80. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Secretary of State1

SUBJECT

  • Possible Action by the Organization of American States regarding the Caribbean Situation

Discussion

Reference is made to my memorandum of April 18, 1959 on this same subject as a result of which U.S. support of action by the OAS in the Caribbean situation was in general terms approved by the Acting Secretary (Tab A).2

Since that time, the Council of the OAS has convoked the Organ of Consultation in the Panamanian situation and again in the Nicaraguan crisis. The territory of the Dominican Republic has now been invaded by armed forces proceeding from foreign soil, very likely from Cuba and possibly from Venezuela. There is danger of additional violations of the principle of nonintervention which is a corner stone of the inter-American system. Danger exists that warfare may break out between Cuba and the Dominican Republic, or other countries of the area, if these activities continue.

The Dominican Republic has indicated that it will not request OAS assistance in the current crisis. Even if such assistance were petitioned specifically in the Dominican case, it is doubtful that the necessary support could be obtained in the Council of the OAS, so strong is the anti-Trujillo feeling. Haiti feels itself endangered in its geographical position between Cuba and the Dominican Republic but until now considers that it has not had sufficient grounds for bringing the matter before the OAS.

The United States has consulted the governments of the Latin American countries on the growing seriousness of the Caribbean situation.3 Responses have indicated concern along with an open mind and recognition of the problem. Nevertheless, some of the countries, particularly [Page 291]Cuba and Venezuela, may be expected to oppose vigorously any action of the OAS which might appear designed to prevent the overthrow of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic as they opposed action in the case of Nicaragua.

The basic cause of conflict in the Caribbean area is the continued existence of the Trujillo dictatorship on the one hand and the strong tide of pro-democratic and anti-dictator sentiment on the other. The latter force conflicts with the principle of nonintervention and there is no doubt but that any effort to take action which will in effect defend the Trujillo dictatorship will be widely condemned in public opinion in Latin American as well as in the United States.

At the same time, the United States cannot permit the treaty guarantees of the OAS system to be disregarded. A corollary aspect of the problem is that international communism is to an undetermined extent involved in the revolutionary movements emanating from Cuba and Venezuela, and might well extend its influence over governments set up thereby.

Under the circumstances, it is believed that a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics is required in order to consider the problem in all its aspects. The meeting of Foreign Ministers might consider the threat to the nonintervention principle on the one hand and the need to encourage peaceful and orderly development of representative democracy on the other, as well as giving due regard to the extent of communist connections with the present disturbed situation.

A meeting of Foreign Ministers might be convened in connection with the Nicaraguan case, or through some other procedure to be worked out in consultation with other member governments. It should, in any event, meet as soon as possible, preferably at a Latin American capital. Further consultation with Latin American governments on this matter would be necessary before action is taken by the United States in the OAS Council.

Recommendation

That you authorize consultation with other governments and other appropriate action leading up to the holding of a Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics to consider the present Caribbean situation.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 713.00/6–2559. Secret. Drafted by Luboeansky and Dreier; sent through Murphy. In a concurring memorandum addressed to the Secretary and Murphy attached to the source text, Walmsley expressed IO’s concern that if the situation worsened and the OAS failed to take appropriate action, “we could well be confronted with an initiative in the United Nations on this matter which would give the Soviets an opportunity to meddle directly.”
  2. Supra.
  3. The Department of State requested the consultation through U.S. Embassies in Latin American countries, excepting Cuba and the Dominican Republic, on June 18, 1959. Documentation on the consultation is in Department of State, Central File 713.00.
  4. Herter initialed his approval of the recommendation on June 25.