442. Memorandum From the Acting Director of the Office of Inter-American Regional Political Affairs (Dreier) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1


  • Treatment of Cuban Problem in OAS

I refer to my memorandum of January 222 concerning the procedures of the OAS in connection with the Cuban problem and the possibilities and limitations of each. The present memorandum deals with the objectives that we might seek in the Cuban situation and, therefore, the procedures of the OAS that might be used.

The main factors to be borne in mind in this regard seem to me to be the following:

There is little, if any, prospect of a real improvement in our relations with Cuba so long as Castro and his Communist-oriented backers (Raul Castro, Che Guevara, et al.) remain in power.
We must hope that the Cuban people will themselves correct this situation. However, at the present time it does not seem as though opposition to him has either become sufficiently strong or well organized to warrant any expectation of effective action in the near future. More time is therefore needed for the political ferment within Cuba to proceed.
At the same time, the strength of the Communist-oriented group seems to be increasing. We are therefore faced in effect with a race between the increasing power of our enemies in Cuba and the growth of an opposition among those who can be expected to pursue the desirable goals of social change in Cuba while maintaining a friendly relationship with the United States. This race can be favorably or unfavorably affected by actions of this country.
There may well come a point at which the growth of the power of the Communist-oriented group so far exceeds development of an effective opposition that we may have to consider drastic action of a political or economic sort. Such action, if it becomes necessary, should be taken only after a series of other steps by which we would have clearly demonstrated our desire to handle the problem by orderly and less drastic means. The maximum support of other members of the inter-American community should be sought in advance by careful preparatory work.
Our basic objectives must be a) to contribute to the process by which the Cuban people will themselves replace the Castro Government with one with which it is possible to negotiate, and b) to maintain [Page 772] the best possible position in the eyes of the other Latin American countries so as to have their support for whatever steps may ultimately be necessary.

I assume that we are assembling a list of measures—unilateral, bilateral and multilateral—that we can at any given time employ in working towards the above objectives. At the present stage, it seems wise to emphasize bilateral negotiations rather than to move quickly into multilateral procedures. This is desirable because the Cubans will have the same opportunity as we to exploit the propaganda opportunities of OAS or UN discussions. Furthermore, our position in an international organization will be stronger if we have made a record of seeking to settle the problems through direct negotiations. With respect to multilateral procedures, we should first of all maintain our position, which is supported by the Charters of the OAS and the UN, that governments having disputes should seek to settle them through regional procedures before bringing them to the Security Council of the UN. Material is being prepared for Ambassador Lodge to be used in the event the Cubans should bypass the OAS and bring their complaints against the United States before the Security Council.

The main steps that should be considered with reference to the OAS are suggested below. If taken, they should be spread out over a period of time, emphasis being placed first upon the informational activities covered by points 1) and 2). The later steps would, of course, have to be reviewed in the light of existing circumstances.

Make a statement at a forthcoming meeting of the Council of the OAS of our position regarding the Cuban situation.
Initiate a continuing flow of information to the other American governments on developments in Cuba. While this material should be carefully prepared, we should not attempt to cover everything in one document at one time, but plan a series of presentations to other governments to be carried out over several months.
Request the Inter-American Peace Committee to take cognizance of the charges of intervention and aggression which the Cuban Government has leveled at the United States, emphasizing our already demonstrated willingness to provide full information to the OAS on this matter and urging that the Cuban Government be requested to do likewise. It is likely that the Cuban Government will not respond favorably to such an initiative. However, this fact would militate in our favor, and would furthermore give grounds for opposing a move by Cuba in the UN which Castro has already suggested.
Possible submission to the International Court of Justice, or to arbitration, of carefully selected legal disputes with Cuba as a further demonstration of our desire to settle them in an orderly manner.
If the situation in Cuba continues to deteriorate after the foregoing has been carried out, we could plan for a meeting of Foreign Ministers which would be called with a view to calling upon Cuba a) to submit her disputes with the United States to procedures of settlement [Page 773] provided for in the OAS or other provisions of international law, and b) to take effective remedial action against the threat of Communism if this dangerous influence grows.

In the last analysis, should more drastic action on our part become unavoidable in the interests of national security, we would seek, in the light of existing circumstances, the maximum support of the OAS through a meeting of Foreign Ministers that would sanction political or economic measures. It should be emphasized that the repugnance to the Latin American countries of anything smacking of intervention would render such action by the Foreign Ministers very unlikely except in a clear case of strong Soviet or Chinese Communist influence in Cuba.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737. 00/1–2860. Secret. Drafted and initialed by Dreier. Copies were sent to Mallory, Edward A. Jamison, Wieland, and John C. Hill. Rubottom wrote on the source text: “A good paper. Many thanks.”
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., 737. 00/1–2260)