423. Memorandum of Discussion at the 432d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, January 14, 1960, 9 a.m.1

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.] Turning to Cuba, Mr. Dulles reported that Castro and Guevara were continuing their program of seizing lands and assets. Teams of Cuban diplomats were visiting the underdeveloped countries in an effort to organize a Conference of Hungry Nations. Cuban diplomats were interviewing Nasser in an effort to establish closer UAR-Cuban [Page 741] relations and arrange an exchange of visits between Nasser and Castro. The Cuban Workers Confederation had announced that it was inviting Latin American labor organizations to meet in Havana to form a new Latin American labor organization which would freely admit Communists to membership. Mr. Dulles was fearful that any such organization would eventually come under Communist control. Contacts between Cuba and Communist China were increasing, leading to the expectation that Castro would probably recognize Peiping this year. Castro’s policy of discounts to Bloc customers has resulted in his selling sugar to the Bloc below the world price. The Soviet exhibit would be moved from Mexico City to Havana in February and at the same time a strong USSR propaganda effort would be forthcoming. Mr. Langborne Williams had worked out a deal with the Cuban Government whereby a small amount of nickel ore could be shipped out of Cuba without payment of the 25 per cent tax. Mr. Gray said this deal had been possible because of a decision that the material exported was a concentrate, not an ore. He added that he had been shown figures indicating that the known reserves in Cuba of nickel were greater than the total reserves of the Free World producing countries. Mr. Dulles said that while Cuban nickel deposits were rich, he questioned the conclusion presented by Mr. Gray pending further study. The President said he had been told during World War II that Canada was our only reliable source of nickel. Mr. Dulles said there were some reports that the USSR was interested in buying Cuban nickel. It was estimated that Soviet production met the nickel needs of the Soviet Union but not the needs of the entire Bloc. The Soviet Five Year Plan, which provided for doubling nickel production, showed that the USSR felt the need of increasing nickel production. The Sino-Soviet Bloc as a whole was short of nickel. The President said it might be necessary to blockade Cuba yet.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

3. U.S. Policy Toward Cuba (NSC Action No. 2166–b–(1);2 NSC 5902/1)3

Mr. Gray recalled that the Council at its meeting on December 16, 1959 agreed that the Cuban situation should be brought up for discussion again in the near future. He believed the Department of State was prepared to give the Council an oral briefing on U.S. policy toward Cuba; accordingly, he called on Mr. Merchant.

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Mr. Merchant said he would make a few remarks before asking Assistant Secretary Rubottom to give a detailed briefing.4 Mr. Merchant characterized the Cuban problem as the most difficult and dangerous in all the history of our relations with Latin America, possibly in all our foreign relations. Some of our principal interests in Cuba were quite apparent; e.g. the strategic importance of the island, our trade and commercial interests, and the safety of U.S. citizens there. The Department of State had been working with CIA on Cuban problems. Our present objective was to adjust all our actions in such a way as to accelerate the development of an opposition in Cuba which would bring about a change in the Cuban Government, resulting in a new government favorable to U.S. interests. Mr. Merchant then called on Mr. Rubottom.

Mr. Rubottom said our policy objectives toward Cuba included friendship, mutual respect, and U.S. support for Cuba as one of the American republics; a sound and growing Cuban economy; receptivity to U.S. and Free World capital and increasing trade; the development of democratic government; a maximum limitation on Communist influence; participation in and support of hemisphere defense; access by the U.S. to essential Cuban resources; and Cuban support of regional cooperation. When Castro first came to power we had to wait for a period of time to see what he would do. The upper classes of Cuba supported Castro because he had been against Batista. The lower classes supported him because of their desire for social advancement. There had also been some support for Castro in the U.S., including such respectable sources as the National Education Association and The New York Times. This kind of support illustrates the difficulty of identifying the menacing nature of the Castro movement before Latin American and U.S. public opinion.

