88. Position Paper Prepared by the Acting Director of the Office of Inter-American Regional Political Affairs (Dreier)1

MFM D–2/1

Agenda Item I—For the purpose of maintaining peace in the Americas, consideration of the situation of international tension in the Caribbean area in its general and several aspects, in the light of [Page 314]the principles and standards that govern the inter-American system, and of means to assure the observance by States of the principles of nonintervention and nonaggression.

Recommended U.S. Position

The U.S. position on this subject involves two main aspects of the problem: a) methods for dealing with the immediate situation of tensions in the Caribbean area which have brought about the calling of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers, and b) a review of inter-American peace procedures for the purpose of developing improvements therein which will help to reduce the likelihood of future recurrences of the present situation.

With respect to the first aspect of the problem, the present situation of tensions, the United States should:

In a statement to the Meeting of Foreign Ministers, and in other conversations as appropriate, emphasize the serious view which the United States takes of the tensions and unrest that have characterized the Caribbean area during the past six months. It should be pointed out that the situation involving threats to governments, and threats to the peace between countries, has already done considerable harm to the entire inter-American community. The spectacle of instability and irresponsible action by armed bands of guerrilla fighters has undermined confidence in the economic and political future of the area. The consequent controversies between governments have put a serious strain on inter-American solidarity and cooperation which are an essential part of the strength of the free world in this period of history. The revolutionary activities, and development of guerrilla warfare tactics by revolutionary movements, with or without support of governments, have created political strains in several countries in addition to those against which revolutionary activities are directed. All these developments serve to favor the Communist purpose of weakening the free world, and provide an ideal opportunity for trained Communist leaders to infiltrate and extend their influence.
Propose the adoption of a strong resolution by the Meeting of Foreign Ministers, declaring their adherence to the principle of nonintervention, couched in terms related to the present situation. This declaration can also contain, if desired, a reference to the other main item on the agenda, namely the need for greater democracy and human rights in the American community.
Propose, or support a proposal, that the Foreign Ministers request the Council of the OAS to establish a committee of five or seven governments which will have the functions of a) studying the causes of the present Caribbean tensions, and b) assisting governments in the Caribbean area to resolve any conflict or controversy that may arise in connection with official or unofficial activities that threaten the principles [Page 315]of nonintervention and nonaggression. This committee should be asked to report to the Quito Conference at which time it should be terminated, unless the Conference decides otherwise.
Oppose efforts of any individual governments such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua or Venezuela, to place specific charges of intervention, or of the violation of the Habana Convention of 1928, before the Foreign Ministers. The United States should take the position that such charges have been fully aired in the Council of the OAS, and that the Meeting of Foreign Ministers, without attempting to consider the validity of individual charges, can more usefully consider the basic causes of these international tensions and means of preventing their occurrence. Any insistence upon the presentation of new charges should be met with the suggestion that they be turned over for consideration to the committee referred to in paragraph 3 above.

With respect to the second aspect of this problem, namely the inter-American peace procedures, the United States should propose, or support a proposal, that the Council of the OAS study the present inter-American peace machinery with particular reference to the means of dealing with the type of situation presently existing in the Caribbean and make recommendations with respect to possible improvements therein for consideration of the Quito Conference. This study should concern itself particularly with methods whereby incipient conflicts can be brought to the attention of the OAS for solution before they reach the point of open conflicts requiring the application of the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro, and in connection therewith special mention should be made of the possibility of revising the statutes of the Inter-American Peace Committee2 with that objective in mind.


When the Dominican Republic on July 2 charged Cuba and Venezuela with assisting in the organization of armed revolutionary expeditions aimed at overthrowing the Dominican Government, the tensions in the Caribbean area reached a high point. At the time the decision was reached to call the Meeting of Foreign Ministers to consider the entire Caribbean problem, it had been made clear that action by the Council acting provisionally as Organ of Consultation under the Rio Treaty was not enough to impress the Cuban Government with the need to desist from such activities. The decision to call the Meeting of Foreign Ministers, as well as the failure of armed expeditions that invaded Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic from other countries, appears to have discouraged somewhat the interest of the Cuban [Page 316]Government and others in promoting further revolutionary activities in other countries. Dr. Fidel Castro in fact said as much in a private conversation with two representatives of the New York Times in July when he also freely admitted his support of earlier ventures. As a result, tensions in the Caribbean have relaxed considerably and the Cuban Government, anxious to divert attention from its past sins, has done everything in its power to create the impression that there are no tensions in the Caribbean area requiring the consideration of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers. For this reason it is necessary to remind the Foreign Ministers of the situation that has actually existed and of the necessity for taking some effective measures to prevent its resurgence.

