39. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, March 17, 19581


  • Visit of Manuel Urrutia, Castro Candidate for Provisional President of Cuba


  • Senor Manuel Urrutia, exiled 26th of July leader
  • Senor Raul Chibas, member of Ortodoxo Party in exile
  • Senor Angel Santos Buch, exiled 26th of July member
  • Mr. William A. Wieland, Director, Office of Middle American Affairs
  • Mr. C. Allan Stewart, Deputy Director, Office of Middle American Affairs

Having arranged an appointment in advance, Messrs. Urrutia, Chibas and Santos were received on March 17 in Mr. Wieland’s office. All three men are supporters-in-exile of the Fidel Castro 26th of July movement.

The group announced that a number of Cuban revolutionary movements had agreed to support Mr. Urrutia for provisional president when and if Batista were overthrown. They identified the groups as the Bisbé–Chibás branch of the Ortodoxo Party; Resistencia Civica; Organización Revolucionaria; Frente de Obreros Nacionales; the Federation de Estudiantes Universitarios and a group of military leaders headed by Colonel Ramón Barquín, now in prison on the Isle of Pines. The civic resistance group, which originated in Santiago, now operates throughout the island and believes in the armed overthrow of the Batista regime. The OR is a student group, as is the FEU, and both are bent on causing the downfall of the present Government. The FON is the newly created pro-Castro labor group. Some of the Barquin military followers are in Cuba while others are in the United States, it was explained.

With Mr. Chibás beginning as spokesman, the group urged the United States to cease all arms shipments to the Batista regime, asserting that all sorts of equipment is being sent regularly to Cuba. When asked to be more specific, Chibás said that several hundred cases of rifles were recently shipped from New York on the SS Villanueva. He mentioned also that jet planes were being used to bombard the Castro forces in the Sierra Maestra. Mr. Wieland replied that the Department was receiving many reports of arms shipments but that no one was able to state definitely what or how much had been shipped from the United States. As for the jet bombers, he pointed out that we had sent to Cuba only very few jet trainers and they could not be adapted for bombing. Mr. Chibás said he was in the Sierra Maestra when they [Page 64] were used for a bombing mission but after further questioning backed down on this point, maintaining, however, that some types of planes had carried out bombing missions while he was in the hills with Castro. Mr. Wieland called to the attention of the group the fact that the exiles were making many claims of arms shipments and unauthorized use of United States-supplied military equipment by Batista’s forces without taking the trouble to verify the charges.

Mr. Chibás said that the supplying of arms and the use of United States military advisers to train Cuban forces were creating ill will for the United States, with such stories being circulated that our aviation mission had advised the Cuban Government to bomb the city of Cienfuegos during the revolt last year. Mr. Wieland said this charge was untrue, to which the trio agreed. However, they said, stories of this type were bound to recur as long as we helped Batista, and we should withdraw our armed forces missions to prevent such allegations. Mr. Wieland said this was like asking a farmer to kill his cow to prevent accusations it was stealing fish.

Mr. Urrutia said that Batista was violating the United States-Cuban military assistance agreement by using arms which had been supplied only for hemispheric defense.

Mr. Stewart asked Mr. Urrutia whether the agreement of the revolutionary forces to support his candidacy had been formally concluded and he responded that this was about to be done. Mr. Santos said a public announcement would be made in a few days. It was pointed out that Fidel Castro does not know Mr. Urrutia personally but admires his anti-Batista background.

There ensued a general discussion on our policy toward dictatorial governments and Mr. Urrutia declared that he had been questioned closely by reporters during his recent visit to Caracas about the Cuban opposition’s attitude toward the State Department policies. It was gathered that he did not uphold them when he replied.

Mr. Stewart pointed out that the Colombian and Venezuelan people overthrew their strong-man Governments despite the fact the latter were well supplied with arms. Mr. Urrutia said the Cuban military forces differed from the Venezuelan because the former were made up of low elements who would not hesitate to fire on civilians in event of an uprising. The opposition in Cuba, therefore, would need weapons to fight back. Mr. Stewart reminded Mr. Urrutia that the State Department had publicly declared its satisfaction when a people chose a democratic form of government, Mr. Wieland adding that Mr. Rubottom had testified in the same vein before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.2 It appeared, Mr. Stewart added, that such positive acts [Page 65] favoring democracies were not publicized as such by the Castro movement but [who] continued to level a barrage of criticism against our policies.

The group urged the United States to withdraw its military missions from Cuba and when this brought up the matter of non-intervention Mr. Urrutia and Mr. Chibás expressed the view that an act of this kind would not be intervention. This led Mr. Wieland to observe that interpretations are put on non-intervention on the basis of whether the act harms or helps the cause of the particular group.

The visitors mentioned that a new front had been opened in the Sierra Escambray, with Prio, Castro, FEU and OR youth working together. This force is the one that was formerly identified as being in the Sierra de Trinidad near Trinidad and Sancti Spiritus.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/3–1758. Official Use Only. Drafted by Stewart.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 29.