Mr. Rubottom then summarized U.S.-Cuban relations since January. He said the period from January to March might be characterized as the honeymoon period of the Castro Government. In April a downward trend in U.S.-Cuban relations had been evident, partly because of the preparation by Cuba of filibustering expeditions against the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Panama. In June we had reached the decision that it was not possible to achieve our objectives with Castro in power and had agreed to undertake the program referred to by Mr. Merchant. In July and August we had been busy drawing up a program to replace Castro. However, some U.S. companies reported to us during this time that they were making some progress in negotiations, a factor which caused us to slow the implementation of our [Page 743] program. The hope expressed by these companies did not materialize. October was a period of clarification which included the denigration of Matos and the dissemination of leaflets from airplanes which caused us to be charged with bombing. On October 27 we delivered a statement5 of our views to Cuba which had a noticeable effect, even though the propaganda barrage continued. On October 31, in agreement with CIA, the Department had recommended to the President6 approval of a program along the lines referred to by Mr. Merchant. The approved program7 authorized us to support elements in Cuba opposed to the Castro Government while making Castro’s downfall seem to be the result of his own mistakes.

With respect to arms shipments into Cuba, Mr. Rubottom reported that the U.S. had reasonably effective cooperation from other Free World countries. The British, for example, had held up a shipment of jet aircraft to Cuba.

Mr. Rubottom said our note to Cuba delivered on Monday8 was stronger than any of our previous statements and would be followed by additional publicity. He hoped that when the Administration program on the sugar subsidy was ready, the President would make a public statement on the U.S. policy of “firmness but fairness.” This Government was working in the white, gray and black areas to disseminate information showing Castro in his true light. The Santiago Conference had shown other Latin American countries the type of government now in power in Cuba. Cuban efforts to intervene in other countries in Latin America had been slowed down but not stopped. The State Department was cooperating with CIA in action [less than 1 line not declassified] designed to build up an opposition to Castro. Mr. Rubottom felt that the U.S. was dealing with an alert, well-trained and dedicated foe in Cuba. He praised Ambassador Bonsal for performing effectively under difficult and provocative conditions. Mr. Rubottom believed that ultimately the attitude of the church would be extremely important in Cuba. In dealing with the Communist problem in Cuba, we must face the fact that there will be considerable increase in travel and cultural exchange between Cuba and the USSR as a result of a recent cultural agreement. The Soviet exhibit which moved from New York to Mexico will soon move to Cuba. Mr. Rubottom pointed out that Cuba had sold sugar to the Bloc under previous regimes.

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Turning to Guantanamo, he expressed doubt that there would be a frontal attack on the base because the Cuban military forces are so weak, with the air force not operative, the navy in difficulties because 70 or 80 of its high officials are in jail, and the army no longer effective. However, he felt we should seek to guarantee the water supply of the Guantanamo Base. Mr. Rubottom reported that Latin America was generally aware of the Cuban problem. If Communism took over the political institutions of Cuba, a meeting of the Latin American Foreign Ministers would probably take place under the Caracas Resolution. He thought action against a Communist Cuba under the Caracas Resolution and the OAS would be preferable to action under the Monroe Doctrine.

The President said if the Cubans attacked Guantanamo we would need support from the rest of Latin America. He felt we should do everything possible through the OAS to educate the Latin American countries on the situation in Cuba. The Vice President believed Latin America was better prepared for what might happen in Cuba than it had been for events in Guatemala. Mr. Rubottom agreed and added that Latin American understanding of what might happen in Cuba could be expedited. Secretary Anderson said the financial situation of Cuba was becoming worse. Mr. Gray inquired about U.S. assistance to Cuba. Mr. Rubottom said no aid was programmed except for a small technical assistance program of $350,000. It had been his intention to recommend an increased assistance program for Cuba, but this idea had now, of course, been withdrawn. No loan assistance was under active consideration by any banks; Cuba was not cooperating with the international lending institutions. He felt we ought to oppose quietly any Cuban loan applications which might be made. The Vice President inquired about the program under the Sugar Act. Mr. Rubottom said the Departments of State and Agriculture had practically agreed to recommend an extension of the Sugar Act for four years, with a provision that the President would have discretionary authority for reduction of the quotas, if such reduction was necessary in the national interest. Such discretionary authority did not exist at the present time. The U.S. will also have to take some action with respect to Cuba’s trade preference under GATT and under trade agreements with the U.S. Indeed, the U.S. would have to take action with respect to all the benefits Cuba now obtains from the U.S. Secretary Anderson asked whether elimination of oil shipments would be feasible, noting, however, that such action would probably result in Castro taking over the refineries in Cuba. Mr. Rubottom said this Government had refrained from urging the oil companies to cut off shipments to Cuba, but had told them there was no objection to their taking such action on their own initiative. The President felt we could take whatever action we needed to take if we first made sure that the rest of Latin America was [Page 745] on our side. In response to a question from the Vice President, Mr. Rubottom said the value of the sugar subsidy to Cuba was around $180 million a year. The Vice President said that in proportion to the population of the country benefited, this was our largest program.

