395. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Intelligence Research and Analysis for American Republics (Hall) to the Director of Intelligence and Research (Cumming)1


  • Random Observations While on Leave in Cuba October 18–November 8

On this visit I did not seek out contacts—they came to me as soon as they learned I had arrived. No one would believe that I was solely on vacation. Besides interviews, I had the benefit of the views of my host, the Panamanian Ambassador, and viewed the interminable telecasts in which Fidel and Raúl Castro, Dorticós, Cienfuegos, Guevara and Almeida took frenetic part. The hypnotic hold Fidel has over the mob is frightening—he can raise it to a bloodthirsty pitch then cool it to an obedient ardor. Hitler was never as good, although it must be admitted he worked on a better educated element.

On television, Dorticós abused the US in a mild way and Cienfuegos also did not go overboard. Raúl was vicious and, referring to Huber Matos, said “there are other traitors and we will uncover and punish them.” I wonder if he was thinking of Cienfuegos? Fidel gave one the impression of a complete hysteric with a Messianic complex, if not a manic-depressive. Che Guevara did not rave nor rant, spoke in the tone of a man who knows what he wants and how to get it and, as the best educated of the lot, is a truly sinister character. All gave us the devil.

At his request, I called on Dr. Luis Botifolls, formerly an editor on “El Mundo” who still appears on television panels, a lawyer and one of Cuba’s leading intellectuals. He was and is anti-Batista and now is even more anti-Castro. Although he has not yet been molested by the present regime, he is so fearsome of the present situation that he is making arrangements to send his family to the US. Botifolls said that former President Prío Socarras wished to see me. This I discouraged, saying that if Prío has anything to impart, he should say it to Ambassador Bonsal. Botifolls said that one of his relatives had visited the restaurant Castillo de Jagua a short time before, just as the lights went out. Two tables away he distinguished Fidel and Raúl sitting alone and heard the latter urging Fidel to intervene in the Moa Bay installations, [Page 673] saying “that would give us an additional eight millions of income a year.“2

Carlos Todd, Cuban publisher of “The Times of Havana” is so outspoken in his newspaper that he is apt to get in trouble. At lunch he advocated to me punitive measures against Castro saying: “It is no use cutting off the sugar quota, Castro will only print money. The only way to bring him to terms is to cut off the Island’s petroleum supplies.”

A Cuban manufacturer of steel sash told me he is being forced to the wall, as are others, by the government. Since private construction is paralyzed, he has only government contracts which are not paid. Yet he is not allowed to close his factory nor dismiss his employees (Fuerza y Luz has 3,000 employees it would like to dismiss). He anticipates that the government will take over his factory for non-compliance of contracts when his own cash runs out.

A rumor is current in Habana that Ambassador Dihigo and President Dorticos will soon be asked to resign—it is more persistent with regard to Dihigo. The wife of Nicolás Rivero, formerly Cuban Economic Counselor in Washington, states that Nicolás is returning to Washington in the immediate future with the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary. I am reliably informed that Dihigo has said categorically that he will not have Rivero under any circumstances.

Cuba’s tourist trade went to pot after the “bombing” of Habana and Fidel’s subsequent virulent attack on the US by television. It collapsed as a consequence of his next verborrhagic demonstration. Steamship and airplane cancellations, as well as those of cruises, flowed in at once. The Habana Hilton and the Caribe are almost empty, as is the Nacional which has 600 employees, none of which can be dismissed. On November 6 the Havana Riviera, with 750 employees, had 16 guests. The casinos are practically deserted. Mr. Land, manager of the Nacional, says that he must soon close the hotel because of lack of cash with which to operate—he says he cannot pay All America Cables for messages charged on their bills by guests during the ASTA convention.

The Tower Club, atop Havana’s highest building (Focsa) is almost unfrequented. Many of its 400 founding members, each of whom paid $1,000 for entry, have fled the country. The Country Club, one of the [Page 674] most beautiful in the world, has the same difficulty with many of its members abroad not paying dues. It is also threatened with expropriation, either for workers’ housing or the installation of a children’s tubercular hospital.

As a sidelight on Cienfuegos, Land of Hotel Nacional told me that before the former’s disappearance he made a habit of landing in a helicopter on the hotel grounds several times a week, spending several hours with his companion barbudos talking to the girls around the swimming pool, treating all to drinks for which he never even signed a chit.

