83. Instruction From the Department of State to All Embassies in the American Republics1

CA–534

SUBJECT

  • The Caribbean Situation

Enclosed for your background information are copies of three memoranda of conversation concerning the Caribbean situation. The Department feels that the line taken by Mr. Rubottom in these conversations might serve as valuable background for ARA Chiefs of Mission in connection with any similar conversations.

Dillon

Enclosure 1

Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, July 8, 19592

SUBJECT

  • OAS Action in Caribbean Situation

PARTICIPANTS

  • Henrique Rodrigues Valle, Brazilian Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Maury Gurgel Valente, Counselor of Embassy, Brazilian Embassy
  • R. R. Rubottom, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for inter-American Affairs John J. Ingersoll, Acting Officer in Charge of Brazilian Affairs

After a brief call on the Secretary, at 11:00 a.m. today, to deliver a message about Brazil’s financial problems,3 Minister Valle accompanied Mr. Rubottom to the latter’s office for further discussion of the Caribbean situation.

Valle opened the conversation by stating that his Government is greatly concerned over recent developments in the Caribbean, considers them of the most serious import for the future of Inter-American relations, and wishes to cooperate closely with the United States in seeking a peaceful and constructive settlement. He said that he had just returned from Rio where he had discussed the Caribbean situation with President Kubitschek and was impressed with the President’s [Page 297]serious worry over it. The Brazilian Government agrees with the U.S., he said, that a Council of Foreign Ministers should be called to deal with this problem, not in specific terms of Cuba and the Dominican Republic but in the framework of the whole Caribbean area with all the trouble spots and the underlying causes for the trouble. A working group should be set up at once to draw up the agenda and set the time and place for such a meeting.

Mr. Rubottom said that he was very pleased to hear this directly from Minister Valle, speaking for the Brazilian Government. He said that the Brazilian Representative on the COAS, Mr. Haddock-Lobo, has been working very closely with Ambassador Dreier in the Council but that Valle’s statements were most welcome, particularly in the light of his very recent visit to Rio. Mr. Rubottom said that we have a good deal of information and definite proof of Cuban official participation in the launching of three invasion attempts against the Dominican Republic and of Cuban implication in other disturbances in the area. He said that Haiti is in a terrible position. It is in dire straits economically and we have an aid program there. It is right in the middle between Cuba and the Dominican Republic and there is good reason to fear that an attempt might be made to strike at the Dominican Republic by invading through Haiti.

Mr. Rubottom said that we do not like dictators, that we have always supported the principle of representative government and that our whole 180 years of independent history affords ample evidence of this. However, we cannot allow individual groups of “liberators” to pass judgment on the governments of particular countries and to undertake from bases in other countries to launch attacks aiming to oust violently the governments they dislike. This amounts to anarchy. It is a shame and a mistake for anyone to imply that our abhorrence of this sort of behavior constitutes support for or protection of the despotic or dictatorial governments being attacked.

Minister Valle said that he had been working closely with Haddock-Lobo and that they have been telling the other Latin American representatives who oppose OAS efforts to restrain the growing attacks on the Dominican Republic that they don’t realize what they are doing. He said that to allow outside groups of individuals or individual governments to intervene and try to oust a Latin American country’s government which they didn’t like would create a precedent for placing in the hands of the overwhelmingly powerful United States Government the justification for passing judgment on each Latin American Government and for intervening to oust any government it considers undesirable.

Mr. Rubottom agreed, pointing out that if U.S. public, press and Congressional opinion should become disillusioned with the ability of the OAS and the established procedures of the inter-American system [Page 298]which has been built up with such painstaking effort, there is no telling where we might end. Given our security interests in the Hemisphere, a considerable fillip would be given the proponents in this country of unilateral action on our part to intervene in the affairs of Latin American countries to insure the existence of friendly, acceptable governments.

Minister Valle pointed out that we must be very careful about matters of procedure within the COAS. Mr. Valente asked whether the U.S. attitude was based on the Caracas Declaration.4 Mr. Rubottom said that for the present it is not; rather we are basing our position for OAS action on Articles 39 and 40 of the Charter.

