377. Telegram From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State 1
912. For Rubottom. Situation here has deteriorated considerably past week due (A) publicity re US attempt to prevent British from selling jets, (B) press speculation re possible punitive reduction of Cuba’s sugar quota, stimulated by Washington leak on our latest note,2 and (C) alleged air bombings of Habana and other points in Cuba by planes allegedly based in Florida. Intrinsic damaging effect of these developments greatly inflated for present at least by hostile hysterical manner in which Castro has treated them in his TV appearances (see Embtels 870 and 9063).
It is my belief that something must be done urgently to set the record straight. I would propose following alternatives (A) President Eisenhower send a public communication to President Dorticos covering these matters (B) similar public communication from Secretary Herter to Minister of State Roa or from me to Roa (C) that I be authorized to ask for time on local TV network (frequently offered me) and that I explain these developments from US point of view.
It would be necessary for Department formulate detailed statement of US position. In my judgment major points to be made would be following:
- Upon US attitude re arms to Cuba: [Page 640]
- Describe the existence of tensions in Caribbean including fact that during past six months several aggressive expeditions from one country to another have taken place resulting in some cases in serious loss of life and property damage. These aggressive expeditions have involved complicity and support of certain governments in area.
- Therefore, US has pursued policy of limiting export of combat material to area as contribution to diminishing aggressive potential.
- US has discussed this policy with other friendly countries including Great Britain with view to developing coordinated approach to arms shipments and avoiding inconsistencies and situations prejudicial to individual countries involved. These discussions have been friendly as becomes exchanges between sovereign peoples joined by a common desire to contribute to keeping the peace.
- Explain recent relaxations in arms embargo policy as it affects Cuba (this may or may not be effective point).
- US Government attitude toward Cuban sugar quota:
- Sugar Act expires at the end of 1960. Congress will have to develop new legislation early in 1960.
- Cuban position in US sugar market has been traditionally defended by US Government. There are nevertheless other interests to be taken into account and conditions in sugar producing areas change in manners which Congress must consider.
- US Government fully aware of mutual advantage to Cuba and US traditional trade relationships. US believes there is mutuality of interest but points out that US sugar consumer pays over two cents per pound more for sugar coming from Cuba under the Sugar Act than it would have to pay for same sugar purchased in world market.
- While US Government sympathizes with stated purposes of Agrarian Reform in Cuba and recognizes Cuban right to expropriate under international law, a disruptive change in the structure of sugar producing units might result in a loss in production which would oblige the pertinent US authorities to take measures to discharge their responsibilities to the American consumer. Stress, however, that such measures would not be taken in absence justifying facts.
- Alleged air bombings.
- Reiteration of Department’s press release of October 22 stating no evidence discovered to date that planes distributing leaflets departed from or returned to Florida and that GOC has furnished no information to support its contentions in that respect or with respect alleged bombings Habana and elsewhere. Add that regardless whether any protest received from Cuba, US would naturally investigate vigorously any incident involving possible violations its laws and international obligations.
- Flat, vigorous, indignant rejection allegations by Castro and Cuban Governmental press that US Government or people involved in attempts bomb Cuba. Additional statement that no evidence presented that any bombs dropped on Habana or that any aircraft from outside machine gunned city. Rather, it appears that damages are probably caused by aircraft with Cuban military markings, anti-aircraft fire from various Cuban military and naval installations, and bombs [Page 641] from Cubans on ground. I believe Castro’s implications that US responsible for deaths and injuries (Embtel 906) cannot be permitted pass unchallenged.
- Statement re measures taken by US authorities to enforce our laws to avoid unauthorized flights. Explanation of enforcement difficulties due existence in Florida of large number (specify) of airfields and very large number (specify) of private planes and planes available for private hire.
- Analyze manner in which this matter has been handled by Dr. Castro and by press of July 26 movement and express deep regret at biased, unfriendly approach.
Please instruct urgently and advise when Department statement will be available.4
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.37/10–2359. Confidential; Priority; Limit Distribution.↩
- See Document 367.↩
- Dated October 15 and October 22, respectively. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.37/10–1559 and 737.00/10–2259)↩
- In telegram 456 to Havana, October 24, the Department indicated that it shared the Embassy’s concern over the recent further deterioration in U.S.-Cuban relations, and agreed that Castro’s charges and anti-American campaign could not go unanswered. The Department included the text of a lengthy statement to be made by Bonsal to President Dorticos or Foreign Minister Roa, preferably not later than October 26, which would then be released to the public. (ibid., 611.37/10–2359)↩