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Guyana ~ A Seldom Told Story
Jun 23, 2006 (Updated Jun 28, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Beautiful, adventurous, tropical
Cons:Too much rain and bugs
The Bottom Line: I recommend learning about Guyana and its history. The Iwokrama Forest Canopy listed, looks exciting and is a new, more humane way to view animals in their habitat.
This was written to celebrate my small achievement of over 1,000 reviews.
Recommend this product?
I may edit some of this and I wanted to give you fair warning, as it is VERY long.
Guyana ~ A Seldom Told Story
Set in South America, on the North-Eastern side, withstanding the stormy Atlantic Ocean, Guyana's multiple waterways point to the source of it's name translated "The Land of Many Waters".
It is also known by its former name: British Guiana.
Discovered in 1498, by the Europeans, Guyana's history is marked by disputes fought and won, status lost and regained as the Dutch, French, Spanish, and British battled to own this soil.
Land and People
The Essequibo River flows through the center of the country. On the southern border, sits the Akarai Mountains, then, Brazil. On the east, lays the Courantyne River, dividing Guyana from Suriname. Many rivers share much of the western perimeter with Venezuela and Brazil. The 122, 316 sq miles of land, which is somewhat smaller than Idaho, consists of cultivated coastal plains and a forested, hilly interior. The tropical climate is sizzling and sticky, and the rainfall is heavy(average is 91 inches).
Along the coast, is where the majority of the population dwells. About 50% of the 767,245 Guyanese people are from India. The rest are a collection of African, mixed, or native descent. The languages spoken are: English, Hindi, Urdu, and assorted indigenous tongues. Christianity, Hinduism and a Muslim minority are the principal religions.
Agriculture and mining are the most common economic activities. Sugarcane, rice, corn, coconuts, and citrus fruit are grown for profit here. Cattle and other livestock are raised. The Guyanan people mine gold, diamonds, manganese, and bauxite.
The primary exports are sugar, molasses, rum, rice, shrimp, gold, bauxite, alumina, and timber. Canada, and the United Kingdom, and the United States are significant trading partners with Guyana. The currency exchange for $100 US is $20,068 Guyana, at the time of this writing.
All visitors are required to have a valid passport. Before traveling, check the latest entry requirements with the foreign embassy of the Guyana.
Local Illness: There is a risk of Typhoid. Malaria exists in all parts of the interior and there have been sporadic cases along the coastal regions. Chloroquine-resistant Malaria is reported. The recommended prophylaxis is mefloquine unless contra-indicated, in which case use chloroquine plus proguanil plus protection against mosquito bites. Hepatitis A is common. Hepatitis B and D are highly prevalent in the Amazon basin and precautions should be taken. Bancroftian filariasis is prevalent in certain parts and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis occurs. TB occurs. Jungle yellow fever may be found in forest areas. Dengue fever may occur. Onchocerciasis and American trypanosomiasis (Chaqas disease) may occur. Rabies occurs. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay.
Shopping hours are 8:30 am - 4:00 pm on weekdays. 8:30 am - Noon on Saturdays. Tipping is 10 per cent at hotels and restaurants. There is a Guyana departure tax of about $25 US and a return ticket is required. Hotels start at about $100 US and there are all inclusive places to stay at. A link follows of someone who has travled here and has included beautiful pictures as well. Website: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/7a8e1/8d5/
It is safest to drink purified water. The Creole style is popular here. On the menus, of most restaurants, you will often find chicken, pork and steak and, most of the time, shrimp. The best Chinese food, in the country, can be found in Georgetown. Other food you may wish to try:
* Curry, especially mutton, prawn or chicken * Foo-foo (plantains made into cakes) * Metamgee (dumplings made from cornflour, eddews, yams, cassava and plantains cooked in coconut milk and grated coconut) * Portuguese garlic pork * Amerindian pepperpot
Fast food is available in some areas. Check with your hotel for choices.
Drinking you may want to try:
Local rum, Demerara Rum, and Banks (local beer)
The attractive capital and main port is Georgetown, a city of comfortable, modern hotels, colonial buildings, and tree-lined avenues. The impressive wooden architecture is a reminder of Guyana's time as a Dutch, and then a British colony. St. George's Cathedral is rumored to be the tallest wooden building in the world, with its spire rising over 132 feet.