Enclosure 2

Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, July 9, 19595

SUBJECT

  • The Caribbean Situation: Venezuela’s Position in the COAS

PARTICIPANTS

  • Dr. Marcos Falcón-Briceño, Venezuelan Ambassador
  • R. R. Rubottom, Jr., Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs
  • John C. Dreier, U.S. Ambassador to the OAS
  • John J. Ingersoll, Office of Venezuelan Affairs

Ambassador Falcón-Briceño expounded at length his Government’s position to the effect that whatever action may be taken by the OAS with respect to the turbulent situation in the Caribbean area it must somehow be completely dissociated from the Dominican Republic’s resolution calling for action to protect it from imminent invasion attempts being prepared in Cuba and Venezuela.6 He repeatedly urged that this might be done in one of two ways: (1) by voting down the Dominican resolution or (2) by delaying action, allowing the Dominican request to die a natural death, and then having a group of relatively disinterested countries (like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, etc.) introduce a resolution calling for a meeting of Foreign Ministers to consider the threatening situation in the entire Caribbean area, without any specific reference to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

[Page 299]

Mr. Rubottom said that he fully understands the deep emotional feelings of President Betancourt, Ambassador Falcón-Briceño and the Venezuelan people with respect to Trujillo. But, he said, he feels that they are allowing these to obscure a much more important and fundamental danger. He said that he has considerable evidence, in fact unquestionable proof, of Cuban complicity in attacks on Panama, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and now a new threat of attack on Nicaragua which might materialize this very week. This borders on anarchy. Nobody in this country, he said, likes Trujillo or his regime. But to allow this feeling toward Trujillo to obstruct prompt action to maintain the effectiveness of the OAS in preventing this sort of thing would be a sad and serious mistake. Mr. Rubottom said that we have incontrovertible evidence of communist involvement in the various attempts made against several Caribbean countries. One naturalized U.S. citizen participating as a leader in one of the attacks on Nicaragua is closely related to Concepcion Palacios, a known communist. Also, there have been a number of U.S. nationals (Puerto Ricans) involved in the attempts against the Dominican Republic. We are ashamed of these people and disavow them but that does not alter our serious concern for the preservation of the effectiveness of the inter-American system for the protection of all American countries from attacks launched from other countries.

Falcón-Briceño said that this situation poses serious problems for his Government and people. He insisted that the passage of a whole week without any invasion has given the lie to the Dominican request for urgent OAS action to forestall an “imminent” invasion. He argued that since the urgency has thus been disproven it would be quite possible to pigeon-hole the Dominican request and after a decent interval of two or three weeks have some of the uninvolved countries present a resolution calling for a Foreign Ministers’ meeting. He said that Venezuela itself might be willing to present such a resolution in those circumstances. Falcón-Briceño expressed his own confidence that if the Dominicans should present a resolution calling for OAS action and a Foreign Ministers’ meeting and it were put to a vote at Friday’s COAS meeting the resolution would be voted down.

Mr. Rubottom explained that we consider the matter to be one of great urgency. One of the most disturbing things is the terrible position of little Haiti, caught between the two tigers (Cuba and the Dominican Republic). After a series of Government changes and internal strife in the past 18 months the freely elected government of Duvalier deserves a chance to straighten things out. While the Duvalier Government may not be a paragon of excellence it at least offers some promise of stability. We have a grant-aid program, amounting to some $6 million per year, in Haiti to help relieve the serious economic distress [Page 300]in this poorest of the Latin American nations. To see Haiti caught in the line of fire, as a likely route for a foreign-based invasion into the Dominican Republic is abhorrent.

The meeting lasted a full hour with repeated reiteration and elaboration of the opposite viewpoints described above. It ended, when Mr. Rubottom was obliged to leave for another appointment, with no apparent resolution of the differences in position. Falcón-Briceño said that he would see Mr. Rubottom in the evening (at the Argentine national holiday reception) and that perhaps they could discuss the matter further.

