Nov 22, 78 • 0509 • State-All Posts • 295317

[Editor’s note: This text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978STATE295317_d.html.]

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STATE 295317
ORIGIN ARA-15
INFO OCT-01 SS-15 SIG-03 MMO-01 ISO-00 /035 R
DRAFTED BY ARA:CHUCK BRAYSHAW; ARA (GUY. WG):EO’DONNELL:BG
APPROVED BY ARA:JABUSHNELL
ARA/AND:RZIMMERMANN
S/S-O:JTHYDEN
——————008274 230203Z /66

R 220509Z NOV 78
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL DIPLOMATIC POSTS
CINCSOUTHCOM QUARRY HTS CANAL ZONE
CINCMAC SCOTT AFB ILL
US REDCOM/RCJ2 MACDILL AFB FLA
USCINCARRED FT MCPHERSON GA
CDR 18TH AIRBORNE CORPS FT BRAGG NC
C O N F I D E N T I A L STATE 295317

E.O.11652: GDS
TAGS: CASC, OREP (RYAN, LEO), GY
REF: STATE 293999 AND PREVIOUS
SUBJECT: STATUS REPORT ON SITUATION IN GUYANA

1. FOLLOWING FOR YOUR INFORMATION IS A REPORT ON THE SHOOTING INCIDENT THAT OCCURRED IN GUYANA ON NOVEMBER 18 IN WHICH CONGRESSMAN LEO RYAN AND OTHERS WERE KILLED.

2. AT APPROXIMATELY 6:30 P.M. EST, NOVEMBER 18 EMBASSY GEORGETOWN REPORTED THAT CODEL RYAN HAD BEEN ATTACKED WHILE RETURNING FROM THE PEOPLES TEMPLE AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITY IN THE REMOTE NORTHWEST INTERIOR OF GUYANA. CODEL RYAN HAD TRAVELED TO GUYANA TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS BY RELATIVES THAT MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLES TEMPLE COMMUNITY WERE BEING HELD AGAINST THEIR WILL.

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RYAN WAS ACCOMPANIED BY A LARGE NUMBER OF JOURNALISTS INCLUDING AN NBC TV CAMERA CREW FROM SAN FRANCISCO AS WELL AS BY THE EMBASSY GEORGETOWN DCM (RICHARD DWYER), MARK LANE AND ANOTHER ATTORNEY WHO ARE COUNSEL FOR THE PEOPLES TEMPLE COMMUNITY. THE GROUP TRAVELED TO PORT KAITUMA, THE NEAREST AIRSTRIP TO THE COMMUNITY, BY CHARTERED AIRCRAFT THE AFTERNOON OF NOVEMBER 17 AND, AFTER HAVING SPENT THE NIGHT AT THE COMMUNITY, SOUGHT TO RETURN TO GEORGETOWN ON NOVEMBER 18, ACCOMPANIED BY SOME SIX TO TEN MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLES TEMPLE WHO WISHED TO LEAVE. THE PARTY WAS BOARDING TWO CHARTERED AIRCRAFT WHEN ONE OF THE TEMPLE MEMBERS IN THE SMALLER OF THE TWO AIRCRAFT PRODUCED A GUN AND BEGAN TO SHOOT AT OTHER PASSENGERS. AT APPROXIMATELY THE SAME TIME, A FLATBED TRAILOR PULLED BY A TRACTOR APPEARED ON THE AIRSTRIP. A NUMBER OF PEOPLE ON THE TRAILOR, PRESUMED TO BE PEOPLES TEMPLE MEMBERS, OPENED FIRE ON CONGRESSMAN RYAN AND HIS IMMEDIATE PARTY, KILLING HIM, NBC CORRESPONDENT DON HARRIS, NEWS PHOTOGRAPHER GREGORY ROBINSON, NBC PHOTOGRAPHER, BOB BROWN, AND A PEOPLES TEMPLE MEMBER. THE GUNFIRE DISABLED ONE OF THE AIRCRAFT; THE OTHER TOOK OFF WITH ITS OWN CREW, A WOUNDED WOMAN AND THE CREW OF THE DISABLED PLANE. OTHER MEMBERS OF THE PARTY FLED INTO THE NEARBY JUNGLE AND HID UNTIL THE ASSAILANTS DEPARTED. ACCOMPANIED BY WOUNDED DCM DWYER, THESE PEOPLE REMAINED AT PORT KAITUMA THROUGH THE NIGHT UNTIL GUYANESE FORCES ARRIVED THE FOLLOWING DAY.

