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288. Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Mexican and Caribbean Affairs (Wieland)1

A Latin American newspaperman who has had close relations in the past with Prime Minister Castro and some members of his Government told me today that the Prime Minister met with him at 1:00 am April 20 at the Cuban Embassy. He summarized that meeting as follows:

Castro told him that Vice President Nixon had reprimanded him for recent revolutionary activities against the Nicaraguan and Panamanian governments. Castro said that Nixon had devoted much of his conversation to defending the Somoza government of Nicaragua explaining that the United States considers that President Luis Somoza is trying to lead his government through a transition from the previous dictatorship of the Nicaraguan President’s father to a democracy. Castro remarked that anyone interested in unseating the dictators need not look to the United States for assistance.

At about this point in the conversation in which Castro and my informant were alone they were joined by Carlos Franqui, editor of the newspaper “Revolucion”, and one of Castro’s principal public relations advisers. Franqui told Castro he had to consult him urgently and Castro told Franqui to speak freely in the presence of my informant. Castro asked Franqui what had been the reaction in Cuba to his statement that elections probably would not be held for about four years. (Castro previously had indicated there would be elections in about two years.) Castro commented that he felt he had made a serious blunder in mentioning the four-year period at this time instead of waiting until later. Franqui replied that reaction on this subject so far was not particularly disturbing but that Castro’s remarks that his government would adhere to the inter-American principle of non-intervention and would not support revolutionary expeditions against dictatorships had landed like a bombshell among Castro’s followers. Castro thereupon instructed Franqui to emphasize to the Castro press apparatus that he had carefully limited his reply to questioning on this subject to stating that he had not denounced any commitments and was not sufficiently a fatalist to accept the inevitability of war. (This [Page 478]was in reference to questioning whether he would stand with the west or adopt a neutralist position in a showdown with the Soviet bloc.) Castro said he would clarify this situation further when he addressed a labor rally in Cuba on May 1. Castro told my informant that he intended to proceed fairly rapidly with land expropriation as part of the government’s agrarian reform program. My informant got the impression that the first target of the Castro government would be the United Fruit Company properties in Cuba.

At this point Castro told my informant that he wanted to contract him with a substantial fee to send reports back to Cuba that the American press had distorted Castro’s answers in his various meetings with the press in the United States. My informant here raised some questions whereupon Castro replied that he would continue the discussions on this subject in Miami if Castro decides to spend some time there before returning to Habana, or in the Cuban capital if Miami were cut off the schedule.

At this juncture, Finance Minister Lopez Fresquet joined the group and Castro informed him of the offer he had just made the newspaperman. Lopez Fresquet concurred immediately and told my informant that in weighing the offer he should bear in mind that the Castro government would be in power for a long time because there is no effective opposition to it “nor will there be as long as we have the Ministry for Recovery of Stolen Assests”. Lopez Fresquet said that this Ministry was empowered to investigate and punish “everybody from Prío Socarras up and from Prío Socarras down”.

My informant then told me that he had the impression that Castro is deeply concerned that in his efforts to confuse American public opinion on the real objectives of the Cuban revolution, he has also, by his public statements, caused confusion and uncertainty among his own people in Cuba. Castro will therefore seek to correct this situation on his return and will revert to the attitude he had demonstrated before coming to the United States shortly after returning to Habana. My informant also commented that Castro would be even more dangerous on his return than at present.

My informant also told me that his inquiries among various Latin American elements, both in Washington and in Miami, indicated that Latin Americans generally are opposed to Castro and what he stands for and have been “amazed” at the skill with which the United States Government dealt with the Castro visit. He said that while the naivete displayed by the U.S. press and public had dismayed him the United States Government, according to his observations so far, had gained substantially in the opinion of most Latin Americans as a result of the Castro visit. Castro, on the other hand, he said, had suffered a genuine set back in both Cuba and Latin America but the United States must not lose sight for the moment that there are potential Fidel Castros in every country of Latin America.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.3711/4–2159. Confidential. Drafted by Wieland.