192. Editorial Note

On December 15, the Consul at Santiago de Cuba, Park Wollam, reported to the Department that Jorge Bez Chabebe, a priest on the staff of the Archbishop of Santiago, had suggested that the United States could establish a better relationship with the 26th of July Movement by sending a secret emissary to deal directly with Fidel Castro. The priest had implied that the emissary would be well-received. [Page 312] Wollam observed that the suggestion might simply be an effort on the part of the 26th of July Movement to obtain informal U.S. recognition which could then be exploited. Wollam also remarked that the Cuban Army had been steadily losing ground and he did not see any way that it could regain control of the situation. Under the circumstances, Wollam inquired whether the United States should not make some gesture to improve relations with the 26th of July Movement and to obtain better information. He acknowledged that if the United States did so, it might be a tacit admission that the rebels were winning. (Telegram 37 from Santiago de Cuba, December 15; Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/12–1558; and despatch 65 from Santiago de Cuba, December 16; ibid., 737.00/12–1658)

The Department did not respond until December 29. It indicated that, through the priest, Wollam might be able to state clearly the U.S. Government’s views on the internal situation in Cuba without compromising the official statement that the United States had no intention of entering into negotiations or discussions with the Castro forces. The Department did want to convey to Castro the “uncompromising nonintervention policy” which it felt Castro had never appreciated. Wollam was instructed to meet with Bez Chabebe and impress him with the impartiality of the United States, except in the matter of Communism. Wollam was to make known that the U.S. Government had received many reports of Communist influence in the 26th of July Movement, but that it had made no judgment that the reports were true. Wollam was to stress, however, that the reports were of concern “as world experience has shown the Communists to be adept at infiltrating revolutionary movements and in masking behind the spirit of nationalism.” (Circular Airgram 5512 to Havana and Santiago de Cuba, December 29; ibid., 737.00/12–2958)

Regarding the reasons why Wollam did not make the approach to Bez Chabebe as instructed, see Document 234.