505. Memorandum of Discussion at the 441st Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, April 14, 19601

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Turning to Cuba Mr. Dulles reported that a Senor Betancourt (no relation to Venezuela’s Betancourt) had recently defected in Cuba and had told U.S. officials that he sees three possible outcomes of the Cuban situation: (1) the assassination of Castro, which would make him a martyr, (2) Castro’s suicide, which is a possibility in the event of failure and (3) a continuation of the present trend, resulting ultimately in a socialist dictatorship and a Batista-type terror in Cuba. Senor Betancourt had said that Castro was a warped personality and he had accordingly suggested that the U.S. appoint a committee of three to deal with him—a committee consisting of a psychologist, a diplomat and an actor of the Orson Welles type.

A recent invitation by Cuba to Honduran students and legislators to attend the Conference of Underdeveloped Nations indicates that Cuba is abandoning the concept of making this conference an official governmental one. Cuba appears to be preparing to establish diplomatic relations with Czechoslovakia. Pavlicek, a career diplomat in Latin American affairs who as Minister to Mexico had arranged for the shipment of Czech arms to the Arbenz regime in Guatemala in 1954, would probably be the Czech Ambassador to Cuba. The Cuban communists were increasing their efforts to control the Cuban Labor Federation. The President’s letter to the Chilean students2 had received wide notice in Cuba and elicited a favorable reaction among many people who are becoming disillusioned with Castro.

Mr. Dillon thought the President’s letter to the Chilean students was very effective throughout Latin America, especially in Chile. We had recently called the attention of Argentina, Chile and Colombia to the fact that a Cuban radio station had been calling the presidents of these countries “lackeys and slaves of U.S.” On Tuesday3 we are planning to send a ship to the Nicaro facility in Cuba to load nickel. This will be a test case because the 90 day moratorium on application of the Cuban export tax to Nicaro expired on April 1. It will be interesting to see whether Cuba will apply the tax and compel Nicaro to shut down. Mr. Dillon said it was his impression that the Cuban [Page 894] censorship was becoming more and more effective, so that it was increasingly difficult to get the truth to the Cuban people. He asked whether Mr. Allen would like to comment on this point.

Mr. Allen said USIA had been discussing means of presenting factual information to the Cuban people. His agency had been under some pressure from U.S. newspapers and Members of Congress on this point. The Senate had recently passed a resolution allocating $100,000 to be used by USIA to buy time on Florida radio stations for programs aimed at Cuba.4 However, a conference committee had refused the allocation of additional money, suggesting that funds already appropriated be used for the purpose. Studies in USIA had developed two possibilities for getting the factual information to the Cuban people. One project would be a 500 kilowatt mobile standard-wave radio station in Florida transmitting programs beamed to Cuba. It would take at least nine months and possibly up to twenty months to put this project into operation. A second project was the proposal to fly an aircraft over Key West for the purpose of beaming television programs into Cuba, probably on Channel 8. This project could be put into operation in about eight weeks if the Navy would provide USIA with a Super-Constellation aircraft now being used on weather patrol duties. However, this project was fraught with certain difficulties. The Federal Communications Commission, although it would of course cooperate if directed to do so by the NSC or the President, was strongly opposed to the operation because it feared that the result would be a radio war in the Western Hemisphere. In any case, FCC would like to be heard before being directed by the NSC to proceed. Mr. Allen pointed out that if Mexico or Canada beamed programs to one of our cities from an aircraft, we would be furious. A similar reaction might be expected from Castro. Moreover, if it became known that we were broadcasting on a particular channel, Castro could shift his television stations to this channel and jam our programs. In fact jamming is so easy that Castro might retaliate by jamming other U.S. stations. So much for the technical difficulties of this problem. There were other difficulties also. Beaming television programs to Cuba from an aircraft would give Castro a platform from which to denounce the U.S. for television aggression. He could pose as a martyr, saying he was a victim of the powerful U.S. and ask other Latin American countries to rally to his defense. In the light of all these difficulties, USIA was searching for alternate means of getting factual information to the Cuban people. Our short-wave broadcasts to Cuba have been augmented. The difficulty with short-wave broadcasts is that there are only about 150,000 short-wave sets in Cuba, most of which were [Page 895] imported by Castro during his days as a guerrilla. It might be possible for USIA to buy time on local stations in Florida for broadcasting Cuban programs. The most useful station for this purpose is one owned by Mr. Storer, who is most cooperative and whose station has broadcast to Cuba on an experimental basis. Most radio stations do not wish to rent two or three hours of good listening time to the USIA for Spanish-language programs because they are fearful of losing their regular listeners. Mr. Allen concluded by saying he would welcome guidance on the USIA problem.

