128. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, September 4, 19581


  • Activities in U.S. of Cuban exiles; Cuban Political Situation; Pending export licenses for military equipment for Cuba


  • ARA—Mr. Rubottom
  • MID—Mr. Gutierrez
  • Dr. Nicolas Arroyo, Cuban Ambassador

Ambassador Arroyo called on Mr. Rubottom by appointment at 4 p.m. today. The Ambassador brought up the incident of Mr. William Hormel, saying that while Hormel had admitted to a Time correspondent in Habana that he had made at least 28 flights from Florida to Cuba carrying arms for the rebels an article appearing in Time magazine for September 8 (which the Ambassador showed Mr. Rubottom) indicates that upon being arrested in Miami Hormel claimed that he was not on the Aero Commander plane that crash-landed in the water within the confines of the base on August 16. The Ambassador added [Page 204] that since Hormel’s passport was found in the plane wreckage he will have a hard time proving that he was not on the plane when it crash-landed. Mr. Rubottom explained that the U.S. Government takes its responsibilities seriously in trying to prevent illegal departures from our shores to Cuba; that just this morning Mr. Snow had a meeting here in the Department on the subject,2 that efforts are being made to prevent such illegal activities and that some reports of planned expeditions which the Department has received have been passed on to the Minister of State by our Embassy in Habana.

The Ambassador then mentioned that a Cuban pilot by the name of Guillermo Verdaguer, who was on the plane with Hormel and whose name had been brought to the attention of the Department by his Embassy a few months ago, had been issued an identification pass by the Guantanamo Base authorities which permitted him to leave the base under an assumed name. He added that this information had been given to our Embassy in Habana by the Minister of State. With respect to the information that the Cuban Embassy had given the Department regarding Verdaguer’s activities in Miami, Mr. Gutierrez informed the Ambassador that the data had been given to our investigative authorities by the Department and that as of July 14, 1958 Verdaguer was in jail in Miami under custody of the immigration service; that we do not have information as to the circumstances of his release. As for the pass given by the base authorities to Verdaguer, Mr. Gutierrez explained that at the request of a construction company, the personnel of which are Cuban, the base authorities issued a pass to the man under the name of Vazquez; that the base authorities were acting in good faith and that the circumstances of the issuance of the pass were mentioned to Minister Guell by our Chargé in Habana. Dr. Arroyo said that he was pleased that the data were given to the Minister of State, but that whoever issued the pass to Verdaguer at the base must have responsibility for it as precautions must be taken by the base authorities to prevent such occurrences, especially in the light of existing political conditions in Cuba. Mr. Gutierrez replied that the base is taking appropriate action against those in the construction company that requested the pass fraudulently and that the base authorities are taking steps to prevent this sort of thing.

The Ambassador then mentioned the statement of President Eisenhower, announced in the press today,3 that the U.S. Government [Page 205] looks with favor upon the progress being made in Venezuela toward attaining a democratic form of government through the electoral process. He added that a similar statement with reference to Cuba would be most beneficial at a time when the Cuban Government is making efforts to have elections; that Cuban revolutionary groups would take note of such a statement on the part of the U.S. Government. Mr. Rubottom said that the Ambassador is, of course, aware that we are especially careful to avoid any actions that might be interpreted as intervention in the internal affairs of other countries but that he would consider the Ambassador’s suggestion. Mr. Rubottom asked the Ambassador whether the Cuban Government has taken any steps toward inviting foreign observers to Cuba for the elections. The Ambassador replied that his Government has announced that it is willing to invite such observers if the opposition parties request it; that no such request has been made. He added that the fact that political opposition groups in Cuba have been holding political meetings is an indication that his Government plans to conduct proper elections. He mentioned that his Government has had to take extraordinary measures, such as the suspension of constitutional guarantees, to meet the extraordinary conditions created by those advocating the overthrow of his Government by force. He said that if such groups want Batista out they should go to the polls; that his Government has scheduled elections when due according to the constitution; that at one time it even advanced the date of the elections as a concession to revolutionary groups but that it was later forced to re-schedule them for November 3.

Mr. Rubottom asked whether the Cuban representation at the UN has taken opinions from other Latin American Governments with respect to the present Cuban Government, that Mr. Rubottom has recently visited 15 or 16 countries in this hemisphere and has found that the majority of the rank and file in those countries criticize the United States for its alleged support of Batista. Ambassador Arroyo asked what support they might be referring to and Mr. Rubottom said that that is what we would like to know. The Ambassador said it would be a good idea to try to eliminate these misconceptions. Mr. Rubottom said we are trying to do just that.

Dr. Arroyo said that he felt that most Governments in Latin America feel that the United States is against the Cuban Government. Mr. Rubottom said the he disagrees with this as we are generally criticized for alleged support of the Cuban Government.

Mr. Rubottom then mentioned that the lack of publicity in the United States favorable to the Cuban Government has hurt that Government and in turn it has also hurt the U.S. Government. The Ambassador said that this was true; that in recent months the Cuban Government has done more in this respect; that not long ago Mr O’Rourke [Page 206] had an editorial in the Washington Daily News against Fidel Castro. Mr. Rubottom said that he had not seen it but that Mr. Gutierrez would get it for him.

Ambassador Arroyo then said that there is no reason for revolution to exist in Cuba; that it is occurring only due to outside help and influences; that revolutions occur due to poor economies, social or political conditions and that Cuba has virtually the best economic situation of all the Latin American countries; that social conditions are not such as to bring on revolution and that elections are scheduled as due. He said that he does not agree that it is entirely a Cuban problem and that he hates to think of what might happen if the Communists were given the opportunity they are seeking there. He referred to the situation in Lebanon as presenting an analogous situation with Cuba and that the U.S. Government has taken a different stand there. Mr. Rubottom agreed that there are probably some outside influences in Cuba.

Dr. Arroyo on leaving asked whether any action has been taken on the pending export license applications for military equipment requested by his Government. Mr. Rubottom replied that they are still being considered and that a decision will probably be made soon. In reply to his inquiry, Mr. Gutierrez told Dr. Arroyo that the Department will send a reply to his Embassy’s note of August 27, 1958.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/9–458. Confidential. Drafted by Gutierrez and initialed by Rubottom.
  2. A memorandum of this conversation is ibid., CCA Files: Lot 70 D 149, Ambassador Arroyo.
  3. Apparently a reference to the President’s remarks to the new Venezuelan Ambassador upon the presentation of his credentials on August 14. The text was released in Department of State Press Release No. 466. The President’s statement was quoted in The New York Times, August 17, 1958, p. 19. The press account to which Ambassador Arroyo is referring has not been identified.
  4. The Cuban Embassy’s note protested the activities in the United States of anti-Batista émigrés, particularly the flight from Florida to Cuba on August 16 of a plane piloted by American citizen, William Hormel, carrying arms to the Cuban rebels. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/8–2758) The plane made a forced landing near the Guantanamo Naval Base, and Hormel was taken into custody by the U.S. authorities there. A memorandum of a conversation, August 19, between Hormel and William Bowdler of the Embassy in Havana was sent to the Department as an enclosure to despatch 180, August 22. (ibid., 737.00/8–2258)