441. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between Senator James O. Eastland and the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom), Washington, January 28, 19601

SUBJECT

  • Cuba under Castro; sugar legislation; Dominican Republic

I started the conversation by telling the Senator that I appreciated his having telephoned me regarding his committee’s interest in certain Cuban exiles and that I had come to discuss the Cuban problem with him. He replied that he was under heavy pressure from several members of his committee to resume hearings on Cuba, mentioning Senator Dodd as one of those pressing the hardest.

I said that nobody in the Department was sanguine over the prospects in Cuba under Castro but that it might be better to wait a while longer before resuming hearings. Such people as Diaz Lanz and other defectors from the Castro movement had helped to start the movement and perhaps their time would come. Cubans identified [Page 770]with the Batista government, such as Nuñez Portuondo (who the Senator said he did not know), were not helpful at this stage of the game. Castro was making many mistakes and eventually the Cuban people would wise up to him, I said. They would do whatever was required at that time. The Senator rejoined that the same thing had been said about China and Czechoslovakia and look what had happened to them. I said that the cases seemed to me to be different.

I pointed out the role that might be played eventually by the OAS under the terms of the Caracas Resolution. I explained that opinion against Castro was ripening throughout the Americas. The Senator evinced some interest in this. I mentioned the editorials labelling Castro as a dictator recently printed in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. I told him about the Lopez Mateos comments regarding the Castro government in a press conference in Rio de Janeiro.2 When I said that harsh punitive action against Castro by us unilaterally would spring the trap which the communists and others had baited for us, the Senator seemed to agree.

Responding to his inquiry about the Department’s position on sugar legislation, I said that the administration and the industry were practically in agreement on a bill to give the executive authority to take whatever steps necessary to assure an adequate supply of sugar and to protect the national interest. The Senator said that he was not sure that he would support such a bill but that he would study it carefully.

The Senator asked whether Trujillo would not be willing to move against Cuba. I said that he might if he were given encouragement although recently Dominican radio attacks on Castro had ceased. I said this was probably a purely temporary self-serving gesture by Trujillo. The Senator seemed quite surprised when I told him about the reports of hundreds of persons arrested in the Dominican Republic and that internal problems were probably keeping Trujillo fully occupied at this time.

The Senator expressed appreciation for my having called on him and I agreed to keep in touch with him regarding Cuban developments. The Senator mentioned a Cuban Colonel, formerly a Batista officer, who was prepared to testify but could not recall his name.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737. 00/1–2860. Confidential. Drafted by Rubottom.
  2. Not further identified.