Admiral Burke reported that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were seriously concerned by the situation in Cuba. He agreed that Castro had very effectively accomplished what he wanted to accomplish. However, in Admiral Burke’s view, Castro was a figurehead, so that his removal from the scene would not help matters much. Most of Castro’s moves so far could eventually help make Cuba Communist. Admiral Burke felt that the Communization of Cuba would most likely proceed rapidly without producing any incident of sufficient gravity to impel the OAS to take action. The President believed that an attack on Guantanamo would be an occasion for action against Cuba. The Vice President felt if was important to get other Latin American countries oriented to possible future developments in the Cuban situation. There had not been enough advance preparation in the case of the Guatemala action. Instead of applying economic pressure against Cuba, we could encourage private investors to be cautious about investing elsewhere in Latin America. If the Latin American countries see that Castro is frightening investment away from Latin America, they will not be favorably inclined toward Castro. If the Latin American opinion leaders were told that our investors are waiting to see what happens in Cuba, they might build up an anti-Castro opinion in Latin America. Secretary Anderson said it might be desirable if the Inter-American Bank was slowed up because of Castro. The President wondered how many would want to buy the bonds of the Bank now, in view of the Cuban situation.

Mr. Rubottom reported that anti-Castro sentiment was becoming evident in Latin America. In this connection, he hoped full advantage would be taken of the President’s trip to Latin America. The President wondered whether it would not be a good idea in the course of his trip to invite all the Latin American ambassadors in any particular capital to a reception and make sure that the subject of Cuba comes up for discussion. Mr. Rubottom said the Santiago meeting made the benefits of this kind of operation clear. The meeting of the Board of Governors of the Inter-American Bank might be another opportunity to build up anti-Castro opinion. The President felt it would be desirable if the Latin American countries invited us to be watchful in the Cuban situation. He felt the Latin American countries should take some initiative in this matter. He added that he could visit only four countries on his trip, but wanted by some sort of symbolic meeting to recognize all the other countries of South America. In any such meeting, he wanted the Cuban ambassador to hear what was to be said about Cuba.

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Mr. Rubottom said that the State Department was making a frontal attack against the Conference of Hungry Nations that Cuba was trying to arrange. The Vice President believed we should look at Latin America as a single area from an investment point of view, so that anything which hurts investment in one part of Latin American hurts investment throughout the area.

Mr. Gray said the Attorney General had frequently wondered what our policy was with respect to stopping anti-Castro elements preparing some action against Cuba from American territory. The President said it was perhaps better not to discuss this subject. The anti-Castro agents who should be left alone were being indicated.

Mr. Dulles felt we should not stop any measures we might wish to take in Cuba because of what the Soviets might do. From our point of view, it would be desirable for the USSR to show its hand in Cuba; if Soviet activity in Cuba becomes evident, then we will have a weapon against Castro.

Mr. Gray asked whether discussion of this subject should not be treated with the utmost secrecy. At the suggestion of the Vice President, it was agreed that the Planning Board would not be debriefed on the foregoing discussion.

The National Security Council:9

Noted and discussed the subject in the light of an oral presentation by the Department of State.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Boggs on March 31.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 410.
  3. Text of NSC 5902/1, “U.S. Policy Toward Latin America,” February 16, 1959, is scheduled for publication in volume V.
  4. A talking paper for Rubottom’s use at the meeting is attached to a covering memorandum of January 13 from Rubottom to Acting Secretary Dillon. (Department of State, ARA Deputy Assistant Files: Lot 62 D 24, Cuban Planning and NSC Briefing)
  5. See Document 379.
  6. See Document 384.
  7. The program was resubmitted to the President on November 5 and subsequently approved; see Document 387.
  8. See supra .
  9. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 2177. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Records: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)