110. Despatch From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State 1

No. 90

REF

  • A–l, July 2, 19582 and Embassy Despatch No. 68 dated 7/18/583

SUBJECT

  • Increase of Communist Influence in Cuba

I have had a résumé made of the strength of the Communist Party in Cuba and am enclosing comments from the Attaché entitled “Strength of Cuban Communist Party”, dated July 9, 1958, and one dated July 24, 1958; memorandum from Legal Attaché “Partido Socialista Popular”, dated July 18, 1958; memorandum on “Communism in Cuba”, prepared by “Diario de la Marina” (oldest newspaper in Cuba—126 years).4

On July 10, 1958, President Fulgencio Batista told me personally he estimated the strength of the Communist Party in Cuba as being in excess of 100,000. When I asked if he recalled making a statement to an American newsman, in February 1957, that there were approximately 6,000 sympathizers, the President stated that he did not remember giving such a low figure. However, he did believe that the fellow-travelers numbered less than 10,000.

At a private luncheon at the Embassy Residence, on June 18, 1958, Eusebio Mujal (Secretary General of the Cuban Confederation of Workers) made the following comments concerning Communism in Cuba (Embassy Despatch No. 10725): (a) that a conservative estimate of the number of Communists in Cuba was in excess of 50,000 card carrying members, with an additional 100,000 sympathizers; (b) that there were between 25,000 and 30,000 Communists in the organized labor movement; (c) out of 1,833 unions in the country, the Communists control around 30.

It will be noted that the estimates given by Mujal and President Batista correspond very closely with the Communist strength shown in recent elections. In 1948 the PSP obtained 56,000 registrations prior to elections, and obtained 151,000 votes in the elections. In the preparation for the 1952 elections, the PSP obtained 60,000 registrations. The elections were not held, but on the basis of the ratio between registration and votes as shown in previous elections, the Party would [Page 161] have polled around 160,000 votes (based on 60,000 registrations). It should be remembered that Mujal is a self-confessed former Communist, with long experience in the field of organized labor, and has been in almost daily contact with both open and crypto Communists for many years. Eusebio Mujal and Fulgencio Batista are two persons better qualified than any one to speak on the approximate strength of the PSP.

Opposition Presidential candidate Dr. Marquez Sterling, at lunch at the American Embassy Residence, on the 27th of June, stated that the Communist Party in Cuba exceeds 120,000 (Embtel 8746) and that the Communists are in league with the 26th of July Movement.

The recent kidnappings have brought to light the Communist influence and penetration in the Raul Castro group. The Communists and the 26th of July Movement have the same prime objective—the overthrow of Batista.

Because the Communists in Cuba are underground their leaders are not known, but their leaders are intelligent men of action. The Communists continue to publish “Carta Semanal”, “Mensajes” and “Respuestas”. Carta Semanal, the leading Communist weekly newspaper, has openly endorsed and is openly supporting the objectives and actions of the 26th of July Movement.

In my opinion, the present estimated Communist strength in Cuba (approximately 12,000 card-carrying members, supported by 25,000 sympathizers) should be revised upwards. However, the strength of the Communist Party in Cuba is not reflected in their numbers but in their organization. The Communists are a well-organized and dedicated group. They are prepared to be effective as the occasion arises.

This report was instigated before we received A–l, of July 2, 1958. In response to Department’s request, contained in the reference instruction, a special study of the situation and its potentials is in preparation.7

Earl E.T. Smith
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/7–2458. Confidential. Drafted by Smith.
  2. Document 77.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 103.
  4. None printed.
  5. Dated June 24. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/6–2458)
  6. Dated June 28. (ibid., 737.00/6–2858)
  7. In telegram 139 from Havana, July 24, the Embassy asked the Embassies in Caracas and Mexico City for certain information to complete the study: (a) on the organization, composition, and strength of Cuban exile groups in each country, and (b) on the means and degree of support provided by the exiles to the rebel movement in Cuba. (ibid., 737.00/7–2458) This request, in which the Department concurred, was sent by the Department in telegram 175 to Mexico City (sent also as telegram 63 to Caracas), July 25. (ibid., 737.00/7–2558) In telegram 263 from Mexico City, July 30, the Embassy provided information on three rebel groups in Mexico, indicating that it had no proof that any were dominated by Communists. The Embassy pointed out, however, that it was known that the Soviet Union had directed “all Communist parties in area to support anti-Batista activities of Cubans.” (ibid., 737.00/7–3058) No response by the Embassy in Caracas has been found.