233. Despatch From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State1
- New Cuban Cabinet; Individual Affiliations and Backgrounds; Groups Represented
For the assistance and guidance of the Department, there follows a listing of the members of the Cabinet (Council of Ministers) of the Revolutionary Government, with brief indications of their party or group affiliations and general reputation and background. The names are capitalized in accordance with individual usage.
Prime Minister: José Miro Cardona. One of the country’s most respected lawyers, noted for honesty and sincerity. President of the Habana Bar Association. Non-political. He was the principal assistant of Cosmé De la Torriente, Cuba’s elder statesman, in the latter’s efforts to work out a peaceful settlement between the Batista Government and the opposition in 1955 and 1956, by means of a group called “Society of Friends of the Republic” (SAR), and continued the work of the group briefly after De la Torriente’s death. From that work, he moved naturally into the formation of the “Group of Institutions” (frequently and erroneously referred to as “Group of Civic Institutions”), which became influential in mid–1957. He was variously styled “Secretary-General” and “Coordinator” of the Revolutionary Civic Front, sometimes referred to as the “Pact of Caracas”. He is not a member of either the “26 of July” Movement or the Civic Resistance Movement, though greatly respected by both.
Minister of State: Roberto Agramonte Pichado. An Ortodoxo. Presidential candidate of that party in 1952. Not originally notably active as an oppositionist, he remained in Cuba until July, 1957. He was appointed more as a symbol than for outstanding ability or promise. Opinion among both friends and opponents is unanimous: Far from brilliant, pleasant, amenable, greatly influenced by those around him.
Minister of Justice: Angel Fernandez Rodriguez. Formerly Acting Fiscal (District Attorney, which in the Cuban legal system is an integral part of the judicial structure, and an appointive office) of the District Court of Oriente Province. He was charged with presentation of the case against several members of the “26 of July” Movement in 1957, at which Urrutia was one of the presiding justices. His presentation was not aggressive, and favored the rebels. He resisted pressure from the Government, and remained in that post until the overthrow [Page 371] of Batista. He was highly regarded by the “26 of July” Movement, and possibly a member of it. Considered capable, but there is some question whether he can measure up to the requirements of his new position.
Minister of Interior, Charged With National Defense: Luis Orlando Rodriguez Rodriguez. One of the older members of the Cabinet. As a youth, fought against Machado. An Autentico for many years, and briefly Director of Sports under Grau. Resigned after falling out with Grau, and associated with Eduardo “Eddy” Chibas in formation of the Ortodoxo party in 1947. At that time founded the daily paper La Calle. Ortodoxo candidate (unsuccessful) for Governor of Habana Province in 1948, successful candidate for Representative for the party in 1950. Strongly opposed to Batista and consistently attacked the regime in his paper. The paper was closed in May, 1955, after publication of an editorial by Rodriguez critical of public statements by Ambassador Gardner. The editorial used the statements to indirectly attack the Batista regime. Rodriguez has told associates that he is certain that the paper was closed because the Ambassador took strong exception to the article, and discussed the matter with Batista.
Rodriguez was closely associated with Fidel Castro for a time after the latter’s release from prison by amnesty in 1955, and apparently joined his Movement at that time. Little is known of his activities, until he showed up in the Sierra Maestra as one of the principal speakers and propagandists for the Movement over Radio Rebelde, under the name of “Capt. Luis Rodriguez”. He is a good speaker in the Latin tradition, fiery and loquacious. He has recently stated that the Communist party should be free to organize and participate in elections like any other party in a democracy.
[Here follows a listing of the rest of the Cabinet Ministers: Rufo Lopez Fresquet, Minister of Treasury; Manuel Ray Rivero, Minister of Public Works; Manuel Fernandez Garcia, Minister of Labor; Raul Cepero Bonilla, Minister of Commerce; Humberto Sori Marin, Minister of Agriculture; Armando Hart Davalos, Minister of Education; Julio Martinez Paez, Minister of Health; Enrique Oltuski Ozacki, Minister of Communications; Faustino Perez Hernandez, Minister for Recovery of Misappropriated Funds; Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado, Minister Charged with Drafting and Study of Revolutionary Laws; and Luis M. Buch Rodriguez, Minister Secretary of the Presidency and the Cabinet.]
Significantly, the Cabinet includes only persons associated with the “26 of July” Movement, the Montecristi groups, and the Ortodoxo party. The Prio group, the Organizacion Autentica, the Directorio Revolucionario (identical with the Directorio Estudiantil Revolucionario, the original and perhaps still technically correct name), the Federacion Estudiantil Revolucionario (FEU—Federation of University Students), and the Segundo Frente Nacional del Escambray (National Second Front of the Escambray) have no representation. The Second Front [Page 372] of the Escambray announced from its formation that it had no political ambitions, and would disband with the defeat of Batista. All the others, however, have strong political ambitions, and their exclusion from the Cabinet may cause future friction. Among the possible causes are: (1) Fidel Castro and the leaders of his Movement feel that they played by far the most important part in the defeat of Batista, and that they are entitled to run the country now—in addition to having the strength and enormous popular support. (2) The “26 of July” Movement is dedicated to governmental reform, including particularly the establishment of high standards of honesty. The corruption they condemn did not start with Batista, and in the past Castro and others have had harsh things to say about the performance of Prio and his supporters during Prio’s presidency. The FEU, of which the DR is an offshoot, has also been corrupt in the past. Significantly, only “pure” and “oppositionist” Ortodoxos, who opposed any negotiated settlement with Batista, are represented in the Cabinet.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.13/1–1959. Confidential. Drafted by Topping.↩