The Kaieteur Falls, is situated on the Potaro River. The Kaieteur waters are considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world. They flow over a sandstone slab and land into a deep canyon dropping 741 feet (five times the height of Niagara Falls). No other falls in the world exist with the degree of the bold drop at Kaieteur. The width of the Fall varies from 250 feet to 400 feet (the height of wet season). The legend of the Patamona tribe says that Kaie, a great old Chieftain, (Kaieteur is named after) devoted himself, as a self-sacrifice, by canoeing over the falls in order that the great spirit, Makonaima, would save the tribe from being extinguished by the horrific Caribisi.
Kaieteur National Park's Website: http://www.kaieteurpark.gov.gy/
Iwokrama Canopy Walkway
The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway is a series of suspension bridges and decks of up to 100 feet in height and just over 500 feet in length, located in the Iwokrama Forest. It provides visitors with a new view of the mid and upper canopy of the forest and allows wildlife to be relatively free from human intrusion. The canopy houses endangered and protected species such as the jaguar, the bullet wood tree, greenheart and the waramadan (endemic in Guyana only to the Iwokrama Forest). The cost is $18 for an adult and $15 for a child. Iwokrama Canopy Walkway Website: www.iwokramacanopywalkway.com
United States Tragedy in Guyana
In 1931, Jim Jones was born in Lyn, Indiana. At a young age, he found interest in a Pentecostal congregation known as the Gospel Tabernacle. The church's members resided on the borders of the community and were known as "holy-rollers" and spoke in tongues.
By his teens, Jones was no longer interested in the normal activities of teen boys. He was more interested in the emotional, religious fire he found at the Gospel Tabernacle. He learned about spiritual healing and was praised for his preaching style. By the age of sixteen, Jones was preaching on street corners in both black and white poor neighborhoods.
Jones viewed himself as a leader among his friends. He thought other boys his age were sinful, but, he feared rejection. He would angrily strike back at any disapproval or disagreement, which he saw as betrayal. For example, when his best friend chose to go home, rather than comply with Jim's demands, he took his dad's gun and shot at the boy, while he was running.
During his high school years, Jones became interested in the lives of important and influential men. He studied Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. He acquired a deep knowledge and interest for world events. In his late teens, he met his future wife, Marceline. Marceline was a student nurse at the hospital where Jim worked. They married after Jones graduated from high school, with honors, and began college. The first years of their marriage were not calm. Jones had constant emotional explosions , and bullied his wife. His greatest worry, was being abandoned. This caused him to be jealous of any attention Marceline gave to anyone else, and she was a nurse. Marceline's belief that marriage was a lifetime commitment, kept their marriage together.
Then, Jones began to question his faith. He found it difficult to believe in a loving, merciful God, when faced with the reality of suffering and poverty. He proclaimed that God didn't exist. He demanded Marceline share in his wisdom. He threatened suicide, if she did not stop praying.
He relented this belief in 1952. The Methodists, the church that Marceline had attended, displayed a social conscience closer to his own beliefs.
Within a couple of years, Jones was preaching successfully at Pentecostal gatherings. Large crowds turned out for his healings and miracles. His success led him to begin his own church. By 1956, he moved his assembly to a larger site and began calling his church the "People's Temple." Jones's church established a soup kitchen and recommended giving shelter to the needy and adopting children. Jones and Marceline adopted one black and one Korean orphan and also birthed a son.
He was able to Christianize his communal beliefs by relating to biblical verses about people selling their possessions.
As criticism of his politics was growing, Jones had a "vision" of a nuclear assault. He believed the Midwest would be the target of such an attack. So, Jones started looking for a "safer" place to move his congregation. It was during a return trip from Brazil, that Jones first visited Guyana where he was impressed by the socialist concepts of the government.
In 1965, the Jones family moved with 140 followers to Ukiah, California, because he had read in Esquire magazine that it would be safe in the event of a nuclear attack.
