USAID flour at GNS centre in 1975 prompted embassy probe

Sacks of USAID wheat flour being loaded into a Guyana National Service (GNS) vehicle in March of 1975 prompted a query from the US Embassy here to Washington as the GNS was not an authorized recipient.

The communication in a US diplomatic cable that was released on the Wikileaks website revealed that the flour had been earmarked for the World Food Programme (WFP) Youth Corps Project. The youth corps was later absorbed into the GNS – along with the flour. Wheat flour during this period was a scarce commodity as import restrictions were in place and persons found with it were liable to prosecution.

Then US Ambassador Max V Krebs relayed to Washington in May, 1975 that while on a trip to Matthews Ridge, he noticed a number of sacks of flour with the USAID symbol on it being loaded onto a GNS vehicle. He also said that US Embassy officials had noticed such empty sacks lying behind the GNS headquarters in Georgetown. Krebs said an investigation was done since he said that the GNS was not an authorized recipient of either PL-480 Title II flour or WFP flour.

He told Washington that after several inquiries to the local UNDP office and the GNS, the embassy had found out that the flour seen at Matthews Ridge was part of the WFP youth corps project which was allocated 15.891 metric tonnes per quarter. The cable said that at 200.5 grammes per person per day, the flour was enough to feed 900 people.

“Crucial point is that Youth Corps has been absorbed by GNS and former no longer has separate identity within GNS. WFP flour is now, therefore, destined for some 900 members of Guyana’s paramilitary national service, a politically controversial body identified informally (as a) military reserve arm of the Guyana Defense Force and also strongly identified with the ruling PNC”, the cable said.

The cable then asked a series of questions of Washington including: the criteria that the US government and the UN utilize to determine whether groups such as the youth corps and GNS are “paramilitary or legally permissible recipients or desirable recipients”.

He also asked “Does USG leave it up to UN to decide on recipients, or do we, as contributor of overwhelming preponderance of foodstuffs, participate in selecting or approving recipients”.

Krebs also queried why the project was continuing – another 16 metric tonnes was due the next week – if the youth corps no longer existed as a separate entity.

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