393. Despatch From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State 1

No. 734


  • Conversation with Minister of State Raul Roa on Cuban American Relations on November 16, 19592

In the course of a conversation with Dr. Roa today, I took occasion to say that I was very much disappointed at the failure of my attempts to establish a basis of mutual confidence and reciprocal good faith in the relations between Cuba and the United States. I said that I had endeavored to be in every way straightforward and clear regarding the position and the intentions of the United States Government. On the other hand, the events which have taken place during the last month led me to wonder whether we can expect any good will and good faith from the Cuban Government. I referred particularly to the so-called “bombing”, to Dr. Castro’s television appearance of October 22 and to the mass meeting on October 26 and to the pamphlet issued by the Ministry of State regarding the “bombing”. I said that I felt very pessimistic.

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The Minister tried to smooth me down by referring to my own very good personal position with the Cuban people. He said that no American Ambassador had ever enjoyed such a position. I told him that as Ambassador I considered myself an integral part of the Department of State, which in turn is an integral part of the Government of the United States, which in turn represents the people of the United States, and that it is not possible or even desirable to try to separate these various elements. He acquiesced in this but said he did not feel as pessimistic as I did about Cuban-American relations. He said that he thought we might continue discussing the specific matters which are pending. I agreed that this would be desirable.

I then gave Dr. Roa a couple of clippings from recent issues of Revolución. One of these described “cynical malevolence of the U.S. State Department” and the other was a cartoon showing the Statue of Liberty with a dollar sign on the torch and a wad of green backs on the other arm. I said that this sort of thing in the press of the governing political party confirmed my belief that there is a malevolent predisposition in Cuban Government circles with regard to relations with the United States. Dr. Roa then embarked on a discourse regarding the so-called vicious circle in the press treatment in the United States and in Cuba, of matters of mutual interest. He quoted Herbert Matthews, etc. We did not get very far except that I think he was startled by the virulence of the Revolución article which I showed him.

As a parting shot, I asked Dr. Roa whether he thought the members of ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) would have available the Ministry of State pamphlet about the “bombings, as in Pearl Harbor.”

Philip W. Bonsal
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.37/11–1659. Confidential; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Bonsal.
  2. In despatch 733 from Havana, November 16, Bonsal discussed other matters that had come up during his conversation with Roa that day: the disappearance and presumed death of Camilo Cienfuegos, U.S. cooperation in the air search for Cienfuegos, the upcoming visit of Senator Frank Carlson to Cuba, the issue of the adequacy of meat inspection in Cuba on meat exported to the United States, and increasing reports of arbitrary actions by INRA officials in implementing the Agrarian Reform Law. (Ibid.)