Shortly after moving, Marceline decided she wanted to end their marriage. Jones's "cheating" became more frequent. His lust for power and control had increased. Because of his hypocrisy, his son, Stephan, had little respect for his dad. He made rules, yet followed none of them himself.
In 1968, with his congregation numbering 68, Jones applied for, and was granted, association with the Disciples of Christ, a group that had 1.5 million members. Jones esteem grew and his congregation grew with it - to 300 members. Jones and his followers promoted the church and its good works, not only locally, but across the country. Over 30,000 newsletter copies were sent nationwide every month. By 1973, his congregation had grown.
In 1974, Jones secured permission from Guyana to begin building a commune, on a 300-acre allotment. The lease was signed and Jones named the commune "Jonestown."
Staff members, would swipe the garbage of temple members to learn information. Jones would use it to fake clairvoyance at his meetings. Potential Temple members were carefully screened. Anyone too politically conservative was excluded, while those with anti-establishment positions were invited. This meant the majority of new members were African-American, or uneducated or poor.
Jones's teaching of Christian communalism led to Temple members gifting their incomes and their property to the People's Temple. In return, they received room, board and $2 a week allowance. Jones miracles, healing of the sick, and care for the poor were all proof that he was Christ incarnate.
Jones's hypocrisy was reflected in his teachings on sexual relationships. He believed in sexual freedom, yet advocated marriage. Spouses who were jealous over their partner's infidelity were attacked openly. He also preached about the virtues of celibacy.
He had congregation members take jobs with leading newspapers, to warn him of plans to print negative information about him. Before the papers could print the story, Jones had begun threatening them with legal action. Anyone who thought about slandering him would receive threatening mail and be disturbed in the middle of the night by threatening phone calls.
A growing number of complaints from ex-members and their relatives caused a great amount of public attention to be centered on the People's Temple. With the increasing negative publicity, Jones's paranoia grew and he prepared his congregation for the move to Guyana.
Once in Guyana, Jones was able to keep control over his community of followers without the conflicting information from the outside world. His followers were confined to the 300-acre property with no money or passports. Jones was assured that no more of his followers would abandon him. He now had complete control.
Behind the Visionary
As Jones's congregation grew, so did his demands. Greater sacrifices and dedication were demanded of the members. To lure new members, Jones widely publicized his services, promised miraculous healing, where cancers would be removed and the blind made to see. Members would relate stories of illnesses that Jim Jones had cured for them. To further convince his audience, he would make predictions of events that would always come to pass. He would receive "revelations" about members or visitors, things only they could have known. Before their eyes, Jones would heal cancer patients and a mass of infected tissue would be torn from the patient's body.
An intense initiation was required by new members. Gaining entry became more desirable. Something that has to be earned, is valued more highly, than something that is given freely. It also created a higher level of commitment from members. Each new level of commitment was justified because much had already been sacrificed. To refuse, meant admitting that the previous acts of commitment were wrong. It is natural that people will tend to continue a previous commitment, even when painful, rather than admit, they had been wrong.
The commitment of more time and energy was gradual. The desire was increased by the promise of higher achievement. All members were taught that achievement required self-sacrifice. More sacrifice = more achieved. The new members gradually came to see the long meetings and hours of work for the church, as being worthwhile and fulfilling. Jones increased his demands, in small increments. At each commitmentlevel, any reservations the person had, would be justified. When Jones's demands became oppressive, the members were so committed that, to not complete any new demands would require complete denial of the authenticity of all past decisions.
In the early days of membership, giving money was completely voluntary, although the amounts given were recorded openly. By recording the amounts given, an unspoken expectation was communicated. The new member could give nothing or very little, but knew that his level of commitment was being measured. Eventually, the level of contribution was increased to 25% of income and was not voluntary.
The highest level of commitment shown, was when an individual or family lived at the People's Temple facilities, handing over all personal property, savings, and social security checks to the Temple. Jones told them that others would see their ideas and achievements as a threat to their own stability and would want to destroy it. Through such teachings, Jones was able to create the illusion that the only place of safety and comfort was the People's Temple. Any criticism of the church, from the outside, was proof of what Jones had taught.
