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

833. Presence of US military missions has come under increasing attack within past few days. Castro himself said, in press conference with American correspondents a few days ago, that while new Cuban Government did not intend to request recall of the missions, it would be “courtesy” for US to withdraw them. On January 14 in answering questions at a meeting of Lions Club, he said he felt missions should “pack up and leave” and, according to press reports, stated that military missions “might be spying”.

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Statement proposed in Embtel 8302 if released to press should result in some lessening of pressure on missions, but Embassy has slight hope they can be retained, at least in present form. Missions and Embassy had felt it preferable to defer tackling issue at government level or with Castro until emotions had somewhat subsided, but Castro’s increasing attention to subject may force our hand. If this occurs, Embassy should have authority to discuss subject fully. Line it would propose to take, subject to Department and DOD approval, would be:

Missions have done nothing to warrant their recall. Go into origin, functions, actions, etc.
Missions are needed. Go into organization of new cuban armed forces, access to US equipment and training, hemispheric defense.

Although Castro publicly has made no distinction between the three missions, Naval mission Chief has informed Embassy that Castro has allegedly informed Cuban Navy that US Naval Mission may remain provided it moves out of Estado Major. Mission Chief will meet with Chief of Staff, Cuban Navy this afternoon on this matter. This information extremely sensitive at this point. Will report developments. While Embassy believes every effort should be made to retain all three missions, it considers that even one is better than none.

Request instructions.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.58/1–1559. Secret; Priority.
  2. In telegram 830, January 14, the Embassy transmitted the text of a statement it suggested that the Department release in order to counter a charge made by newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan that the U.S. military missions had assisted the Cuban Air Force under Batista in its bombing attacks against the Cuban rebels. The Embassy suggested that the statement be general, so that it could also reply to criticisms raised in other quarters, such as Bohemia magazine, “without dignifying any of them with individual attention.” (ibid., 611.37/1–1459) On January 15, the Department released a statement virtually the same as the one suggested by the Embassy. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, February 2, 1959, pp. 162–163.