166. Editorial Note

At the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting held at 9:15 a.m. on November 28, the question of the water supply for Guantanamo was discussed. According to the notes on the meeting,

“Mr. Snow said that the Castro Rebels were interfering with the water supply for Guantanamo. He said that the Commander at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo wanted to send Marines to protect the pumping station and the pipeline and that we may have to accede to the request although he thought it would be bad propaganda. The Secretary asked Mr. Snow about the Cuban economic situation which Mr. Snow described as ‘deteriorating’. The Secretary asked Mr. Murphy to look into the general situation in Cuba with Mr. Snow and subsequently with Mr. Rubottom with a view to recommending what action, if any, the US might take.” (Department of State, Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 63 D 75, November 1958)

On November 29, Ambassador Smith reported to the Department that President Batista wanted to send a company of Cuban naval forces within the next week to defend the Yateras aquaduct. Batista had four requests: (A) permission to have the troops land at Guantanamo, (B) that they be “guided to Yateras,” (C) that they be supplied with food from the base, and (D) that they be furnished U.S. radio communication equipment for installation at Yateras. Smith observed that the first three points “definitely involve complications unless US is finally prepared to support recognized GOC.” Smith, however, urged the Department to approve the Cuban Government’s purchase of the radio equipment. (Telegram 564 from Havana, November 29; ibid., Central Files, 711.56337/11–2958)

Also on November 29, the Department released a statement regarding the situation at Guantanamo. The statement referred to the various incidents that had occurred at the base during the year, focusing on those which had occurred in late November. The statement concluded: “The United States Government has been exercising patience and forebearance while making it known in the affected area as well as to the Cuban Government the gravity with wish it views the events of the past week. The United States Government expects that these irresponsible acts will stop and will not be repeated.” (Telegram 308 to Havana, November 29; ibid.)

The Department explained to the Embassy in Havana, which did not have an opportunity to clear the statement, that its purpose was to lay the groundwork for a subsequent dispatch of the Marines if that proved necessary. The Department anticipated that orders for such a move would be issued if there was another stoppage of the water supply, but emphasized that the Marines were not to be sent until the Department of State authorized the move. Smith was instructed to seek from the Cuban Government a clear agreement that the Marines [Page 274] could assume the defense of the aquaduct if that proved necessary, irrespective of the timing or manner of Cuban troops resuming that responsibility at a later date. (Telegram 307 to Havana, November 29; ibid.)