Early on, members were taught that higher spirituality requires a struggle against their weaknesses. Jones regularly brought critics before the church and would criticize them for their "disbelief." Then, members would assign punishment. Parents would publicly beat their children for misconduct. Husbands and wives were required to punish each other. Jones was able to make his punishments worse, after members learned that punishments were necessary and fair.
The desire to give up more control of their lives to Jones, was promoted by the new harmony and peace that committed members found in their lives. Conflicts slowly faded. There was no longer disagreement because the rules were clearly laid down by Jones. Life was easier with fewer choices.
Ideas about leaving, were quickly forgotten by members for many reasons. Their total commitment to the church meant that they had isolated themselves from their family and friends. Leaving meant, they had to admit their mistakes to family and friends or being alone without any support. Church reaction against other defectors also made leaving difficult. Being hated by their friends was very discouraging. Especially, when for so long, the People's Temple came to be seen as the only safe place from an evil world. The final fence to freedom was economic. Members had surrendered all of their possessions and income to the People's Temple. Leaving meant abandoning all the possessions they had - leaving them penniless and homeless. Staying was easily justified. The consequences seemed more appealing than what could be found outside.
The group's isolation from the outside meant disagreement could not be substantiated. With no support from another source, the individual would overcome his own disapproval. At "Jonestown" this isolation was even more extreme. The commune was placed in the middle of a jungle with armed guards along the few roads that led to civilization. If one succeeded in leaving, he had no passport, papers or money to help him.
The Beginning of the End
Congressman Leo Ryan took an interest in the People's Temple after he read an article in the San Francisco Examiner on November 13, 1977. The article, "Scared Too Long," told of the death of Sam Houston's son, Bob, in October 1976. Houston spoke out about his son's death because the reason Bob had died, beneath the wheels of a train, was because he had announced his decision to leave the People's Temple the day before. Houston was also concerned that his two granddaughters, sent to New York for a vacation, had ended up in "Jonestown" and never returned.
Over the next six to eight months, Ryan heard more about the People's Temple through newspaper articles and from requests for assistance from concerned families, whose relatives had disappeared into the Guyana jungle to join "Jonestown." There were claims of social security irregularities, human rights violations and that people were being held against their will at "Jonestown." In June 1978, Ryan read excerpts from Debbie Blakey, a defector from "Jonestown," which included claims that the community at "Jonestown" had, on a number of occasions, rehearsed for a mass suicide. After meeting with a number of concerned relatives, Ryan's interest in the People's Temple became widely known and the reports about the group, both favorable and unfavorable, began to pour in.
In September 1978, Ryan met with State Department officials to discuss Ryan making a trip to "Jonestown" in Guyana. This request was made official on October 4th. Permission was granted and the trip was planned for the week of November 12-18. Ryan's intention to visit "Jonestown" soon became widely known and the numbers wishing to accompany him had grown substantially. By the time of his departure, there were 9 extra media people and 18 representatives from a delegation of "Concerned Relatives," who would go with him, at their own expense. The official "Party," consisted of Ryan, James Schollaert and Jackie Speier, Ryan's personal assistant.
In preparation for the trip to "Jonestown," Ryan contacted Jim Jones by telegraph to inform him of his visit to the settlement. Through the U.S. Embassy in Guyana, Ryan learned that agreement for the visit was conditional. Ryan would have to ensure that the "Party" was not biased, there would be no media coverage of the visit and Mark Lane, the People's Temple legal counsel, would have to be present.
Problems began as soon as they arrived in Guyana at midnight. Ron Javers, from the San Francisco Chronicle was detained overnight at the airport. He did not have an entry visa. The group of Concerned Relatives, despite having confirmed reservations, had to spend the night in the lobby of the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, because there were no rooms available for them. Over the next two and a half days, Ryan met with Embassy personnel and organized a meeting with Ambassador Burke and the Concerned Relatives. He and family members attempted to speak with a representative of the People's Temple, but could not gain entry. Ryan was unable to negotiate successfully with Lane or Garry, legal representatives of the People's Temple. This resulted in the postponement of the scheduled flight to the mission until Friday, November 17th.
