327. Editorial Note

On July 1, Major Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, Chief of the Cuban Air Force, arrived at Miami in a small boat accompanied by his wife, his brother, and another Cuban Air Force officer. Diaz Lanz fled Cuba after Castro had replaced him as Chief of the Air Force with Juan Almeida, who had instituted a purge of anti-Communist officers from the Air Force. Diaz Lanz had confronted Castro with the charge that Communists were infiltrating the government and had issued a statement to this effect to the press.

After arriving in Miami, Diaz Lanz was kept in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and was interviewed by officials from various U.S. Government agencies. Diaz Lanz reportedly indicated that he was anxious to be released and to “blast Castro.” He received a subpoena to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, chaired by Senator James Eastland, and on July 7 was brought by a staff member of the subcommittee to Washington. On July 10 and 13, Diaz Lanz testified before the subcommittee in closed session and in open session on July 14.

A detailed chronology of the events in the Diaz Lanz case was attached to a brief covering memorandum of July 16 from Assistant Secretary Rubottom to Under Secretary Murphy. In the introduction to the chronology, Rubottom described the “foreign policy interests” in the case as follows:

  • “(a) The Diaz Lanz defection was the first major break in Castro’s revolutionary command, which could lead to others and could in any event dramatize in Latin America as well as the United States the divisions caused in the Cuban Revolution by collaboration with the Communists.
  • “(b) Diaz Lanz was the best placed, and—when restricting himself to matters of which he had personal knowledge—most creditable first hand witness on the issues of Communist infiltration in the Cuban Armed Forces and on Castro’s military support of expeditions to overthrow other governments.
  • “(c) Diaz Lanz represented an opportunity to present these issues in the light of Cuban objections to the course of the Castro government rather than as a U.S.-Cuban quarrel. It was therefore important not to give versimilitude to Castro efforts to portray him as an agent in the control of the U.S. Government.
  • “(d) The Diaz Lanz case had an intimate relationship to the U.S. decision to press for and obtain an OAS meeting which would serve to deter Castro from launching further expeditions disturbing the peace of the Caribbean and further identify him in the Latin American mind. The diplomatic problem here was that while many Latin American Governments could be led to support a move to enjoin Castro and others from conducting foreign policies involving further violations of the non-intervention principles, a sizable number might shy away at this stage from participating constructively in such a meeting if they come to think that it was part of a general U.S. plan to discredit Castro and intervene in the internal affairs of Cuba.” (Department of State, ARA Special Assistant Files: Lot 62 D 24, Cuba 1959)

For Diaz Lanz’ testimony on July 14, 1959, see Communist Threat to the United States through the Caribbean: Hearing before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Eighty-Sixth Congress, First Session (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1959).

At his news conference on July 15, President Eisenhower was asked to comment on Diaz Lanz’ statement the previous day before the subcommittee that Fidel Castro was a willing tool of international communism. The President replied:

“Well, of course, he says that; there is no question that’s what his testimony said.

“Now such things are charged, and they are not always easy to prove. The United States has made no such charges. The United States is watching the whole area. The Caribbean area is in a state of unrest. The OAS has moved in to the extent of asking for a meeting for the foreign ministers to go all through this situation and see what should be done. The United States expects to cooperate with the OAS. That’s our stand today.”

In response to further questioning, the President also said that he did not think that the Diaz Lanz case had been discussed with the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Joseph Swing, during his visits to the White House in the past few days. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1959, page 522)