131. Telegram From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State1
304. On September 20 I had two hour exchange of views with President Batista. Guell present. To avoid any publicity we met as usual at his country place (Kuquine). The conversation was comprehensive, frank, cordial, and friendly.
Batista’s opinion regarding elections:
- Honest elections will be held November 3.
- A total of 60 percent of electorate will vote.
- Rivero Aguero will win because of organizational strength of the four Government coalition parties.
- Regrets that revolutionaries have forced him give his people elections under suspension of guarantees.
(I did not bring up subject of constitutional guarantees because Guell had previously informed me2 elections would be held under suspensions of guarantees.)
Regarding the rebel column, in Camaguey, under “Che” Guevara, who were attempting establish new rebel front in Las Villas province:
- There were two columns totaling approximately 230 men.
- “Che” Guevara and followers have been defeated.
- They were disbanded into small groups of five, six and seven in a group.
- Army seized weapons and many paper records of “Che” Guevara.
- These papers called on revolutionary youth movement to turn over propaganda campaign to PSP (Cuban Communist Party).
- The seized papers prove Communist ties with 26 July movement, and he will furnish me photostatic copies.3
Regarding post elections:
- I asked Batista if he would remain in Cuba after new President elect assumed office. He replied he would remain in Cuba and hoped to lead retired life. Yet, if needed, would be available. Batista stated that he would remain loyal to his supporters and would not go to any Embassy to seek asylum but would die fighting, if necessary. He will not desert his followers, the people of his country, and permit Cuba to be turned into a holocaust.
- No President elect can survive in Cuba without support of army. The rebels distrust each other. If Castro were to gain power, Prio knows that his large investments and holdings in Cuba would be confiscated.
Regarding world conditions, Batista said the following:
- Khrushchev is a snake who is out to destroy US and Western powers.
- In the Soviets US and GOC have a common enemy.
- The pattern of Communist influence and penetration is the same worldwide, including Latin America. Many countries in Latin America are being infiltrated with Communism. (At this point Batista reviewed the Communist influence in numerous LA countries.)
- In Cuba Communists are using revolutionaries to further their own aims, to inflame the opposition and undermine GOC by breeding more and more hatred and violence.
(A) He made strong plea for continuation of shipment of arms. I told him that present policy of US was not to ship combat arms while active hostilities in Cuba were in progress.
I told him Secretary Dulles was most appreciative of the support we received from Nunez Portuondo. Yet the shipment of combat arms would make US vulnerable to accusation that we were attempting perpetuate the present regime.
Batista asked about T–28 trainers and pointed out it was in the best interest of US that these boys receive their preliminary training before entering US schools to prove their qualification.
I said I had telegraphed the Department urging their delivery and had assured Department that Batista stated the T–28s would be used only as trainers (Embtel 2764). I told him as yet I had received no reply from Department.
His reply was “we are your friends” and smilingly suggested the US worry more about Khrushchev and Peiping and less about Castro.
I mentioned tax on coffee of $4 by the rebels and one dollar for the army in Oriente, and informed the President the rebels had approached American corporations for tribute.5 He said he had notified the Sugar Institute he would double taxation on any corporation that paid tribute. He said he would not permit companies to donate monies to rebels to be used to kill GOC soldiers sent to protect these same companies.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/9–2258. Secret; Priority.↩
- The date that Guell so informed Smith has not been determined.↩
- In telegram 313 from Havana, September 23, Smith said the Embassy had obtained the photostatic copies of the documents seized from Ché Guevara’s forces. Smith said that although it was not possible to confirm that all the documents were in fact taken from Guevara, the Embassy believed the papers were “authentic Communist documents.” Two of the papers were unrelated to communism, but were identifiable with the 26th of July Movement. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/9–2358)↩
- Document 129.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 137.↩