The negotiations were still unsuccessful on Friday morning, so Ryan informed Lane and Garry that he and his party would be leaving for "Jonestown" at 2:30 PM. There were two seats on the plane, if Lane and Garry wished to leave with them. The plane left as scheduled at 2:30 PM that day. On board were Ryan, Speier, Deputy Chief of Mission, Richard Dwyer, Lane and Garry, all nine media representatives, four representatives of the Concerned Relatives group, and Neville Annibourne, a representative of the Guyanese Government.
At the Port Kaituma airstrip, Corporal Rudder, the Guyanese Regional Officer of the Northwest district, met the plane. His instructions from "Jonestown" were that only Lane and Garry were allowed to leave the plane. Negotiations about who would be allowed entry into "Jonestown" then ensued between Ryan and "Jonestown" representatives, who were at the airport. Eventually it was agreed that all, but one media representative could go. Gordon Lindsay, a consultant for NBC, was denied entry because of an article he had written in the past that had criticized the People's Temple.
Upon their arrival at "Jonestown," the delegation was served dinner and entertained by a musical performance, by People's Temple members. As the evening progressed, reporters interviewed Jim Jones, while Ryan and Speier talked to People's Temple members whose names had been provided by relatives in the U.S. During the evening, a "Jonestown" member passed a note to NBC reporter Don Harris indicating that he and his family wished to leave. Another member made a similar verbal request to Dwyer. Both requests were reported to Ryan.
At 11:00 PM, the media and family representatives were returned to Port Kaituma as Jim Jones refused to allow them to spend the night on the compound. Ryan, Speier, Dwyer, Annibourne, Lane and Garry were the only ones who spent the night of Friday, November 17th at "Jonestown."
Back at Port Kaituma, local Guyanese, including one police official, approached the media, telling stories of alleged beatings at "Jonestown". They complained that Guyanese officials were denied entry to the compound and had no authority there. They also described a "torture hole" in the compound.
The Horror Begins
The media and relatives were not returned to "Jonestown" until 11:00 AM the next day, several hours later than originally planned. Ryan had continued interviewing members since early in the morning, during which time more individuals told of their desire to leave. By 3:00 PM, there were a total of 15 People's Temple members climbing into the trucks, with the delegation, to drive to Port Kaituma airport. Ryan had intended to stay but was attacked by People's Temple member, Don Sly, with a knife. He was not hurt, but Dwyer insisted that Ryan leave with them. Dwyer planned to return to "Jonestown" later, to resolve a dispute with a family who was undecided on the question of leaving Jonestown.
The party arrived at Port Kaituma airport at about 4:30 PM, but the two planes did not arrive until about 5:10 PM. The delay had been caused by the unexpected request to the US Embassy for a second plane to carry the extra 15 passengers. Soon after its arrival, a six-passenger Cessna was loaded and ready to leave. As it began to taxi to the far end of the airstrip, one of the "Jonestown" defectors on board, Larry Layton, opened fire on the other passengers.
At the same time, as Ryan's party were boarding the other plane, a twin-engine Otter, occupants of a tractor trailer, owned by the People's Temple, opened fire. Ryan, three members of the media and one of the defectors were killed. Speier and five others were seriously wounded. The shooting lasted between 4-5 minutes and the larger plane was disabled. The Cessna was able to take off and reported news of the attack to controllers at the Georgetown tower. They in turn notified the Guyanese officials. The attackers left the airport soon after, while survivors of the attack sought cover and protection for the night.
According to the official report, the mass suicide began at about 5:00 PM as the shooting was beginning at the airport. At about 6:00 PM, Ambassador Burke was informed of the shooting. He, in turn, informed the US State Department at 8:30 PM by cable. At approximately 7:40 PM, Guyanese police told Sherwin Harris, a member of the Concerned Relatives Group, that his ex-wife Sharon Amos and three of her children were found dead at the People's Temple headquarters in Georgetown.
Word of the deaths at "Jonestown" reached Port Kaituma at about 2:00 AM on Sunday morning when survivors, Stanley Clayton and Odell Rhodes, arrived there.
