427. Draft Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Secretary of State1

SUBJECT

  • Recall of Ambassador Philip W. Bonsal from Cuba for Consultation

Discussion

In view of the stepped-up campaign of calumny against the United States Government by the Government of Cuba which has descended to the point of insulting and derogatory public statements by Prime Minister Castro against our Vice President and Ambassador (Tab B2), I feel that a vigorous action is required in order to maintain the dignity and prestige of the United States Government (which is a particularly important concept in Latin American eyes). It is my belief that Ambassador Bonsal should be instructed, unless he has compelling and overriding objections, to present a sharp formal note of protest to the Government of Cuba in which the Communist menace in Cuba shall be clearly stressed and that following its delivery he should make public the text of this protest to the public, announcing simultaneously that he has been recalled to the United States for immediate consultation. I have alerted Ambassador Bonsal as to this probable [Page 751]course of action by cable (Tab C3). A draft of the note of protest is at Tab A.4

I realize that Castro’s reaction will probably be angry and irresponsible. However, it is quite evident that his government has already begun a campaign to undermine and discredit Ambassador Bonsal and that his effectiveness would soon be lost in any case. Considering his prestige with the Cuban people and the warm feeling which they have for him, I believe that his recall will make a significant impression on them if the action is taken now at our initiative rather than later, perhaps at the initiative of the Government of Cuba.

Among the negative aspects of the above course of action which I, together with my staff, have carefully weighed is the possibility that Ambassador Bonsal will not be able to return to Habana. It is also possible that a certain risk to the welfare and security of American citizens is involved. However, it is my considered opinion that the protest itself will not generate any spontaneous mob action and that Castro can always find a pretext for fomenting such action should he consider it desirable to do so. This action, too, will postpone indefinitely, if it does not eliminate entirely, the possibility of initiating negotiations in accordance with the initial steps of our recently approved “action program” for Cuba. In view of the recent attitudes expressed by Castro and others and the speed with which events have unfolded, such negotiations are probably impossible in any case and we must now use other means to resolve our problems with the present government of Cuba.

Recommendations

That you approve the recall of Ambassador Bonsal for immediate consultation.

That you approve the text of the note of protest at Tab A. That you call the President and the Vice President to inform them of our intentions.5

  1. Source: Department of State, CCA Files: Lot 70 D 149, Cuba. Secret. Drafted by Stevenson and initialed by Rubottom. The source text indicates the memorandum was to be sent to L, SCA, and P for concurrence and routed to the Secretary through Merchant, but there is no indication that L, P, or Merchant saw the draft. An undated, marginal notation in an unidentified hand reads: “Not sent. Sec’y rec’d info by other means.”
  2. Document 424.
  3. Supra.
  4. Not printed.
  5. There is no indication on the source text that any of the recommendations were approved or disapproved.