226. Memorandum From the Chief of the Division of Research and Analysis for American Republics (Wardlaw) to the Director of Intelligence and Research (Cumming)1


  • Recent Estimative Work on Cuba

The USIB on November 24, 1958, approved SNIE 85–58 entitled “The Situation in Cuba”.2 This document was prepared in the normal manner, having been drafted in the CIA, discussed by representatives of the working levels of various intelligence agencies, and finally approved by the USIB. The document was a good survey of the situation and outlook at the time, although in the light of subsequent events it has proved at fault in stating that it was unlikely that Castro would be able to overthrow the Batista regime within the next few months. This estimate was made at a time when it was evident that Castro’s strength was increasing and that the Batista Government was finding it increasingly difficult to retain power, but also at a time when the situation in Cuba appeared to be essentially the same as it had been for several months.

The Supplement to SNIE 85–58, dated December 16, 1958,3 was prepared by the CIA and approved by the USIB without prior submission to the lower levels of the intelligence agencies. The document was basically sound in that it recognized that the Castro forces were gaining strength, that the position of the Cuban Government was deteriorating [Page 363]rapidly, and that neither Batista nor the President-elect, Rivero Aguero, were taking steps to avert a crisis. The Supplement was inadequate in the following regards:

It emphasized that a period of great and prolonged disorder in Cuba would follow the assumption of power by the Castro forces. Such a period of disorder may yet occur, but does not seem to be now developing.
It attached too much weight to the possibility that the Cuban Army would oust Batista and establish a military junta.
While recognizing that any Cuban Army attempting to suppress Castro would need large amounts of military equipment and supplies, it did not mention that the Cuban Army’s greatest deficiency was its lack of will to fight. DRA believes that this latter deficiency was the primary cause for the downfall of Batista.
The Supplement cites the removal of Batista from power as an example of a drastic action which would stem the momentum of the Castro operation. Actually, when Batista fled, the momentum of the Castro operation increased.

I believe that the shortcomings of the Supplement were primarily the result of the way in which it was prepared and approved. Had it been handled in the normal manner on the working levels of the intelligence agencies before submission to the USIB, a better thought-out paper would undoubtedly have resulted. That most of the shortcomings of the paper were evident at the time to persons in DRA working closely with Cuba is shown by my memorandum to you of December 19, 1958, regarding the Supplement. A copy of this memorandum is attached.4

It is possible that had we received additional information over the last six months on the amount of military equipment Castro was receiving from the United States, we might have had a somewhat different appreciation of his strength. We still do not have anything conclusive on this point and our impression remains that the bulk of Castro’s equipment was obtained through capture or purchase from Cuban soldiers. We have received no INS or Customs Service reports on their activities against arms smuggling to Castro. We did receive some FBI reports on this subject but not all that the FBI prepared. Between September 1 and December 16, the date the Supplement was approved, only 43 of the 196 FBI reports sent the Cuban desk in ARA were routed to DRA. The FBI reports received in DRA did not reflect a large traffic in arms from the United States to the Castro forces.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR Files: Lot 58 D 776, Cuban Situation 1957–1959. Secret. Drafted by Wardlaw.
  2. Document 161.
  3. Document 182.
  4. Not found.