At dawn, Sunday, November 19th, the first contingent of Guyanese Army rescue forces arrived in Port Kaituma. More soldiers arrived within the hour. Their arrival later in the morning at "Jonestown" confirmed earlier reports of the mass suicide. The first Guyanese rescue aircraft landed at Port Kaituma, without medical supplies or personnel, at about 10:00 AM. All of the wounded and most of the survivors were airlifted from Port Kaituma before nightfall and transferred to US Air Force medical evacuation aircraft in Georgetown.
As Ryan's delegation was preparing to board their aircraft, Jim Jones called the "Jonestown" community together. He explained to them, as if it were a premonition, that someone on the plane was going to kill Ryan. The consequences of this action would be that those political forces that had been trying to destroy the People's Temple for years would attack the people at "Jonestown". The "enemy" would descend upon them and kill them mercilessly. This was not a new threat to the community at "Jonestown". They had lived in fear of an unnamed enemy and destroyer for many years. Jones's solution wasn't new to them. He had been preparing them for what he termed "revolutionary suicide" for some time. They had a few practice runs to prepare them for just such an event.
A tape-recording of the mass-suicide reveals that there was little dissent about the decision to die. One or two women, who felt that the children should be able to live protested, but they were soon reassured by reminders of the alternative - undignified death at the hand of the enemy and the shouted support of the group. The poison-laced drink was brought to the hall and dispensed. The babies and small children, over two hundred of them, were first, with the poison poured into their mouths with syringes. As parents watched their children die, they too swallowed the fatal potion. The moments before the final decision to die, brought resistance from a few, but armed guards who surrounded the room shot many of them. Of the estimated 1100 people believed to have been present at "Jonestown" at the time, 913 died, including Jim Jones. The rest somehow escaped into the jungle. It is not known whether Jones shot himself or was shot by someone else.
How Could this Happen?
The most puzzling question, which has developed out of the tragedy at "Jonestown", is how one man could gain such control over a large group of people, that they would willingly die at his command. It is easy to assume that "Jonestown" was a unique situation that could only have occurred because of Jim Jones's energetic, charm combined with the weakness and vulnerability of his victims. Such thought may bring some peace that it could never occur again. It falls short of providing true understanding of the situation, leaving us all vulnerable to the danger of future tragedies such as "Jonestown" occurring.
To properly understand "Jonestown," it is necessary to explore the social and psychological processes that he used, which ensured that such extremes of social conformity and obedience were achieved. The processes are common in all social groups, but in instances such as the People's Temple, they were used to the extreme, with matching extreme results.
Members of the People's Temple had been trained, for many years, in readiness for the mass suicide that had finally occurred in November 1978. Jim Jones had shared with his followers his paranoid belief that the American government was plotting to destroy anyone who was involved in the People's Temple. Jones's followers were accustomed to looking to Jones for redemption. Over the years, Jones had told his followers about the many outside "dangers" to their safety, but he had always removed the danger for them. Over and over again he had rescued them. They had learned to trust this man known to them as "Father."
Jones and his followers had moved to "Jonestown" with the idea of creating a completely self-sufficient community, based on the ideals of socialism and communalism. Each person would work for the common good, providing food, shelter, clothing, health care and education for themselves. In this community, everyone would be equal and could live in peace. It was a noble ideal. One, Jones would constantly remind them, which was worth dying for.
By November 1978, the people of "Jonestown" were ready to die. After many years of brainwashing, they believed death was something to be aspired to. With no one to tell them differently, the members saw their own deaths as an act of honor and pride.
When Ryan and his delegation arrived at "Jonestown", anyone who wanted to leave had the option of doing so, openly, without the normal threats to their safety, yet only 15 chose to do so. This is a strong sign of the power of Jones's brainwashing.
The Official Story
The first accounts out of Guyana on November 18, 1978 were that Congressman Leo J. Ryan and 4 other party members were shot and killed, as they attempted to board a plane at Port Kaituma airstrip. Within a few hours, came the shocking news that 408 American citizens had committed suicide at a communal village. The village had been built in the jungle in Northwest Guyana. This community was also known as "Jonestown." The dead, belonged to a group known as "The People's Temple," which was led by the Reverend Jim Jones. Soon, it would be learned that the actual number dead was 913 of the 1100 people believed to have been at "Jonestown", had died in a mass suicide.