3. EMBASSY GEORGETOWN WAS IN IMMEDIATE AND CLOSE CONTACT WITH GUYANESE AUTHORITIES AND PRIME MINISTER BURNHAM GAVE ASSURANCES THAT HIS GOVERNMENT WOULD PROVIDE WHAT

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EVER RESOURCES IT COULD TO ESTABLISH ORDER. BURNHAM REQUESTED USG LOGISTICAL ASSISTANCE WHICH WE ARE PROVIDING MAINLY IN THE FORM OF AIRCRAFT FOR EVACUATION OF DEAD AND WOUNDED AND AIR AND COMMUNICATIONS SUPPORT AND SUPPLIES FOR THE GUYANESE DEFENSE FORCE. 3. FIRST REPORTS REACHING GEORGETOWN AFTER ARRIVAL OF GDF IN PEOPLES TEMPLE COMMUNITY ON NOVEMBER 18 INDICATE THAT MEMBERS OF SECT BEGAN MASS SUICIDE AFTER SHOOTING INCIDENT AT AIRFIELD. ACCORDING TO CURRENT REPORTS, AS MANY AS 400 OF THE TEMPLE MEMBERS HAVE BEEN MURDERED OR COMMITTED SUICIDE .

4. AMBASSADOR BURKE INFORMED PRIME MINISTER BURNHAM THAT USG’S PRIMARY CONCERNS IN SITUATION WERE: (1) THAT THE GOG MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO GET INTO PORT KAITUMA TO FURNISH AID, ASSISTANCE, AND PROTECTION TO AMERICANS WHO MAY STILL BE THERE; (2) THAT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE THE BODIES OF THE DEAD SHOULD BE BROUGHT TO GEORGETOWN; (3) THAT THE PERPETRATORS OF THIS OUTRAGE BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

5. HEAVY RAINFALL AND REMOTENESS OF PORT KAITUMA HAVE IMPEDED COMMUNICATIONS AND WE DO NOT AS YET HAVE RELIABLE REPORTS OF SITUATION AT PEOPLES TEMPLE COMMUNITY. CONGRESSMAN RYAN’S BODY HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE SCENE OF THE MURDERS TO GEORGETOWN AND IS NOW READY FOR RETURN TO THE U.S. ALONG WITH THE BODIES OF THE DECEASED NEWSMEN. WOUNDED MEMBERS OF THE CODEL HAVE BEEN FLOWN TO WASHINGTON AND PUERTO RICO. WE HAVE DISPATCHED ADDITIONAL STAFF TO EMBASSY GEORGETOWN, INCLUDING EMBASSY PANAMA DCM VICTOR DIKEOS AND CONSULAR AND ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS.

6. ARA DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY BUSHNELL ANSWERED

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PRESS QUESTIONS AT NOON BRIEFING NOVEMBER 20. MOST QUESTIONS WERE DIRECTED AT USG CONTACT WITH PEOPLES TEMPLE COMMUNITY IN GUYANA PRIOR TO CONGRESSMAN RYAN’S VISIT TO SUBSTANTIATE CHARGES OF ABUSE AND DETENTION OF MEMBERS. SUMMARY OF BRIEFING BEING TRANSMITTED TO POSTS VIA WIRELESS FILE.

7. PASS SUBSTANCE OF ABOVE TO ALL CODELS. PASS TO CONSULATES AS APPROPRIATE. CONSULAR INQUIRIES MAY BE DIRECTED TO GUYANA WORKING GROUP TASK FORCE, WASHINGTON, D.C., PHONE (202) 632-9380 THRU 83 OR 632-6610 THRU 14.

CHRISTOPHER

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Originally posted on March 2nd, 2020.

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