172. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Missions in the American Republics1

751. Ref: Department’s CA–9724 May 7.2 In the period since referenced information statement was circulated internal situation in Cuba has further deteriorated. Castro forces now have effective control of most areas of Oriente Province with exception cities and armed rebels are active in limited areas Camaguey and Las Villas Provinces. As result this control exercised by rebels they have effectively hampered or severed transportation and communications in eastern half island, one consequence of which is growing shortage food and other essential commodities in urban areas this part of Cuba. While Cuban people are ones who have suffered most in spreading civil disturbances, US interests in Cuba have also suffered considerably. US citizens were kidnapped on two occasions by rebels, once at end of June and again in early November, and depredations against private property in Oriente Province by both sides, principally by rebels, have resulted in losses valued conservatively at more than $2.5 million so far during calendar year 1958. Planes in international flights have been pirated with accompanying fatalities and other casualties. More than 20,000 Cuban exiles in American republics create additional problems for hemisphere countries.

Water supply for Guantanamo Naval Base threatened on two occasions, most recently during November when rebel forces cut off water for three short periods. In view essential nature of water supply to operation Guantanamo Naval Base, last week Department obliged again consider stationing Marines protect this facility as was done for five-day period in July. On November 29 Department issued background [Page 280] statement3 concerning Base and threat to its water supply which was intended to warn rebels against shutting off water in future. Recently rebels have also cut off water from [for] United Fruit Company’s installation at Preston on northern coast Oriente Province. In view threat to its water and food supplies at Preston, United Fruit Company considering possibility evacuating its people. Dependents of American employees US Government’s nickel processing plant at Nicaro were evacuated in late October and company’s mines located 10 miles from plant were bombed recently, reportedly by Cuban Government aircraft.

Meanwhile Cubans went through motions of national election on November 3, 1958 and Government candidate Andres Rivero Aguero was declared winner in presidential race. President Batista’s term of office is scheduled terminate February 24, 1959 but it is not yet known if Rivero will be able or willing take basic conciliatory measures necessary to get broad support required to end internal strife.

US Government has watched deteriorating situation in Cuba with increasing concern but has been mindful of its obligations to maintain policy of non-intervention. While US intends to adhere to this policy in future, consideration being given to what can be done within limits of this policy to assist Cuban Government and people to bring their internal disturbances to an end. Greater tranquility would of course also mean that US property and US citizens in Cuba would not be subject to dangers to which open in present situation. A major consideration in making any evaluation of Cuban problem with view to possible future actions of US Government is attitude and reaction in other countries of hemisphere respecting Cuban problem. To assist in this evaluation Embassy requested seek out informally views of leading members of Government to which you are accredited, asking for any comments they care make on current situation in Cuba, on attitudes toward opposing groups in conflict, and their prognosis for future. Views should especially be sought whether in light US non-intervention policy there is any feeling of hemispheric responsiblity in dealing with deteriorating Cuban situation which has created humanitarian problems and international complications. These views should be reported Department soon as possible along with summary of recent press comment on situation in Cuba. If asked what action US might take in future with respect this situation, including possible use [Page 281] of Marines to guard Guantanamo Base water supply, it should be stated that you have no information on this point.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 511.00/12–858. Confidential. Drafted by Little, cleared with Wieland and in draft with Ambassador Smith and Reed (RPA), and approved by Wieland who signed for Herter. Sent to all diplomatic missions in the American Republics except Cuba. Pouched to Havana.
  2. This circular airgram, sent to posts in the American Republics, included a Policy Information Statement (ARA–293) entitled “United States Position Regarding Present Cuban Situation.” (ibid., 511.00/5–758)
  3. See Document 166.
  4. Telegraphic responses from the various Embassies in the American Republics are in Department of State, Central File 737.00. For the response of the Embassy in the Dominican Republic reporting the views of Generalissimo Trujillo, see Document 180. A memorandum, dated December 30 and drafted by Reed and Redington, which summarized the various responses, is in Department of State, ARA Deputy Assistant Secretary Files: Lot 61 D 411, Cuba 1958. For a brief summary, see Document 201.