Nonintervention and Nonaggression

A strong expression by the Foreign Ministers of the adherence of the American Republics to the principles of nonintervention and nonaggression is one of the important steps which the Santiago meeting can take. The declaration should, particularly in its preamble, have some reference to the current situation not only in the Caribbean but in the Latin American area as a whole in order to give the document an element of timeliness.

It is quite possible that those governments which are particularly keen on stressing the subject of democracy and human rights will wish to have the expressions on nonintervention coupled with a declaration on the subject of democracy. If a proper balance between these two elements is maintained, there would be no objection to combining both subjects in one document which might then be called “Declaration of Santiago”. A rough draft suggesting how this might be done is being prepared as a basis of negotiation and development.

Some more concrete action by the Foreign Ministers seems however essential in order to give more meaning to the declaration in regard to nonintervention and nonaggression. In view of the present relatively quiet situation in the Caribbean and the susceptibility of individual governments, it would not seem desirable to attempt to establish a “watch-dog” committee as such. However, the establishment of some committee should in fact, perhaps by its very existence, have a calming effect on the area and would seem to be useful. With this in mind, it is thought that the Meeting of Foreign Ministers might request the Council of the OAS to organize such a committee of the Caribbean, the life of which would extend only until the Quito Conference. The committee would be asked to study the causes of the situation which has created tensions in the Caribbean area and report thereon to the Quito Conference. It would also have the power of assisting governments of the Caribbean area in the solution of any [Page 317]controversy or problem that might arise between them with respect to activities alleged to violate the principles of nonintervention or nonaggression.

It is probable that the champions of democracy will urge that this committee be given the authority to investigate the charges of violation of human rights and suppression of democratic rule. If pressure for this develops, the United States should adopt an attitude such as that set forth in the position paper on item II of the agenda and help work out a formula which will command a large majority in its support.

Another alternative to the establishment of the above mentioned committee would be the creation of a committee, not limited to the Caribbean area, which would have only the function of helping governments resolve controversies with respect to nonintervention or nonaggression that might arise between the time of the Santiago meeting and the Quito Conference. Such a proposal might be made by some countries of the Caribbean area which would prefer not to have their region stigmatized by the creation of such a committee to look into their problems. This alternative is, however, distinctly less desirable than the former: it would on the one hand be less closely related to the purpose for which the Meeting of Foreign Ministers was called; it would also raise the question of what other disputes might be in the minds of Foreign Ministers in establishing such a group and thereby raise the specter of such long-standing and classical controversies as the Ecuador-Peru boundary dispute, the Bolivian desire for a seaport, etc.

Review of Inter-American Peace Procedures

There is considerable room for negotiation in regard to the conduct of a study of inter-American peace procedures with a view to making recommendations to the Quito Conference regarding improvements therein. As indicated above, the weakness of the Inter-American Peace Committee on the one hand, and the absence of any intermediate machinery on the other, has made it necessary for American States, particularly in the Caribbean area, to allow conflicts to develop to the point of an actual or threatened armed attack justifying the invocation of the Rio Treaty. In the cases of Panama, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, it was felt by many of the American governments that the Rio Treaty was being used for purposes for which it was never intended. The objective of the Rio Treaty is the protection of the territorial integrity and political independence of the American States primarily from attacks by other states. It was never conceived of as an instrument for the protection of governments against revolutionary movements as such. However, if governments are not to call upon the Rio Treaty in times of conflict such as that which has existed in the [Page 318]Caribbean, some other means of facing these problems must be devised. This is the objective of the study which should be recommended by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, presumably to be carried out by the Council of the OAS.

A major opportunity for achieving this objective is through a revision of the statutes of the Inter-American Peace Committee in order to restore to it some of the initiative which it had originally set up at the Second Meeting of Foreign Ministers at Habana in 1940. However, there may be other alternatives which should be considered in this connection and the Council should not be limited to a review of the statutes of the Inter-American Peace Committee. It is believed that the best approach to this problem would be to have the Meeting of Foreign Ministers adopt a resolution requesting the Council of the OAS to make this study with a view to achieving certain basic objectives which might be stated as follows:

To provide for the establishment within the OAS of a committee or other organ which would have the authority: 1) to offer its collaboration to any American States between which a controversy developed which they had been unable to settle through peaceful procedures; 2) to investigate, with the agreement of the governments directly concerned, charges of activities in one State directed at fomenting civil strife in another; and 3) to recommend to States measures or procedures which might serve to resolve such controversies, and otherwise assist the States directly concerned in reaching a solution.

Any final action by the COAS to establish such a committee or other organ should be taken by the Quito Conference, in order to ensure thorough study by the Council of the OAS, including the preparation of a draft agreement for the consideration of the Conference.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1418. Confidential.
  2. These statutes were approved by the OAS Council, May 9, 1956; for text, see Annals of the Organization of American States, vol. VIII, no. 3, 1956, p. 194.