Enclosure 3

Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, July 13, 19597

SUBJECT

  • Visit of Ambassador Dihigo to Exchange Views on U.S.-Cuban Problems

PARTICIPANTS

  • Ambassador Ernesto Dihigo, Cuban Embassy
  • Dr. Emilio Pando, Cuban Embassy
  • ARAR. R. Rubottom, Jr., Assistant Secretary
  • CMAR. A. Stevenson, Cuban Desk

Ambassador Dihigo called at his request to inform Mr. Rubottom of his intention to return to Habana on July 14. He said that he expects to return to Washington together with Mrs. Dihigo in five or six days. He also advised Mr. Rubottom that Minister of State Roa would return to Cuba from New York City on Thursday, July 16. Mr. Rubottom thanked the Ambassador for this information and told him that the Department would inform the pertinent authorities in New York City of Minister Roa’s travel plans in order that he may receive the proper courtesies upon his departure.

The Ambassador said that he had another matter which he would like to discuss, namely, the Bridges-Johnston amendment to the Mutual Security Act.8 He stressed that he wished to do this only in the spirit of an informal exchange of views on matters of mutual interest; that he had prepared a memorandum on the subject9 not a note or [Page 301]other formal communication which he desired to leave with Mr. Rubottom. In his view Cuba is not directly affected by the amendment, but it is an action, nevertheless, which will be resented in Cuba, and, of more importance, it will be considered as a threat to all of Latin America. Although he understands the motivation of the members of the Senate who supported this amendment, their desire to protect the interests of their constituents, he considers this to be too narrow a focus in which to view an action of this kind.

Mr. Rubottom thanked the Ambassador for giving him the benefit of his views on this matter and said that he wished, if the Ambassador’s time permitted, to take up several topics with him. With regard to the amendment he pointed out that the Executive Branch of the Government is not responsible for this action; that the amendment has not yet passed; and that once passed there is always the chance that it might be vetoed. However, with regard to the last named possibility Mr. Rubottom noted that such action would incur the risk of depriving many countries of the very real help which they would continue to receive if the legislation is passed and made effective.

In Mr. Rubottom’s opinion, however, the great significance to Cuba of this action by the Senate is that the vote of 59 Senators in favor of the amendment signifies a real loss of confidence in the Cuban revolution. These Senators were concerned not so much by the effects of the Agrarian Reform Law10 on American private interests but rather by the continued reports of Communist infiltration into many areas of Cuban society. On January 1 Castro had an immense reservoir of good will and support among the American people. Again when Castro came to the United States, in spite of criticisms which he had made of this country, he received an enthusiastic reception.11 In the ensuing weeks, however, the frequently expressed antagonism of the Government of Cuba toward the United States, the evidence of revolutionary expeditions which have left Cuban shores, for example, the foolish and ill-conceived invasion of Panama, the continued reports of Communist activities in Cuba—all have contributed to a climate of opinion in the United States regarding Cuba which has led to the approval of an amendment which even six weeks ago would not have had the favorable vote of most of these same 59 Senators.

Mr. Rubottom then referred to the recent note which Ambassador Dihigo had sent the Department in which he stated that the admission of Batista to the United States, should he enter U.S. territory legally or illegally would be viewed with deep displeasure by the Government [Page 302]of Cuba.12 He referred to an earlier conversation with Ambassador Dihigo [June 12]13 in which he had mentioned certain broad humanitarian principles which we all might wish to consider in a case like Batista’s and remarked that perhaps the Ambassador had misunderstood the intent of those words. Mr. Rubottom then read aloud the following paragraph from the note: (Page 2, second paragraph)

In the first place, with respect to inter-American relations, the Embassy believes that the democratic nations of this hemisphere would not view favorably, nor even with indifference, an offer by the United States of asylum to one who completely destroyed democracy in Cuba for no other reason than his personal ambition for power and money, and who repeatedly refused to allow a peaceful solution of the situation, maintaining himself in power through brutal methods and by violating the most fundamental rights of man. Such asylum and protection afforded a person with such a record would doubtless be viewed as a rather unsympathetic attitude toward the democratic movement taking place in Latin America today, which has already eliminated most of the dictatorships.

