443. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the United States Information Agency (Washburn) to the Ambassador to Cuba (Bonsal)1


  • Increased Information Effort in Cuba to Help Counter Castro’s Anti-U.S. Campaign

As we discussed in your office Wednesday afternoon,2 the proposed increased effort is based on the premise that there is a longstanding reservoir of goodwill among the Cuban people toward the U.S. (The anti-Americanism stems from Castro and his governing group and the communication organs that follow his line. As yet it has not cut deeply into the basic friendliness of the people.)

The tone of our output should be low-key, calm and friendly.

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The content should be factual, constructive, explanatory, simple. It should underscore the warm ties that have existed for so long between Cuba and the U.S. It should point out how and why any erosion of these friendly ties—political, economic, social, cultural—is harmful to both the Cuban people and the American people.

The content should also stress the continuing danger of Communist infiltration to both our countries and to the rest of the Hemisphere.

Implicit in our approach, as you stated, must be the idea that “we are in sympathy with change in Cuba.” The purpose here is not to try to “answer” Castro or to take direct issue with the government or individuals representing it. Rather, it is to explain how and why the best interests and ideals of the Cuban people are identical with the best interests and ideals of the American people.

We recognize realistically that this expanded information effort will at best be but a small part of the totality of influences at play in the complex Cuban situation. But the step-up is necessary: (1) to keep as clear a U.S. image as possible before the Cuban people at a time when Castro has increasingly portrayed the U.S. as the source of greatest threat to Cuba; (2) to maintain and increase the friendship Cubans as individuals hold for the U.S.; (3) to avoid leaving a vacuum for Communist and ultra-nationalistic extremism to fill; (4) to provide an increased supply of readily-available material documenting the dangers of Communism.

A rough estimate of the cost of these additional information activities runs somewhere between $150, 000 and $200, 000. We would attempt to find this amount within the Executive Branch rather than seek a supplemental appropriation from Congress.

The following are suggested elements for this program, as discussed with you:

A series of three or four documentary films with animated graphics, explaining simply such subjects as the significance to Cuba of the U.S. market for Cuban sugar and the U.S. quota system, the importance to Cuba of U.S. investments, the advantage of agrarian reform when properly carried out (e.g., Italy, Taiwan, Japan), the accomplishments of U.S.-Cuban technical cooperation, etc.
Pamphlets and booklets illustrating the positive benefits to Cubans of economic and other ties with the U.S. These publications to utilize, in part, the scripts and graphics in the films mentioned above.
The pulling together, in book or brochure form, of a well-documented study of Communist activity and penetration in Cuba, revealing the opportunism of the Communists in their previous friendship to Batista and their present efforts to “use” the July 26th Revolution for their own ends. With this would go additional supplies of printed materials exposing the methods of international Communism in general and materials explaining democratic processes. (Over the past year USIS–Cuba has experienced greatly increased interest in its [Page 775] anti-Communist, pro-democratic output. For example, the current price at Cuban bookstalls for our publications “What is Communism?” and “What is Democracy?” is $3.00 a copy.)

Stimulation of the formation of a non-governmental group of leading American citizens long known for their interest in Cuba. To be called “American Friends of Cuba” or something similar, it would comprise educators, journalists, economists, men of letters, and businessmen. It need not be a long list, perhaps not more than 20 or 30. Possible names discussed in your office included: Adolf Berle, one of the Rockefeller brothers, Herbert Matthews, Dr. Roland Ely, Dr. Charles Thompson, Dr. Samuel Flagg Bemis, Preston James, Dr. R. L. Wharton, Scott Thompson.

This group, addressing its many personal friends and the Cuban people as a whole, might originate much of the content of the expanded information program—achieving a credibility and friendliness of approach not available to the U.S. Government. Once underway, its work could be brought to the attention of the President (possibly at one of his press conferences) and he would endorse it wholeheartedly as a splendid means, by friendly acts, of keeping alive the warm ties between the Cuban and American people. He might cite it as exemplary of the people-to-people idea he believes in so firmly.

The following are projects suggested for the “American Friends of Cuba” group:


Sponsor a series of paid advertisements in Cuban newspapers, in the form of friendly letters, setting forth the benefits of continued private investment, spelling out the sugar quota, reminding of cultural and historic ties, stressing the dangers of Communism, etc.

Sponsor on Cuban TV stations the films mentioned in (1) above.

Work up a program designed to help the tourist business in Cuba, again spelling out in simple, friendly terms the assurances required on the Cuban side.
Invite an appropriate group of Cubans to the U.S. to visit the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Consider sponsorship of a study projecting Cuba ahead 25 years and setting forth an action program which, step-by-step, would achieve the 25-year goal. Reform measures compatible with the interests of the Cuban people and with our own practices would be incorporated in the study. This would provide potential sound leaders with a progressive alternative course, in the event of sudden collapse of the present regime or Castro’s becoming a Peron-type dictator.

A series of cultural attractions to be brought to Cuba under the auspices of the President’s Special International Program or other sponsorship. The Soviet Exhibition is being moved from Mexico City to Habana in early February. This is the height of the cultural “season.” If we could send a number of outstanding “name” performers or groups in the near future, it would serve to soften the impact of the Communist attractions.
Intensified effort to speed up the creation of the proposed Bi-National Center in Santa Clara—George MacCready to go there on temporary detail from Santiago to open the Santa Clara Reading Room [Page 776] and guide the formation of a bi-national board—and a Bi-National Center Director to be recruited for assignment to Santa Clara as soon as possible.

I hope it will be possible to sit down with you and Mr. Rubottom early next week, so that action may be pushed forward immediately on those activities which are agreed upon.

  1. Source: Department of State, Rubottom–Mann Files: Lot 62 D 418, Cuba (Jan.–Mar.) 1960. Secret. Drafted by Washburn. Attached to a note of February 1 from Washburn to Rubottom, in which Washburn explained that the memorandum was the result of discussions he had the previous week with Bonsal, McKnight, Cushing, and Jack Williams. Washburn noted that USIA Director Allen “approves the concept and approach it presents. “He also noted that the recommendations were “confined strictly to expanded information effort within Cuba to be undertaken by USIA Washington and USIS Cuba with the assistance of your staff here and the Embassy staff in Habana.”
  2. January 27. No record of this conversation has been found.