Documents Chart U.S. Embassy’s Effort to Answer Questions About the 1980 Death of an Acclaimed Scholar and Political Activist

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tags: radicalism, Political assassination, Guyana, Walter Rodney

The U.S. Embassy in Guyana in 1980 had strong evidence to believe that the death of internationally-known historian and activist Walter Rodney in the capital of Georgetown was a political assassination, according to declassified documents obtained and posted today for the first time by the National Security Archive at The George Washington University. 

Rodney, a popular opposition figure in Guyana known as much for his sharp critiques of capitalism as his disapproval of the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, was killed when a bomb exploded in the car he was driving.  The government claimed Rodney himself and his brother, Donald, were responsible but the cables posted today describe deepening skepticism on the part of the embassy in the face of mounting indications that the authorities had covered up evidence. 

In 2014, the president of Guyana established a commission to investigate the death.  It was terminated early after a new government came to power, but the commission’s report nevertheless concluded that state authorities had been behind the operation.  A source of great frustration to Rodney’s family and interested observers is the fact that the full report has not yet been released.

Today’s posting includes 20 declassified State Department cables and features a substantial biographic sketch of Rodney (see sidebar) as well as links to related web sites.


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