87. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Diplomatic Missions in the American Republics1

108. Department views forthcoming meeting of American Foreign Ministers as being of great, and perhaps critical, importance in maintaining integrity of principle of non-intervention and authority of OAS as cornerstones of U.S. policy towards Latin America, and as foundation of relations among American states. Erosion of these basic concepts, especially at time when Free World faces need for strength and unity for long and global struggle for survival of principle of representative democracy against encroachments of international Communist tyranny, would result in significant weakening of U.S. position and open up prospect that U.S. would have to divert energies and resources needed elsewhere for preservation of national security to deal with disorders in Caribbean Basin and possibly elsewhere in Latin America. At same time, looking beyond immediate implications for world security situation, Department remains convinced that preservation of unique inter-American system based on charter OAS with its non-intervention principle is essential not only to maintenance of [Page 311]peace and good relations in hemisphere but also to achievement of satisfactory progress towards representative democracy and higher living standards to which peoples of Latin America and U.S. alike aspire.

In this light, Department deeply concerned about timidity of representatives of most other American Republics in situations calling for active and vocal support of fundamental inter-American principles, their tendency to focus on short-term and localized considerations such as animosity towards Trujillo and other dictatorial regimes and fear of appearing in slightest to be opposed to pro-democratic protestations of Castro regime, and their consequent reluctance effectively to assert authority of OAS.

Accordingly, Department desires you to call on President and/or other ranking authority with view to underscoring great importance of forthcoming Foreign Ministers meeting, assuring that delegation from country to which you are accredited plays an active role in Santiago in support of principles underlying inter-American system, and that meeting receives adequate private and public support from Presidents and other ranking officials concerned. In your presentation, you may find any or all of following points suitable and useful.

United States, based on recent contacts with Soviet bloc at Geneva and during Vice President’s trip to USSR and Poland,2 is more than ever convinced that nations of free world must for protracted period maintain posture of maximum firmness, unity and patience in resisting persisting expansionist ambitions of international Communism which is exhibiting new and aggressive confidence as Soviet and bloc power increases. In this context, preservation of peace and establishment of climate for further perfection democratic institutions and further progress in economic field take on global importance. Future of democratic institutions this hemisphere thus depends on success free world demonstrates in maintaining its unity and strength against Communist expansion.
United States has been and is deeply committed to policy of non-intervention in inter-American affairs, most recently illustrated by unanimous Senate ratification of 1950 Protocol to Habana.3 This policy was initially adopted in response to American people’s deep feelings concerning application democratic principles, including juridical equality of states, to international affairs and in answer to Latin American sentiments regarding previous United States intervention in Caribbean area. Inherent in U.S. non-intervention policy, however, are assumptions that other American Republics will likewise observe it as [Page 312]standard of conduct and that, in event of breach of this principle, the community of American States as whole rather than U.S. unilaterally will take effective action to preserve peace of Caribbean. If at MFM and subsequently, non-intervention principle and assumptions on which it rests are allowed to be whittled away, the basis of inter-American relations and of U.S. policy towards Latin America will be undermined. Since, at least in Caribbean basin, U.S. is least vulnerable to intervention in its affairs, it is Latin American countries which will be most adversely affected by such development.
U.S. is convinced, on basis extensive intelligence coverage of area, that there have been important violations of principle of nonintervention by governmental support of, as well as acquiescence in, the mobilizing, training and equipping of revolutionary expeditions designed to overthrow Governments of other countries. This is clearly form of indirect aggression, similar to pattern of indirect aggression which has sown political and economic instability in other parts of world. Evidence, although not brought out in detail in press or in reports of COAS Special Committees clearly shows (a) expedition against Panama had at least benevolent acquiescence of leading figures in Cuban Government while most expeditions against Nicaragua and Dominican Republic were given training, Cuban Government controlled equipment and otherwise encouraged and supported by Cuban Government, (b) Dominican Republic has likewise encouraged and supported counter-revolutionary movement being organized by ex-Cuban Chief of Staff Pedraza and (c) groups intending to take military action to overthrow Governments of Haiti as well as Dominican Republic and Nicaragua are reliably reported to be continuing preparations in Cuba and other countries. In addition, Cuban supported groups have used and are continuing to use territories of Costa Rica and Honduras as staging areas for anti-Somoza excursions, causing serious internal difficulties for those two Governments. Thus six countries of Caribbean area are directly involved or threatened by current wave of indirect aggression while scarcely any country, including U.S., has escaped efforts by revolutionary elements to make use their territory for purposes contravening Habana Convention.
If this situation is to be dealt with successfully by American Republics, it is vitally important at this time that all governments give strong support, through their delegations to Santiago meeting and before their own public, to authority of OAS and underlying principle of non-intervention. Conference should not be permitted to degenerate into venting of political animosities and recriminations engendered by current Caribbean tensions. If at all possible, it not intention of U.S. publicly to apportion blame for past violations of non-intervention principle as those have been aired in COAS, but it is U.S. hope Conference will result in moral and practical measures to prevent future [Page 313]violations. Should it fail to do so, U.S. fears that chain of events might be set in motion seriously affecting peace and security throughout Caribbean area with unforeseeable consequences to inter-American relations.
Criticism is sometimes expressed that non-intervention system as reenforced by OAS tends to protect dictatorial regimes since opposition elements, unable to effect peaceful changes and modifications at home, are blocked by non-intervention system from attempting to effect forcible change from foreign bases. This argument, however, does not offer any solid justification for any Government or its officials to give material or moral support to attempts by such exiled elements to overthrow their home Governments, since this constitutes direct intervention in internal affairs of another country as well as indirect aggression. U.S. is deeply committed to perfection of representative democracy in U.S. and welcomes great progress which has been made by its sister American Republics. It would welcome at Santiago concrete suggestions as to how OAS might be of greater assistance on growth of democratic process on which Latin American members might agree. U.S., however, remains convinced that progress towards democracy and higher living standards throughout hemisphere must rest on foundation of non-intervention and that if Foreign Minister’s meeting and OAS fail to meet test of effectively sustaining this principle in current Caribbean situation further political and economic progress in area will be in serious jeopardy.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 363/8–659. Confidential. Drafted by John C. Hill, Jr., and signed for Herter by Rubottom. Sent to all diplomatic missions in the American Republics, except Ciudad Trujillo, Habana, and Managua, where it was sent for information.
  2. Vice President Nixon visited the Soviet Union, July 23–August 2, and Poland, August 2–5, 1959.
  3. Reference is to the Convention on Duties and Rights of States in the Event of Civil Strife, opened for signature at Washington, May 1, 1957, but not yet ratified by the United States; for text, see 284 UNTS 201.