I met Jules DuBois twice but did not converse with him. Cecil Gee, manager of All America Cables, told me that Jules was asking for trouble when he went to the cable office to file a message—he had an arrangement with Gee whereby a messenger called every 15 minutes at the Hilton to receive DuBois’ “takes.” When threatened and he tried to escape by the back door of the cable office, he was surrounded by a small mob which was quickly quelled by a police lieutenant who shouted “A hundred of you cannot assault one gringo—Fidel would not like it.” That was enough to save Jules’ skin once more.

Scott Thompson, a leader of the American community and one of the oldest residents, reports that the American businessmen are not only fearful of their future but now feel a growing resentment against the regime. He related one recent incident affecting his cement factory at Mariel. Three years ago he discharged a worker for pulling a knife on another. The man fired set up a filling station in Mariel which prospered. Nevertheless, gauging the present atmosphere, the man brought suit against the company for three years’ wages on the grounds that he had been illegally discharged. He won and, before the suit could be appealed, the local judge seized all the office furniture and equipment of the factory, paraded the loaded trucks throughout the town and deposited the goods in the courthouse.

There was a vague suspicion, in our Embassy at Habana and that of Panamá, that the recent events in the latter country had some connection, greater than that of emulation, with those in Cuba. From the Panamanian Ambassador I got the report of another planned invasion of Panama from Cuba, the basis of Habana Embassy’s telegram to the Department.

Fidel has suffered severe blows, to his ego as well as operationally, by the loss of Diaz Lanz, Matos and Cienfuegos. The latter was the idol of the armed forces and served to assure every dubious situation (such as the arrest of Matos at Camaguey), after which Fidel would arrive on the scene to claim the credit. Dozens of rumors were current in Habana “explaining” the disappearance of Camilo—one that he was in the hospital at Camp Libertad with his beard shaven and showing signs of torture, perhaps the origin of the report by some [Page 675] female which appeared last week in the Miami News. The case of Huber Matos proved that, as in Chicago or New York, no one is allowed to quit the gang.

I was told in Habana that former General Martín Diaz Tamayo is hanging about the Pentagon seeking support.

While in Varadero where a friend lent me his beach house, the latter was surrounded by police the first night we were there and all occupants were required to identify themselves. This was at midnight November 2 and was followed a half-hour later by an Army lieutenant with the same mission. This was probably due, as I learned later, to the presence in Varadero of Fidel and Raúl who were “directing the search for Cienfuegos.”

My impressions:

There is an atmosphere of terror prevalent and for all purposes a police state exists in Cuba. People are not only afraid to speak before strangers, but persons disappear as in the time of Batista.

Last March Joaquin Meyer told me he believed Castro was planning to bring the economy of Cuba to the brink of ruin, in order to “save” the country by then instituting state capitalism. I found serious people giving credence to this theory when in Habana six months ago. On this trip more people subscribed to the thought, and there was the additional evidence of the Agrarian Reform Law, the Mining Law, measures taken against the oil companies, and apparent efforts to put companies, foreign and native, out of business.

His hold on the lower class and on at least half of the middle class is complete. The armed forces are loyal to him but this feeling may be weakened by what has happened to Matos, Díaz Lanz and Cienfuegos. The success of a revolution from within is very unlikely at this time.

Unrest will increase with greater unemployment and a critical point may be reached at the end of March when the sugar harvest is over.

The assassination of Fidel would bring about looting and a bloodbath such as Habana has never known.

The stock of Raúl and Che Guevara has gone up with the disappearance one way or another, of the more moderate elements such as Díaz, Matos and Cienfuegos.

I found no evidence of international direction of communism. The Soviets don’t have to give orders since things are going their way anyhow.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/11–1859. Secret.
  2. On November 15 Dr. Mario Lazo of Lazo and Cubas, attorneys for Freeport Sulphur, gave as his opinion that Castro would not find intervention of this property advisable, since its concentrates can only be treated at Freeport’s New Orleans plant and intervention would throw 1,500 Cubans out of employment, affecting some 6,000 dependents. While the Germans or Russians could probably devise a process to treat the concentrates, it would take a minimum of two years to build a suitable plant. The $75,000,000 Moa Bay project is due to go into production within a few months. Lazo said that these facts would be communicated tactfully to Fidel this week by his senior partner Dr. Jorge Cubas, if he has not done so already. [Footnote in the source text.]