118. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, August 1, 1958, 2 p.m.1
- Protection of Guantanamo Naval Base Water System
- Dr. Miro Cardona, President, Cuban Bar Association (exile)
- Dr. Carlos Piad
- MID—Mr. Stewart, Mr. Leonhardy
Dr. Miro Cardona, who was the prime motivator behind the “Caracas Pact” recently signed by Cuban revolutionary opposition groups, visited Mr. Stewart’s office by appointment to discuss the matter of the presence of U.S. Marines guarding the water plant and pipe lines outside of the Guantanamo Naval Base.
Mr. Stewart began the conversation by stating to Dr. Miro Cardona that the matter of the use of our Marines to guard the water plant and pipe lines has been under careful study by high officials of the Department ever since the step was taken early on the morning of July 28. He added that the Department had announced on July 30,2 that this was a temporary measure and that now that the matter had been studied by high authorities of our Government, he thought a decision was about to be made to withdraw the Marines from the area and return them to the Base.
Dr. Miro Cardona showed Messrs. Stewart and Leonhardy a press statement he issued on behalf of the new opposition unity movement, the Frente Civico Revolucionario, announcing in effect that the use of the Marines had been brought about by the Batista Government which was not able to give the desired protection in the area and that the FCR hoped that steps would soon be taken to remove them from Cuban sovereignty. Dr. Cardona explained that being a lawyer, he was a firm believer in working out such problems as this in a conciliatory manner and that the FCR in accord with his suggestion was delivering a petition to the Secretary3 through our Ambassador in Caracas making a “unilateral” appeal for a satisfactory solution. A summary of this appeal which had been sent to Dr. Miro Cardona from Caracas by cable was read by Mr. Stewart who politely informed him that he could not accept it officially as it might complicate our relations with the GOC. Dr. Miro Cardona said he understood perfectly. By way of explanation Dr. Cardona pointed out that the appeal was a unilateral [Page 182] declaration calling for the establishment of a neutral zone in the area of the water plant. Further, the statement said that the U.S. Government had recourse to the OAS to call for a solution of the situation in which the U.S. found itself in view of the fact that the Cuban Government could not provide the necessary protection within its sovereignty. Mr. Stewart did not comment on the declaration other than to reiterate that he expected that a decision to pull out the Marines had almost been decided upon and that it remained to be seen whether the area would be left unmolested. Dr. Miro Cardona said that he had the authority to state to the Department that there would be no effort by the rebels to disrupt the supply of water to the Base. He added that he had to intention of informing the press of his discussions with Mr. Stewart, that they would be kept completely confidential and that the FCR had no intention of using the withdrawal of our Marines from the area as a propaganda weapon. He said that he understood why the Admiral had to take the step he did resulting from the withdrawal of the troops in the area but that the continuance of the Marines there would only work to the advantage of the Batista Government and to the disadvantage of the U.S. Government and the revolutionary opposition to Batista.
During the course of the conversation, Dr. Miro Cardona referred to the very difficult task he had had in inducing the various revolutionary opposition elements to unify. The kidnapping of the Americans in Cuba delayed the unification and he purposely held off signing of the Pact until the last American was returned. He emphasized that the last statement was “off the record” but that if the dates were checked the statement would be found to be true.
Mr. Leonhardy briefly mentioned to Dr. Miro Cardona before his departure the difficult situation the U.S. Government was encountering in continuing normal operations at Nicaro because of rebel incursions. He replied that he appreciated having this information and would try to exert his influence to reduce the difficulties but cautioned that this was a strife torn area where matters sometimes became uncontrollable.