376. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy)1


  • Current Basic United States Policy Towards Cuba


At the conclusion of an extensive review here with Ambassador Bonsal of our current relations with Cuba and the situation in that country, I had drawn up and approved a very brief current basic policy statement on Cuba which attempts to provide orientation and guidelines for the Ambassador and for certain key personnel of other government agencies in Washington with respect to our immediate objectives in Cuba. I believe this statement to be fully consistent with the [Page 636] basic United States Policy Towards Latin America developed by the National Security Council and approved by the President on February 12 of this year.2

I would be grateful if you would now review the statement and, if you approve, authorize its transmission by limited distribution letter to Ambassador Bonsal, the Director of the United States Information Agency, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Mr. Gordon Gray, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and such others as you may deem appropriate.

In evaluating this statement, you will wish to take note especially of the following points:

It is based on an assessment that the policies and programs of the Castro Government which are inconsistent with the minimal requirements of good Cuban–U.S. relations and with U.S. objectives for Cuba and Latin America will not be satisfactorily altered except as a result of Cuban opposition to Castro’s present course and/or a change in the Cuban regime. As you are aware, we have been giving Castro every opportunity to follow a course consistent with good U.S.-Cuban relations and have exercised in public great restraint in order to make it possible for him to modify his attitudes and policies if he had any inclination to maintain the bonds of friendship and common interest which have linked this country to Cuba. To date, he has failed the “test” by which his intentions with respect to maintaining good relations can be judged. Our restraint has generally been answered by continued attacks on the United States by Castro and his lieutenants. Our necessary and well-understood concern about Communist penetration in this vital area has been answered by granting to the Communists and their sympathizers ample scope to carry out their activities in Cuba and to penetrate even at high levels, the armed forces, government, labor unions, and other key national institutions. Our well-known reliance on the support of our Latin American friends on key issues in the UN and elsewhere concerning the struggle with international Communism has been met by an increasingly “neutralist” orientation in Cuba’s foreign policy and apparent efforts by that country to stimulate neutralism elsewhere in Latin America. Our earlier hopes that there was some possibility that moderate, middle-class elements desiring good Cuban–U.S. relations would check and modify the more radical and unacceptable tendencies of the Castro regime have largely evaporated as Castro has moved his more radical, anti-U.S. and pro-Communist lieutenants into key positions. Castro’s economic policies, apart from directly affecting adversely the rights of United States investors in Cuba and thus raising additional problems in U.S.-Cuban relations, have a distinctly statist and nationalist orientation which, if [Page 637] also adopted by other Latin American countries, would seriously undermine our economic policies and objectives with respect to the Latin American region.
At the same time, the policy statement is based on an assessment that Castro retains a great popular following in Cuba having tapped and crystallized the more humble Cuban’s aspirations for economic betterment, democratic freedom, and national dignity. Although there has been much disillusionment concerning Castro and his regime elsewhere in Latin America, there remains in certain circles a residual admiration for what he has achieved and sought to achieve, including his posture of defiance of the United States. In these circumstances, and from the great sensitivity of Latin America to United States intervention or open United States pressure, it is of the first importance that we avoid bringing upon ourselves the onus for a forced alteration of Castro’s policies or a change in the Cuban Government.
The statement is also based on the assessment that with unstable internal conditions likely to continue in a number of Caribbean countries for the next several years, there is a continuing danger that other regimes responsive to and/or modeled on the Castro regime may arise elsewhere in the region with serious adverse consequences to our security and interests.
The statement is intended only for current guidance and could be changed or amplified as the situation develops. In view of the possibility that this statement, if widely distributed, might be misinterpreted and become known with damaging consequences, it is my thought that it be distributed on a strictly “need-to-know” basis.


That you approve the attached statement as current guidance for our policy towards Cuba.3
That you authorize its transmission by limited distribution letter to Ambassador Bonsal and the Washington officials indicated above.4
[Page 638]


Paper Prepared in the Department of State5


(October 1959)

The immediate objective of the United States with respect to Cuba is the development of a situation in which, not later than the end of 1960, the Government then in control of Cuba should, in its domestic and foreign policies, meet at least minimally the objectives and standards indicated in the OCB Regional Operations Plan for Latin America6 which sets forth the basic United States policy objectives for Latin American countries.
In achieving this objective, the United States and its representatives should avoid giving the impression of direct pressure or intervention directed against the Castro government and its programs, except where defense of legitimate United States interests or defense of the principles of the inter-American system might incidentally create an implication of overt opposition by the United States to individual policies, actions, statements or attitudes of the Castro government.
Subject to the caveat of paragraph 2, United States policies, actions and statements should be governed by the following criteria, except where specific tactical considerations dictate otherwise:
Actions, policies and statements tending to consolidate the Castro regime, in its present form and with those of its present policies and programs which run counter to United States objectives for Latin America, or tending to increase the chances of success of such programs and policies should be avoided.
Actions, policies and statements tending to encourage and coalesce opposition to the Castro regime’s present form and policies by elements presently or potentially acceptable to the Cuban people should be undertaken to the extent possible. Actual or potential opposition elements both within and without the government should be encouraged, but in case of conflict, priority or emphasis should normally be accorded to lines of action, policies or statements tending to encourage opposition by suitable elements presently outside of the Castro regime with a view towards a step-by-step development of coherent opposition.
Actions, policies and statements designed to emphasize throughout Latin America the United States concepts of genuine representative democracy, sound economic development, non-intervention, [Page 639] and inter-American solidarity within the free world should be undertaken whenever appropriate, as part of an effort to prevent the spread of the objectionable features of the Castro regime and program to other Latin American countries and to undercut within Cuba the support which Castro’s present program derives from such popularity as it retains elsewhere in Latin America.
Avoidance of actions which would fundamentally damage the mutuality of interests of Cuba and the United States and or their respective peoples, and avoidance of actions, policies or statements which would significantly affect adversely the viability of an acceptable Cuban regime, whether a reformed Castro regime or a successor to it.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/10–2959. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Hill on October 15 and cleared with Wieland, Dreier, and Gerard Smith. Initialed by Rubottom and Murphy.
  2. Text of NSC 5902/1, “U.S. Policy Toward Latin America,” approved by the President on February 16, 1959, after it had been adopted as amended at the 396th meeting of the National Security Council on February 12, 1959, is scheduled for publication in volume V.
  3. Murphy initialed his approval of this recommendation on the source text.
  4. The source text does not indicate whether this recommendation was approved or disapproved. Regarding the redrafting of and subsequent action on the memorandum, see Document 384.
  5. Secret. No drafting or clearance information is given on the source text.
  6. Dated July 1, 1959; text is scheduled for publication in volume V.