The official explanation of the events at "Jonestown" has been widely accepted by the American people, there are many that question its truth. From the moment the first reports of the massacre were released, various theories of the real events leading to the tragedy began to circulate. The most common of these was that the CIA was somehow involved.
The Reverend Jim Jones and San Francisco Mayor Moscone, were murdered after the Jonestown massacre.
According to one of these theories, "Jonestown" was a continuation of a CIA mind-control program that penetrated cults, such as The People's Temple, to carry out their experiments. Theorists claim that Jim Jones had many questionable associations with the CIA during the time he was establishing The People's Temple. The most significant association is Jones's supposed friendship with Dan Mitrione that dated back to their childhood years. Dan Mitrione was the local police chief while Jones's started his "ministry" in Indianapolis.
Mitrione later entered the International Police Academy, supposedly a CIA front for training in counterinsurgency and torture techniques. Coincidentally, when Jones left with his wife to live in Brazil, despite his lack of financial resources, Mitrione was already living there. Jones is purported to have made several visits to Belo Horizonte where the CIA's Brazilian headquarters was situated and Mitrione resided. CIA theorists report, Jones's neighbors in Brazil state that Jones had told them that he was employed by the US Office of Naval Intelligence who supplied him with transport, living expenses and a large home in which he "lived like a rich man." Soon after his return to America, with $10,000, Jones moved the People's Temple to California. Then, he began building the People's Temple communal facilities and, without any trained medical personnel or the usual licensing, was able to run a nursing home. During this time, Jones allegedly adopted 150 foster children, most of whom were sent to the People's Temple by court order. The Temple had a strong association with the World Vision organization that many conspiracy theorists believe to be another CIA front, and had as a consultant, a mercenary from the rebel army UNITA, supposedly backed by the CIA.
Other supposed CIA connections with "Jonestown" include the allegations that:
Richard Dwyer's name had appeared in the publication Who's Who In The CIA. US Ambassador John Burke and another embassy official, Richard McCoy, had strong links with the CIA.
The Georgetown CIA station was situated in the US Embassy building. Dan Webber, sent to Guyana immediately after the massacre, was with the CIA and Joseph Blatchford, the officially appointed attorney for the "Jonestown" survivors, was involved in a scandal involving CIA infiltration of the Peace Corps. The involvement of Larry Layton in the ambush of Ryan and his party also provokes great interest from the CIA theorists because of his family background. Layton's father was Dr. Laurence Laird Layton, who had been the chief of the army's Chemical Warfare Division during the 1950's. Larry Layton's brother-in-law, the UNITA link, had negotiated with the Guayana government, on behalf of Jones, for the establishment of "Jonestown."
Another point, which CIA theorists use to support their beliefs was, despite the growing controversy surrounding the People's Temple, Jones's move to "Jonestown" was given full support from the American Embassy in Guyana. Leo Ryan's murder is seen by many as being much more threatening than the hysterical behavior of a madman. Leo Ryan had been a strong critic of the CIA and was the author of the Hughes-Ryan Amendment, which, if passed, would have required that the CIA report to Congress on all of its covert operations before they commenced. Soon after Ryan's death, the Hughes-Ryan Amendment was defeated in Congress. The question conspiracy theorists ask is whether Ryan was killed in order to reach this objective and the massacre at "Jonestown" merely a smoke screen to distract attention away from Ryan's murder?
Witnesses at the airport, where Ryan and four others were murdered, described the gunmen as being "glassy eyed", "mechanically-walking zombies" who were "devoid of emotion." The question CIA theorists would like answered is who were these people? The official report stated that there were approximately 1100 people at "Jonestown" at the time of the massacre, but other reports claim that there were closer to 1200. Of this number there were 913 dead bodies found and 167 survivors. Twenty people, if the 1100 figure is correct, are left unaccounted for. If they were the assassins, where are they now? Also unaccounted for, and never referred to in news reports, are the armed guards who were present in "Jonestown" but were free to come and go from the compound. A congressional aide may have been referring to these men in an Associated Press quote "There are 120 white, brainwashed assassins out from Jonestown, awaiting the trigger word to pick up their hit."