Mr. Dillon was inclined to think that any contrived solution such as broadcasting television programs from an aircraft would be less than productive in our relations with Latin American countries unless the operation produced a very definite dividend. Mr. Allen said it had been suggested that we broadcast Big League baseball games to Cuba since the Cubans appeared to be baseball fans. Mr. Dillon doubted that broadcasting baseball games to Cuba would advance our policy very far. Mr. Allen said of course we would mention other news in the pause between innings of the baseball game. On balance, Mr. Allen agreed that while baseball broadcasting to Cuba had some attractions, it was not sufficiently dignified for a U.S. program. The Vice President agreed that broadcasting from an airplane would be counter-productive; it would not produce enough benefits to compensate for its disadvantages. The Vice President had no objection to taking action which would be bitterly protested by Castro provided such section would really damage the Castro regime but he saw no point in taking action which would merely irritate Castro without producing tangible benefits for the U.S. No doubt Castro would charge the U.S. with aggression if a U.S. broadcast prevented Cubans from listening to his speeches. Overt action of this kind should not be undertaken by the U.S. unless we are sure that it will result in great benefits to us. The Vice President wondered about the possibility of buying time on Miami stations. Mr. Allen said most of these stations were low-powered stations although there was a Spanish-language station in Miami. The Vice President thought the power of the low-powered stations might be increased. Mr. Allen felt we should expand our short-wave broadcasts, investigate the possibility of buying more time on local stations, etc. He also pointed out that the International Telecommunications Conventions contained the principle that nations wishing to broadcast internationally should do so by short-wave and that standard wave or television broadcasts should use only enough power to cover the territory of the broadcasting state. The Conventions also contain the principle that nations should not broadcast on standard wave or television from the high seas.

[Page 896]

Secretary Anderson wondered whether it would not be more useful to expend available funds for the purpose of introducing more short-wave sets into Cuba rather than to buy time on local radio stations. Mr. Allen felt the introduction of more short-wave radio sets would be feasible. Mr. Dulles said distribution of these sets might present a problem but he would look into the matter. The Vice President said he understood the number of people in Cuba disenchanted with Castro was constantly increasing. He wondered whether twenty per cent of the population was disillusioned with Castro by now. Mr. Dulles said disillusionment with Castro had occurred principally among the educated classes of the population; there was not much evidence of any change in the feeling of other classes for Castro. A change in the sentiment of the lower classes would only occur over a long period of time, probably as a result of economic difficulties. Mr. Dulles reported that some Cuban intellectuals would soon be broadcasting to Cuba from Boston at night. It was hoped that a second radio station over which Cuban refugees might broadcast would be installed in five or six weeks. Mr. Dulles then read from a report of the Secretary General of the Popular Socialist (Communist) Party in Cuba. This report indicated that the Communist Party recognizes that Castro, as the leader of the revolution, can do more to promote communist aims in Cuba than anyone else. The report indicates that the communists are keeping in the background in order not to make difficulties for Castro in his international relations. The report declares that the major aims of communism are being accomplished in Cuba. It declares that Castro knows that he has the strong support of the communists, that he has said that anti-communists are imperialist agents, that he has given the communists credit for creating during the last thirty years the anti-imperialist sentiment which made the revolution possible and that he has admitted that the revolution could not have succeeded without communism. The report declares that Castro and the leaders of his government consult the communists regularly, that communists are in key positions in the army and in the government, and that a communist-controlled Cuban government could not make as much progress towards the aims of communism as the present government is making.

The Vice President said this report appeared to indicate that the communists feel they have the Castro government well in hand. Mr. Gates asked to whom the report was made. Mr. Dulles said apparently it was circulated among Cuban communists. The Vice President wondered whether the report could not be publicized. He felt publicity would be very effective in this case. Mr. Dulles said he would investigate to determine how widely the report had been circulated already. He would not want to publicize it in such a way as to uncover his sources of information. The Vice President agreed but thought that if [Page 897] the report had been widely disseminated, it would be impossible for the Cubans to tell which recipient had passed it on.5

[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. The Vice President presided at the meeting.
  2. For text of the President’s April 8 letter to the President of the Federation of Students of Chile, as well as a translation of the February 24 letter from the Federation to President Eisenhower which was given him during his trip to Chile, see Department of State Bulletin, April 25, 1960, pp. 648–658.
  3. April 19.
  4. Reference is to an amendment to the Second Supplemental Appropriations bill offered on March 24 by Senator Karl E. Mundt.
  5. The discussion of the Cuban situation constitutes NSC Action No. 2213. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)