agency Task Force called the Plan Colombia Task Force. The idea was that the Task Force would facilitate the coordination the implementation of US support to Plan Colombia. We are talking about a billion dollar package here. I started up the inter-agency task force before Congress even passed the appropriation, but we knew it was coming and wanted to be ready. We basically teed up for the Principles, that is those senior officials in the various US departments with programs to be implemented with Plan Colombia Funds, issues that could not be resolved a lower level.

That is what I did for about eight months . Once our support for Plan Colombia was launched I moved to Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) where I served first as Deputy Assistant Secretary with responsibility for Latin America and the INL Air Wing, which provided support for our counternarcotics programs, at that time largely in the Andes.

Q: How was most of the vast amount of Plan Colombia money going to be spent?

MACK: Well a significant part of what came to INL was actually then funneled to other implementing agencies, much of it USAID for alternative development or to the Department of Justice for legal and judicial reform. Alternative Development programs were aimed at providing alternative livelihoods for people who had been growing coca. INL itself executed very large programs to support aerial coca eradication In Colombia and to train specialized police units to go in and bust big drug labs often defended by and later also run by guerrillas. In fact the guerrillas, especially the FARC, actually pushed aside many of the traditional narcotic traffickers and took over much of the businesses themselves. And of course many anti-guerrilla para militaries groups got heavily involved in the drug trade as well. So there were the three major areas: narcotics control, alternative development and legal and judicial reform.

Q: So then you moved. You were then working with the new administration?

MACK: Correct. Bush came in January of 2001. It was at that time that I moved from the Plan Colombia Task Force to INL. In 2000, we had negotiated with the Government of Colombia, the conditions under which we would provide the Plan Colombia assistance. The biggest issue was getting the Colombian Government, the Pastrana government, to agree to specific targets for eradication. And after an enormous amount of back and forth during two weeks at the Colombian foreign ministry in Bogota, the Colombians agreed to reduce their coca cultivation by 50% by 2006. That is what has happened if you use the UN coca figures. According to the CIAD figures, there is as much coca as there ever was, but the CIA keeps discovering new coca areas that have been there all along, which distorts the figures. In any event, these results made were possible because of aerial eradication. I should note that while then President Pastrana would occasionally place temporary restrictions on spraying for political reasons, or as a sign of good faith in his on and off again and eventually fruitless negotiations with the FARC, the current Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe has been unwavering for his support for coca eradication.



August 15, 2010, Bahamas Press, Ambassador James F. Mack and Captain Godfrey Rolle call on Minister‏ of Health,

Ambassador James F. Mack, accompanied by Captain Godfrey Rolle, paid a courtesy call on Minister of Health the Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis, in connection with the ongoing public awareness anti-drug campaign being conducted by the National Drug Secretariat of the Ministry of National Security. Pictured from left: Ambassador James F. Mack, executive secretary, Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), Organisation of American States; Dr. Minnis, and Captain Godfrey Rolle, director, National Anti-Drug Secretariat, Ministry of National Security.

August 15, 2010, The Bahamas Weekly, Ambassador James F. Mack pays a call on Minister of National Security ‏the Hon. OAT "Tommy" Turnquest,

Ambassador James F. Mack pays a call on Minister of National Security ‏
Aug 15, 2010 - 6:34:15 PM

Nassau, Bahamas - Ambassador James F. Mack paid a courtesy call on Minister of National Security the Hon. OAT "Tommy" Turnquest,  in connection with the ongoing public awareness anti-drug campaign being conducted by the National Drug Secretariat of the Ministry of National Security at The Ministry of National Security, Churchill Building on Thursday, August 12, 2010. Pictured from left to right are: Permanent Secretary, Ministry of National Security, Missouri Sherman-Peter;Security; Minister Turnquest; Ambassador Mack, executive secretary, Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), Organisation of American States; and Captain Godfrey Rolle, director, National Anti-Drug Secretariat, Ministry of National Security. (BIS Photo/ Kristaan. H.A. Ingraham II)
Since early 2008, NADCP and CICAD have strengthened their partnership by cooperating in various activities to promote treatment alternatives to incarceration under judicial supervision for drug dependent offenders (through the modality of Drug Treatment Courts). NADCP members have presented the US case in several international events organized by CICAD, like the Santiago de Chile City Forum, the Lugo Summit, and several high level meetings held at OAS headquarters and elsewhere. Likewise, OAS specialists have actively participated in several NADCP Conferences (St. LouisAnaheim, and Boston).
As a result of this cooperation, both organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2010, confirming common interests and goals.

Early 2011, NADCP and CICAD discussed a preliminary work plan to promote establish, and/or consolidate drug treatment courts in the Hemisphere. As part of this ongoing action plan, both organizations will work together to help design strategic plans (capacity needed assessment, commitment, definition of roles and identification of key players, stakeholders, processes, community resources, treatment issues, etc…) as well as curriculum development for training of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, treatment providers, and other professionals involved in the management of a Drug Treatment Court).
July 5, 1969, New York Times - AP, Rockefeller Begins a Visit To Guyana; Scores Arrested, Including 8 in Crowd at Airport,
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, July 5 -- Governor Rockefeller, concluding a fact-finding tour of Latin-American nations, said tonight that he would recommend to President Nixon a major overhaul of United States policy in the Western Hemisphere.

July 7, 1969, New York Times, Latin Tours Over, Rockefeller Urges New U.S. Policies; Plans a Report to Nixon in August on Broad Range of Hemisphere Problems, by Sylvan Fox,

February 19, 1977, New York Times, More Heads of State Are Reported To Have Received C.I.A. Payments, by David Binder,

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