174. Telegram From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State1

596. Bring immediate attention Ambassador Smith. Yesterday morning Guell outlined to Senator Ellender2 his views on situation. Memo of conversation follows but reveals nothing new except admission by Guell that there was ground for questioning honesty of elections for some of the offices below Presidency and Vice Presidency.

Last night I asked Guell whether, in referring to Rivero Aguero’s intention to bring representatives of political opposition into new government, he included responsible elements now supporting Castro such as civic organs. He said, yes provided they were willing to negotiate. I said that while authoritative US views on such matters must await return of Ambassador, it seemed to me personally as very important that government win back these elements.

Guell said that to consolidate new government and especially to retain support of military forces and police, it was indispensable that Batista remain in active role “for three to six months” after new administration takes over. He said without Batista, even if there should be a military junta, there would be a break-down of internal order accompanied by much bloodshed. Castro would then come into Habana “hailed by populace as victor since nothing succeeds like success”. He again spoke of US support, including renewed arms shipments, as also essential to success of Rivero Aguero.

I mentioned there appeared to be a basic difficulty here: Batista was the bone of contention and as long as he remained in position of power it seemed unlikely that responsible elements now adhering to 26 July could be won over to Rivero Aguero. I said I did not know what decisions would be made re US arms policy but it seemed to me that as long as Cuban people were so greatly divided and government was opposed by some of major responsible groups, it would be hard [Page 283] for us to assist GOC with arms without departing from its non-intervention policy. Guell recognized dilemma but suggested no solution other than to say Rivero Aguero was ready to negotiate with opposition starting now. I mentioned as one possibility worth exploring that any possible active support of Rivero Aguero by us begin simultaneously with departure of Batista from scene, but emphasized again I was only expressing a personal thought and not speaking for US.

Guell recognized that Cuban problem presented difficulties for us but felt that if we could regard it as simply two alternatives, Rivero Aguero or Castro, we must decide in favor of former.

I told Guell our information indicated situation was becoming serious and inquired whether in his opinion present administration could last out until February 24. He replied affirmatively, but said he would welcome any information we could contribute on situation.

Guell appeared to welcome this informal interchange. He said views he expressed were also personal and that they were perhaps colored or blurred by fact he was “loyal Batista man” but that he always tried to keep Cuba’s interests foremost.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/12–1158. Confidential; Niact. A note on the source text indicates that Smith read the telegram at 3:20 p.m. on December 11.
  2. Regarding Senator Ellender’s visit to Cuba, see Document 177.