Nixon: Now, looking at Cuba, let’s turn there a moment: Do you agree—Do
you still—You know, my conviction is very strong that we cannot give up
in our policy toward Cuba. I think, as you know, there are arguments to
the effect that, well, the Chileans recognize them, and all that sort of
thing. [Unclear] The problems with Cuba are enormous. They are still, of
course, bent on revolution. So, if we, we throw in the towel with the
Cubans, the effect on the rest of Latin America could be massive.
Encouraging that—Encouraging Communists, Marxists, Allende, or, call it what you will,
will try for revolutions. Now, I’ve made the question already, but I
want to know what your honest opinion is due to—from the intelligence
and everything else. Do you think we should hold the course on Cuba, or
we start being nice to Castro?
Helms: Sir, I sat at your desk about a year ago on this question, and I
gave you the answer, then, that I was opposed to the idea of relenting
Helms: I’m just as opposed today. In fact, even more so. I think what’s
happened in Chile makes it even more advisable to keep a tough line on
Cuba. I think that if you give the impression that we’re now soft on
Cuba, and can live with any of these things, I think what, I’m afraid,
is the wave of Latin America anyway is going to crash on the beach a lot
faster. But, it’s a lot easier for this country to handle Cuba the way
we handle her now, than to start these little pacifying moves—
Nixon: So, we’re right about it?
Helms: —which are really cosmetic, and which just makes it—make it
difficult to face the problem. Neither—
Nixon: [Unclear] No, no—I don’t want any of those—don’t let any of those
pacifying things getting in here now. Well, they get in, but we’re going
to be sure [unclear], because I’ve been—I’ve put “No” on a hell of a lot
of sheets coming through this office on that one, I want you to know.
Helms: I’m sure you have.
Nixon: Do this, or that, or the other thing with the damn Cubans? And to
hell with them. Now—
Helms: The other thing is the situation here—
Helms: Just one more point, because I don’t want you to forget this.
Helms: One of the things that impressed you—I remember when we were
talking the last time—was it is costing the Russians a million of
dollars a day—
Helms: —to keep Cuba afloat, and it may continue to cost them a million
dollars a day. This is good. I mean, this is, I think, an effective
reminder to the Soviet Union—
Helms: —of the fact that we’re beating them up on this.
Nixon: [Unclear] This is an awful time. Our—Is there anything, anything
that we should do on the convert side to help in the election? The
election, I understand, there’s one—it’s not popular, as I
understand—before the end of the year? They’re asking for dough there—
Kissinger: There’s a presidential election in December, Mr. President.
Nixon: You’re taking it up in the 90—
Kissinger: Yes, we’re taking it up in the 40 Committee—
Nixon: The 40 Committee?
Kissinger: Well, next week.
Nixon: All right, let me tell you what I want—
Kissinger: The presidential election isn’t—
Nixon: I’ll tell you what I want, just so you know my views. If you think
Chile [unclear] Italy, for the Latin countries, would be disastrous,
because Italy is a Latin country.
Nixon: [Unclear] Goddamnit, let’s be sure that that thing [unclear]
everything you want—
Nixon: Come up with a tough program, ask for plenty of money to do the
Nixon: I don’t—I don’t want to let this get screwed up like Chile. Is
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Latin America.]
Nixon: Here’s the thing we have to realize, and it—The most single, the
most single event in terms of, of ideological and philosophically
[unclear] that has occurred in the last ten years in my opinion has been
the deterioration of the attitude of the Catholic Church. I am probably
pro—the strongest pro-Catholic who is not a Catholic; the greatest
admirer of Catholic traditions—what they’ve done through the years. I’ll
say this—I’m not going to say it to anybody else—the Catholics, at the
present time, as some people have said to me, they’re—in Latin
America—they’re about one-third Marxists, and the other third are in the
center, and, the other third are Catholics, now—now about that, at the
present time. In the old days, you could count on the Catholic Church
for many things to play an effective role on a serious question. What we
see here is very cathartic. And, it—What has happened is that the
American Catholic Church, finally, has condemned, I mean, an awful lot
of Catholics in Latin America and everyplace else.
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Latin America.]
Nixon: I believe we support whoever are our friends anyplace in the
world. And I believe that in most Latin countries [unclear] not
dictators—that’s a horrible word, and a reprehensible word to most
Americans—but, that strong leadership is essential. De Gaulle proved
that. I mean, France is a Latin country. It couldn’t—If even France,
with all of its sophistication, couldn’t, couldn’t handle a democracy,
you can’t. The Italians? That’s their problem. They, they can’t afford
the luxury of democracy. Neither can Spain. And no country in Latin
America can that I know of. They say, “Well, Colombia.” Well, heck,
would we like that here? Well, the party in power wouldn’t like it worth
a damn, and the party out of power would say, “Great, let’s change every
National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes,
Oval Office, Conversation No. 462–5, Oval Office. No classification
marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording
printed specifically for this volume. The transcript is part of a
larger conversation that took place between 8:30–10:15 a.m.
According to the President’s Daily Diary, Haig joined the meeting at
9:15 a.m. and Helms joined the meeting at 9:29 a.m. (Ibid., White
House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)