516. Telegram From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State1
3119. Government-oriented and Communist press have had propaganda field day during past two days over hearings by Senate Internal Security Committee. Through wide use of photographs and banner headlines they have gleefully portrayed “war criminals” and “renegade priests” being received by Senate Committee and their expenses paid. This being used to convey idea that USG is protecting these elements and using them in designs to overthrow Castro government. Official reaction so far limited to statement of Roa sent Department in Embtel 3083.2
Elements critical of revolutionary government have begun to express complete amazement and concern over hearings. Embassy officers have been receiving increasing number of calls from contacts at all levels who are bewildered over United States giving this propaganda bonanza to Castro. They express understanding of division of governmental powers in United States but nevertheless wonder whether issues have been placed squarely before the Internal Security Committee in terms of: (1) How totally discredited such persons as Ugalde Carillo, Tabernilla and Diaz Balart are in Cuba and how priests are mavericks who do not represent Church and have been disowned by hierarchy; (2) how prestige of United States is being hurt by these hearings and its case against Castro government undermined in Cuban as well as hemispheric public opinion; and (3) how cause of anti-government elements in Cuba is also weakened by moral impact of this action by Senate Committee and excuse it gives Castro to charge that those who criticize revolutionary government are of same stripe as “war criminals.” Prensa Libre published editorial last night expressing shocked incredulity.
It described hearing of three “war criminals” as “not only an offense to Cuba, but also lack of respect for United States and a shameful insult to the cause of liberty and democracy for which thousands of Cubans have sacrificed their lives in Cuba and many millions of North Americans in all the world.” Editorial states USG should disassociate itself from action of Senate Committee. It concluded saying that cause of democracy and freedom cannot be defended with myrmidons and assassins. Triple A student organization at Habana University, which in recent weeks has been taking increasingly anti-Communist [Page 911]stand, has sent message to Senate Committee expressing its indignation by stating rather than being received as witnesses, “war criminals” should be returned to Cuba to respond before the revolutionary courts for their crimes.
Church and lay organizations will undoubtedly come under increasing pressure to define themselves publicly on Senate hearings issue. As a result they may find it necessary to issue statements along lines of Prensa Libre editorial and Triple A statement.