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287. Editorial Note

On April 19, Vice President Nixon met in the Vice President’s formal office in the Capitol with Fidel Castro during Castro’s visit to Washington. Nixon concluded his draft summary of the conversation as follows:

“My own appraisal of him as a man is somewhat mixed. The one fact we can be sure of is that he has those indefinable qualities which make him a leader of men. Whatever we may think of him he is going to be a great factor in the development of Cuba and very possibly in Latin American affairs generally. He seems to be sincere. He is either incredibly naive about Communism or under Communist discipline—my guess is the former, and as I have already implied his ideas as to how to run a government or an economy are less developed than those of almost any world figure I have met in fifty countries.

“But because he has the power to lead to which I have referred, we have no choice but at least to try to orient him in the right direction.” (Department of State, Central Files, 711.12/4–2459)

The draft summary is attached to an April 24 memorandum from Nixon to John Foster Dulles that reads: “Particularly since you were so helpful with suggestions for my talk with Castro, I thought you might like to see the enclosed copy of a memorandum I drafted of our conversation.”

The full text of the draft summary is printed in Diplomatic History, IV, 4 (Fall 1980), pages 426–431. For Nixon’s recollection of the conversation and a portion of the text of the draft summary, see Richard M. Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978) pages 201–203.

At the Acting Secretary’s Staff Meeting on April 20, Rubottom reported that Castro’s talk with Nixon had been “useful” and that Nixon had been “impressed by the force of Castro’s personality.”

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Rubottom also noted that there had as yet been no requests for loans from the Cubans. (Department of State, Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 63 D 75, April 1959)