Such a possibility seems to be confirmed for the theorists by a number of unusual deaths that have occurred since the "Jonestown" massacre.
The first of these occurred in Georgetown at the People's Temple headquarters at the same time as the "Jonestown" massacre. Charles Beikman, an early Jim Jones follower, who had become an "adopted son" was found to be responsible. Apparently, Beikman was also a Green Beret, of which there were over 300 in Guyana at the time on a "training exercise." Nine days after "Jonestown," San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were killed. Both men had received financial support from Jones while he was in San Francisco and were involved in an ongoing investigation into their involvement in the disappearance of People's Temple funds.
Dan White, described as being in a "zombie state" at the time of the killings, murdered them. White's lawyers attempted to defend their client by stating that White had been temporarily insane due to the effects of eating too much sugar, a defense which was mockingly known as the "Twinkie defense".
Some time later, Michael Prokes, a former member of the People's Temple, informed a press conference, held in his motel room, that the CIA and FBI were secretly holding an audiotape of the "Jonestown" massacre and that he was an FBI informant. Immediately following his announcement, Prokes went into the bathroom where he supposedly committed suicide.
Jeanne and Alan Mills, People's Temple members who had defected before the move to Guyana, were found bound and killed in their home almost a year after the "Jonestown" massacre. They had written a book about the People's Temple and had expressed their belief that they would eventually be murdered. Official reports state that the Mills probably knew their murderers, as there were no signs of forced entry or struggle. Their son was at home at the time of the murders, but somehow escaped death.
The final area of concern in the "Jonestown" massacre regards the official US decision not to conduct autopsies on the victims of the massacre; the reason given was that the cause of death was readily apparent. The results of pathology examinations conducted by Guyanese coroner Leslie Mootoo however, revealed his belief that as many as 700 of the victims were murders, not suicides. Mootoo claims that in a 32-hour period he, and his assistants, examined the bodies of 137 victims. They had all been injected with cyanide in areas of their bodies, which could not have been reached by their own hand, such as between the shoulder blades; many other victims had been shot. Charles Huff, one of the seven Green Berets who were the first American troops on the scene following the massacre, claimed that "We saw many bullet wounds as well as wounds from crossbow bolts." Those who were shot appeared to have been running toward the jungle, away from the compound, at the time they were shot. The discrepancy in the numbers of dead in the first reports, and the final figure had led many to speculate that approximately five hundred people had escaped the first spate of killings and escaped into the jungle, but were then hunted down and murdered. The descriptions of witnesses to the layout of the bodies, and the fact that there were obvious signs that many of the bodies had been dragged to their final resting place, tends to contradict the "official" explanation that at the first counting five hundred bodies had been concealed by the other 408 bodies.
Twenty-eight years have passed since the tragedy of "Jonestown". Many wonder how it happened. The possibility that one man could manipulate so many people, to such a great extent, is incomprehensible. They look to a variety of sources to explain the unexplainable, in a proud attempt to satisfy the need for understanding. Unfortunately, the processes that had been at work in the People's Temple for many years, ultimately leading to the mass suicide and murders of 913 of its members, are not unique to this particular group. We are social creatures who need to feel that we belong to something greater than ourselves and rely heavily upon the approval of others to measure our worth. This leaves us vulnerable to others, quickly changing our viewpoints to fit in with those around us. Denying our own instinctive values and beliefs when faced with the conflicting views of others. People such as Jim Jones, driven by their own insatiable need to be accepted and loved, have an instinctive knowledge of the weaknesses of others and how to manipulate them to their own advantage.
Whether "Jonestown" was the result of some horrible experiment in mind control or not, can not be fully determined one way or the other. Without stronger evidence, the cloud of mystery will continue to hang over the incident until all of the documentation collected during the investigations has been revealed. At the time that it released its report, the US State Department chose to withhold over 8,000 documents pertaining to
"Jonestown" for a number of years. After many legal battles, it was decided that these documents should be released. Perhaps, as the information in these documents becomes available some of the mystery will be solved.
The following articles and documents were used as reference materials in the writing of this story:
Articles from the following Internet sites:
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