136. Memorandum on the Substance of Discussions at the Department of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, Pentagon, Washington, November 18, 1960, 11:30 a.m.1

[Here follow a list of participants at the meeting, a table of contents, and discussion of agenda item 1, “Congo.”]

2. Cuba and Central America (State Initiative)

Mr. Merchant said at the outset he was hopeful that the naval movement announced yesterday in the Caribbean might stabilize the situation there and have a blocking effect on any adventurism. He pointed out that we saw a discernible pattern developing in Central America and that there was some evidence of Castro’s hand. He said we had no plans at the present time to recognize El Salvador.

So far as Cuba was concerned, he thought it might be worth while to make a few general remarks about the situation on the understanding that these remarks were not authoritative and did not necessarily represent official policy. He said that we had come to the realization that we must revise some of our early assumptions on the timing and character of any overthrow of Castro and his regime. We had originally [Page 457] thought that rather quickly internal opposition would arise which, with a certain amount of outside help, would be able to regain control. Six months ago we were much more optimistic about this happening than we are now and we must do a lot of long and hard thinking on what the trend will probably be. Certainly there is rising dissatisfaction with Castro in Cuba but also there is rising control along the tried and true communist line. The militia movement and the nationalization of the economy are certainly two traditional communist moves. The regime is moving with efficiency and speed in the further communization of the island. However fast grows the internal unpopularity of the regime, just as fast grows the ability of the regime to control this dissatisfaction.

Possible courses of action open to the U.S. include breaking diplomatic relations, support of a government in exile, moving into overt and demonstrable support of the opposition, etc. This, of course, produces other problems, such as that of Americans resident in Cuba. He said his remarks should be construed merely as an indication of some of the thinking going on in the Department. He pointed out if we accept the premise that there is a delay in the possibility of effective action against Cuba we may well have to put more emphasis on steps like the recently announced naval movement. We may have to establish a quarantine area to prevent the export of Castroism from Cuba onto the Central and South American mainland.

Mr. Mann said we are talking with the Latin American ambassadors in Washington to see if they are ready to go ahead on some kind of an investigation of Castro activities, perhaps under the provisions of the Rio Treaty. We have had to by-pass the Peace Committee of the OAS since the Latin American members on that Committee are pretty shaky. What we hope to do through an OAS investigating committee is to educate South American public opinion about the dangers of Castroism and hopefully to come up with some hard evidence concerning the things Castro is doing.

Admiral Burke wondered whether we had to notify the OAS under Article 6 of the Rio Treaty concerning the Nicaraguan and Guatemalan requests.2

Mr. Mann said that was not necessary but that in any event we hoped to get the OAS to focus on the possibility of a hemispheric-wide break in relations with Cuba, total economic sanctions, quarantine on the export of arms and men from Cuba, etc. We would hope this could be applied quickly.

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General Lemnitzer said he just didn’t understand why we couldn’t get more support from the other Latin American countries. What we had to do was explain to each Latin American country that without unified action against Cuba that country itself might be next in line for Castro trouble.

Mr. Mann said we were doing just that. He noted we have made a great deal of progress in educating the Latin American leaders since the difficult period represented by the San Jose meetings.3 He hoped that within the next 30–45 days we might be able to have a formal OAS meeting devoted to the Castro problem. We would certainly take a “head count” first in order to avoid the San Jose difficulties but hopefully we could get most of the countries to go along with a program contemplating break of relations, economic sanctions and arms quarantine.

He hoped that perhaps we could reconstitute a committee along the lines of the one established in 1942 concerning the control of internal subversion throughout the hemisphere.4

General Lemnitzer said the speed of the communization of Cuba proved extensive external guidance.

Admiral Burke said he would like to make a few remarks about the Presidential proclamation made yesterday. The U.S. naval ships off the coast of Nicaragua and Guatemala are, under the terms of the proclamation, in essence ships of those two countries. In their territorial waters—3–12 miles—these ships have the complete right of visit and search and if it is determined that foreign ships are carrying crews and cargoes posing a threat to the security of those two countries they will be turned over to Guatemala and Nicaragua. Outside of the territorial waters our naval vessels will carry on reconnaissance activities. This proclamation went pretty far in establishing rights and obligations.

As to the definition of territorial waters, it is clearly established that sovereignty extends three miles off shore and that it will extend 12 miles if the country claims this area for customs or other purposes. For example, the U.S. claims 12 miles for this purpose, this being a carryover from Prohibition days.

Mr. Mann said that so far as he knew neither of these countries had claimed 12 miles and Admiral Burke replied he wasn’t sure but his people were checking on it.

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Mr. Merchant observed he was not speaking facetiously when he cautioned that we should look at this in terms of our position in the law of the sea.

Mr. Mann agreed, stating that a proclamation by President Truman concerning jurisdiction and fishing rights off the continental shelf had actually started all of this law of the sea problem.

Mr. Smith said that recent evidence in Central America had certainly highlighted the need for expeditious military efforts in the internal security field.

General Lemnitzer agreed that speed was of the essence.

Mr. Knight referred to a pending request for $1 million to Bolivia for internal security. The Pentagon had approved this request and it was awaiting approval in the Department of State. It would be most helpful if this could be broken loose quickly in view of the problems in Bolivia. He understood that this request, once approved in the Department of State, would require a Presidential determination.

[Here follows discussion of agenda items 3, “Appreciation for East Pakistan Relief Operations;” 4, “Review of U.S. Attitude Toward CENTO;” 5, “Ambassador Durbrow’s Philsophy Vis-à-Vis Attempted Coup in Vietnam;” and 6, “Soviet Oil Defensive.”]

  1. Source: Department of State, State–JCS Files: Lot 70 D 328. Top Secret. According to a note on the cover sheet, the memorandum was a Department of State draft, not cleared with the Department of Defense. Thirty individuals were present at the meeting; Merchant headed the Department of State contingent of seven officers.
  2. Article 6 of the Rio Treaty required the Organ of Consultation of the OAS to meet immediately to discuss appropriate measures whenever aggression against a member state occurred which was not an armed attack or was committed by an extra-continental power.
  3. Reference is to the Sixth and Seventh Meetings of Consultations of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held in San José, Costa Rica, August 16–29, 1960.
  4. Reference is to the Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense, established by the Third Consultative Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of American Republics, held at Rio de Janeiro, January 15–28, 1942; for documentation on the formation and work of the Committee, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. v, pp. 74107.