398. Memorandum From the First Secretary of the Embassy in Cuba (Topping) to the Ambassador in Cuba (Bonsal)1

Herewith my comments on Carlos Hall’s Memorandum of Nov. 18.2

Carlos has written in more extreme terms than I feel the situation warrants, but the over-all impression is basically right, though perhaps a little alarmist—not that the situation is not one for the gravest concern. There are some minor inaccuracies.

I have the following comments on Carlos’ summation. Otherwise I agree with it.

I believe that Fidel’s “hold on the lower class and on at least half of the middle class” is no longer complete. At a guess, I would say that only a minority of the “middle class” continues to support him. There are signs that the “lower class” is beginning to waver, but that is still the source of Fidel’s principal support.

It is a serious mistake to speak of “armed forces” and of their “loyalty”. There is a group of some 38,000 young men under arms, almost without exception undisciplined, loyal only to a vague concept of “revolution” plus the various promises which Fidel and his associates have made of a better life to come. They may or may not be loyal to their officers. There are no indications that they are particularly closely unified, or capable of efficient operations. Their communications system is notably deficient.

I believe the next critical point will be reached in June and July—when the sugar harvest is over. Carlos got the termination date too early, for some reason.

I have never heard anyone, in or out of the Government, other than Fidel and his closest associates, say anything good about either Che or Raul. The best reaction is one of reluctant admiration. Their power has recently increased greatly and alarmingly, but “their stock has not gone up”, in the sense of admiration and loyal following. Raul, of course, has his hard core of supporters who are now in key positions within the armed forces.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Habana Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 1814, Political Affairs. Secret. Topping’s memorandum was in response to the handwritten note Bonsal made on November 24 on the copy of Hall’s memorandum (Document 395) asking Braddock and Topping for their comments. Underneath Bonsal’s request Braddock wrote: “Mr. Ambassador: Interesting. Some things give a little difficulty from Carlos, but with his summation I am essentially in agreement. DB 11/25”.
  2. Document 395.