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

SUBJECT

  • OAS Consideration of Dominican Charges Against Cuba and Venezuela

Discussion

The Council of the OAS meets at 3:00 this afternoon to consider the charges brought by the Dominican Republic against Cuba and Venezuela for permitting the organization of armed expeditions intending to invade the Dominican Republic and overthrow its government.

1. Procedural Situation in COAS

From indications received thus far, it appears unlikely that most of the members of the Council will have received specific instructions as to how to deal with the Dominican request.2 It is therefore likely that the Chairman, after sounding out the members of the Council, will suggest postponement of the vote once again in order to permit representatives to obtain their instructions. It is in our interest to avoid a vote on the Dominican proposal itself, and it is clear that a large majority of the Council feels likewise.

2. Substantive Position on Dominican Request

If the United States supports the Dominican request, we will be widely criticized throughout the American republics, and in many circles in the United States, for supporting the Trujillo dictatorship. If we vote against the Dominican request, we will be liable to criticism on the grounds of denying the application of the guarantees of the Rio Treaty to another government because of the widespread animosity and opposition to it because of its dictatorial character. It is therefore believed that the best solution to this problem is to have the Council of the OAS, taking account of the several instances of tension and conflict in the Caribbean area, defer action on the specific request of the Dominican Republic and favor the holding of a meeting of Foreign [Page 293]Ministers under the Charter of the OAS (rather than under the Rio Treaty) to consider the entire problem of tensions in the Caribbean area in the light of basic principles of the OAS. The advantage of this procedure is a) to bring the full weight of a Foreign Ministers’ meeting to bear upon the Cuban and Venezuelan Governments, and the Dominican Government, in recognizing the necessity for stopping interventionist activities, b) to permit consideration of the problem of democracy and human rights in the OAS on a general basis in order to demonstrate U.S. and OAS interest in this matter, and c) to avoid specific action on the Dominican request itself.

An alternative proposal, favored by Mexico which does not consider a meeting of Foreign Ministers desirable, would be to appoint some sort of committee of the OAS to look into the situation much as the meeting of Foreign Ministers would. The main objection to this procedure is that no such committee would have any authority unless appointed under provisions of the Rio Treaty which would mean first approving the Dominican request.

3. Initiative on Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

A major immediate difficulty is the failure of any Latin American government to be ready to propose a meeting of Foreign Ministers, and the feeling on the part of several of our Latin American friends, which ARA shares, that it would be preferable to have the meeting proposed by a group of South American countries rather than by the United States. It is important that the idea of the meeting of Foreign Ministers be formally launched as soon as possible and for that reason it is my thought that if one or more Latin American countries are not prepared to do this by tomorrow (assuming today’s meeting is adjourned), the United States should do so.

Recommendations

It is recommended that the following instructions be given to Ambassador Dreier:

1.
If it is clear that the Council is not prepared to vote on the question today, the Chairman should be urged to adjourn the meeting immediately for 24 hours to avoid useless debate and forestall any unforeseen move that might complicate the matter further.
2.
In the event a move is made either by the Dominican Republic or Cuba to force a vote on the Dominican request, he should use every reasonable means to prevent such a vote. One means would be to amend the resolution which might be submitted by the Dominican Republic to add a clause providing for the consideration by the Foreign [Page 294]Ministers under the Rio Treaty of the basic causes of the present conflict including the problem of dictatorships and democracy in the Americas.
3.
Ambassador Dreier and the Department should make every effort to encourage a group of Latin American countries, preferably outside the Caribbean area, to propose a meeting of Foreign Ministers at either today’s meeting or the next one. If such action is not forthcoming, the United States should propose it at the next meeting.
4.
If a vote on the Dominican request as such cannot be avoided, the United States should support the request and at the time of the vote make a full statement of its position regarding the need for equal application of treaties to any government regardless of its political complexion and that our favorable vote in no way implies any lack of interest on our part in encouraging through all appropriate means a more effective exercise of representative democracy in the Americas.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Rubottom Files: Lot 61 D 279, Foreign Ministers Meeting—Santiago 1959. Confidential. Drafted by Dreier.
  2. The Dominican Representative on the OAS Council, Virgilio Díaz Ordóñez, withdrew the Dominican request of July 2, 1959, to invoke the consultation procedure in Article 11 of the Rio Treaty on July 10, in order to facilitate OAS Council choice of other means of resolving the Caribbean situation.
  3. There is no indication on the source text of any action by the Acting Secretary on these recommendations.