483. Memorandum of Discussion at the 437th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, March 17, 1960, 10 a.m.1

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Mr. Dulles said that in Cuba there was continuing evidence of Communist activity in the operations of Castro and his government. Apparently the Cuban Government was planning a hemispheric peace conference in Havana in May or June in place of the abortive Hungry Nations Conference. Representatives of about seven Latin American countries plus a Soviet jurist and other Communists recently met in Havana to prepare for this peace conference, which is being called in implementation of a plan developed by Latin American Communists [21/2 lines not declassified]. The Communists in Latin America have been following the general directions laid down in the Moscow meeting. The Communist Party of Cuba held a plenary session in February and decreed a week of solidarity with other Latin American Communist Parties during March.

The Sino-Soviet Bloc continues its active support for Castro. Mr. Dulles then detailed a considerable number of examples of contacts between Cuba and various members of the Sino-Soviet Bloc. Propaganda against the U.S. by Cuba continues to be strong. The Guantanamo [Page 857] Naval Base workers recently accused the U.S. of various abuses on the base. A report from Panama indicates that U.S. munitions may be planted and “discovered” in Cuba soon. Castro is using his diplomatic posts abroad to distribute violent anti-U.S. propaganda. In Guatemala the Cuban Ambassador even advertises in the newspapers against the U.S. The President remarked that he had recently held meetings with Latin American Ambassadors and curiously enough the Cuban Ambassador had appeared on both occasions.2

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Mr. Gray recalled that the Council had discussed U.S. Policy on Cuba at its last meeting and had decided to keep developments in Cuba under review at each subsequent meeting in the immediate future. A series of recent developments gave some indication that Cuba might intend some action against the Guantanamo Base. Mr. Gray understood that the Department of State and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had conferred regarding planning for protection of the Guantanamo Base.3 Admiral Burke believed that an attack on Guantanamo would not succeed, although considerable harassment of the base was of course possible. Our forces in Guantanamo were prepared for Cuban action. Our forces also have evacuation plans designed to remove U.S. citizens from Cuba in case of need, although it must of course be realized that if mob violence breaks out against Americans in Cuba, a great many of our citizens may be killed or injured before our forces can control the situation. We have plans for landing two airborne battle groups in Cuba in addition to a landing of marines in the Guantanamo area. Additional support forces would be landed as necessary. Admiral Burke believed that U.S. forces could move through Cuba at will without opposition. He also noted that the Navy was ready to blockade the island immediately if ordered to do so.

The President said we were constantly hearing stories of Communist penetration and domination in countries all around the world. He wondered how many Communists had been won over to Communism by bad living conditions and how many by the hope of power. We apparently did not have the secret of appealing to people in the same way. Except in Turkey and Pakistan, the climate in none of the underdeveloped countries appears to be completely antagonistic toward Communism. If we could discover the main inducement or enticement which causes persons to embrace Communism, we could perhaps operate more effectively. Secretary Herter felt that the two factors mentioned by the President were the main ones; that is, ambitious individuals became Communists because they were hungry for power [Page 858] and in addition the Communists had the ability to capitalize on the desire of the masses of people for better living conditions. Admiral Burke said that in addition there was always a large element in a population which was against everything and many people would follow any aggressive forceful ruthless leader. Mr. Dulles believed nationalism played a part in the growth of Communism. The President said nationalism was not compatible with Communism since the Communists would always bow to Moscow. He wondered how often ideas of Czechoslovakian nationalism could find expression now. Mr. McCone was inclined to agree with Admiral Burke’s remarks. He pointed out that during Hitler’s years of power there had been enclaves of Naziism in Latin America because some Latin Americans apparently admired Hitler as a ruthless leader.

Secretary Herter then described what had happened to a plantation owned by a friend of his in Cuba. The 5000 cattle on this plantation had been taken over immediately by Castro agents and were being gradually butchered and sold. The 25,000 acres of sugar cane would be taken over as soon as the crop was harvested. The sugar mill on the plantation was being run by a committee of five including the superintendent, a representative of the farmers, a representative of labor and two representatives of the Castro Government. Mr. Herter felt the whole middle and supervisory class in Cuba was disillusioned with Castro, but the tenant farmer continued enthusiastically to support him. After the sugar cane is cut, the fields must be fertilized and cleaned up, an operation which requires financing. The plantation owners have been told that they must finance the tenant farmers in this operation. The plantation owners, however, have virtually written off their plantations as lost. Mr. Herter felt that in this situation sugar production in Cuba would inevitably fall and that great injury would be done to the tenant farmer in the long run. The President said that injury would be done to the U.S. if the Administration could not get authority from Congress for altering the sugar quotas. Apparently Mr. Cooley did not agree with the proposals the President had made yesterday.4 Mr. Dulles felt that two years of operations by Castro would result in thoroughly gutting Cuba. Mr. Gray said he had only one other comment. Many things which we hope will not happen could happen suddenly in Cuba. Nasser for example had nationalized the Suez Canal in Egypt in one minute. Mr. Gray felt that some Cuban action against the Guantanamo Base might be taken very suddenly. The President asked how large the Guantanamo Base was. Admiral [Page 859] Burke showed the President a map of the base. Secretary Herter concluded the discussion by remarking that our treaty rights with respect to the base were as clear as a bell.

The National Security Council:5

Discussed the policy implications of recent developments with regard to the situation in Cuba, with particular reference to the status of contingency planning for possible threats to the safety of U.S. citizens and to the Guantanamo Base.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Prepared by Boggs.
  2. One such meeting was a luncheon given by the President on March 9, (ibid., President’s Daily Appointments) The other meeting has not been identified.
  3. See Document 476.
  4. Apparently a reference to the President’s remarks at his press conference regarding changes in the Sugar Act. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960–61, p. 2981.
  5. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 2195. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)