Referring to the above statement, Mr. Rubottom expressed in positive terms that the U.S. considers itself among the democratic nations, and, moreover, a nation which has favored and supported the development of true democracy throughout the hemisphere. However, we believe that each country should decide for itself what type of government it wants to have. In this respect we are certainly in agreement with Latin American tradition which has always strongly condemned the intervention of one country into the affairs of another. In fact, Latin America has taken the lead in demanding this principle as a key plank in the Charter of the OAS. If Latin America would now wish to do more to encourage functioning democracy in this hemisphere, the United States is prepared to listen sympathetically to such proposals, and undoubtedly more could be done, but we will insist that each people should be allowed to choose its own form of government without outside interference. With regard to the question of political asylum, this again has been a right and a practice advocated chiefly by the countries of Latin America and not by the United States. We are not aware that there is a unanimity of opinion throughout the hemisphere that Batista should not be admitted to the United States. However, the question of Batista’s possible admittance to the U.S. is an internal matter dependent upon the applicable U.S. laws. Until now no decision has been reached one way or another. With reference to the Cuban attitude in the case of Batista, one is struck by the recent [Page 303]example of President Villeda Morales in Honduras who recognized the political asylum granted to his sworn mortal enemy, Colonel Velasquez, and then issued him a safe conduct to leave the country.

Ambassador Dihigo hastened to reassure Mr. Rubottom that he well recognizes that the U.S. has always been a champion of democracy in the hemisphere and that no implication to the contrary was intended in his note. He stated that he feels much of the change in public opinion in the U.S. with regard to Cuba is the result of the activities of Batista supporters in the U.S. who have succeeded in influencing the press and in finding special ways to influence members of Congress. Press stories have often been very misleading and harmful. Mr. Rubottom acknowledged that some of the critical articles may result from the efforts of Batista agents, but that many others have appeared in reputable papers which have heretofore been friendly to the Revolution. He remarked that even so, in Cuba the Communist paper, Hoy, and some of the non-Communist press as well have printed distorted and unfair stories about the United States which have not been helpful.

Mr. Rubottom assured the Ambassador that the Department is making a thorough investigation of the Hidalgo affair in Miami, bearing in mind the possible applicability of the Consular Convention between our countries,14 and that we hope to have a factual report soon in order that we may reply to the Ambassador’s note on the subject.15 He also mentioned that we are still in the process of reviewing the various Cuban requests for military equipment which were the subject of a list left by the Ambassador on the occasion of his last previous visit on June 29.

The Ambassador thanked Mr. Rubottom for his frank expression of his views and said that he would convey them to his Government. In his opinion such discussions offer the best prospect of arriving eventually to a solution of our differences.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 713.00/7–1659. Confidential. Drafted by Luboeansky. Repeated to USUN.
  2. Drafted by Ingersoll.
  3. This message, dated June 30, is attached to another copy of this memorandum in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199.
  4. Reference is to Resolution XCV adopted by the Tenth Inter-American Conference, March 28, 1954; for text, see Tenth Inter-American Conference, Caracas, Venezuela, March 1–28, 1954: Report of the Delegation of the United States of America with Related Documents (Department of State Publication 5692, Washington, 1955), p. 158.
  5. Drafted by Ingersoll.
  6. Regarding the Dominican resolution, see footnote 2, Document 81.
  7. Drafted by Stevenson.
  8. This amendment, proposed by Senator Styles Bridges and Senator Olin D. Johnston, suspending aid to any country which the President determined to be expropriating U.S.-owned property without adequate compensation until the situation was corrected, was included in the Mutual Security Act of 1959 (PL. 86–108), approved July 24, 1959. For text of the Act, see 73 Stat. 252.
  9. Not identified.
  10. For text, see Ministerio de Estado, Departamento de Prensa, Agrarian Reform Law, Boletín No. 49, July 20, 1959.
  11. For documentation on Premier Fidel Castro’s unofficial visit to the United States in April 1959, see volume VI.
  12. Dated July 6, not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/7–659)
  13. Brackets in the source text.
  14. Signed at Havana, April 22, 1926; for text, see 6 Bevans 1149.
  15. Reference is to an attack on Alonso Hidalgo, the Cuban Consul General, at Miami on July 4; documentation is in Department of State, Central File 602.3711.