521. Memorandum of Discussion at the 445th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, May 24, 19601
[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.] Mr. Gray said he believed the Secretary of State wished to make some remarks about the situation in Cuba.
Secretary Herter said he would briefly mention a number of developments in Cuba. A Cuban Government-controlled newspaper had recently uncovered certain placards which our Embassy had printed in advance in order to protect Embassy personnel in the event of riots or evacuation. Apparently, the Cubans, charging that the placards indicated that the U.S. intended to attack Cuba, had intended to stage a demonstration but the demonstration did not materialize. The Cuban Government had reported shooting down a light aircraft which came from the U.S. The Cubans maintained that the pilot of this airplane was attempting to fly Batista adherents out of Cuba. The Cuban Ambassador to the U.S., Cardona, has been appointed but has not yet arrived in this country. Secretary Herter was dubious whether Cardona would have enough influence with the Cuban Government to improve U.S.-Cuban relations. Mr. Dulles said Cardona was, however, a very able man. Continuing, Secretary Herter said the U.S. had protested to Cuba after Cuba had announced that it had fired on a U.S. ship, since none of our ships were in Cuban territorial waters. The last [Page 926]two independent newspapers in Cuba had been seized by the government and on May 13 Castro, in even more violent terms than usual, had attacked the U.S.
Secretary Herter reported that oil refineries in Cuba had been using Venezuelan oil under a compromise arrangement enabling them to obtain enough dollars to purchase such oil. Now, the Cuban Government is demanding that the refineries use more Soviet petroleum. If the refineries refuse, they will probably be seized by the Cuban Government. Secretary Herter thought this government would have to be careful about the advice it gave the refineries.
Secretary Herter said there had been considerable discussion about taking economic measures against Castro. One group which had severely criticized the State Department for not taking economic measures against Cuba had now concluded that no economic measures were available to us except the Sugar Act and the tourist trade (which was rapidly evaporating). Representative Cooley was trying to hold up the one-year renewal of the Sugar Act to such a late point in the session that the Senate would not be able to hold hearings on it. We had been talking to Senator Byrd in an effort to counter the Cooley tactics. Mr. Gray asked whether the Secretary of State did not continue to attach great importance to the sugar legislation. Secretary Herter replied that the sugar legislation was very important since it was the only weapon we had against Cuba.
Secretary Herter then noted that on May 17 the Archbishop of Santiago had issued a letter which stated that “the enemy is within” in describing Communist influence in Cuba. It was difficult to tell to what extent this feeling prevailed in the Cuban Catholic Church. Secretary Herter noted that we had been talking about the possibility of a Cuban purchase of Nicaro. If Cuba took over Nicaro, it would be taking over U.S. Government property in contrast to its seizures of private, although foreign-owned, property. Freeport Sulphur is now negotiating to re-open its facilities in Cuba. The situation of Freeport Sulphur is different from that of Nicaro since Freeport’s products can only be refined in New Orleans whereas the concentrate Nicaro ships out has a world market.
Secretary Herter said that the President of Cuba was now on his way to six South American countries to solicit support for Cuba’s position. When Sukarno visited Cuba recently, there was a heated discussion regarding the communiqué which was to be issued at the end of the visit. Castro insisted that Sukarno should condemn the U.S., while Sukarno wished Castro to endorse Indonesian claims to New Guinea. However, Sukarno did agree to attend the Conference of Underdeveloped Nations being promoted by Cuba.[Page 927]
Secretary Anderson said that Cuba had ordered several millions of paper pesos printed. This move could mean that a currency exchange was pending or that inflation was about to take place through the printing of paper money. Mr. Dulles asked whether the new peso bills were different from the old. Secretary Anderson said the new notes were exactly the same as the old notes except for Guevara’s signature.
Mr. Gray said he believed Mr. Dulles wished to make some comments about Cuba. Mr. Dulles said he wished to report on two semi-covert radio activities related to Cuba. Of course, radio activities could never be entirely covert. Several well-known Cuban refugees were purchasing time for anti-Castro broadcasting from a short-wave station in Cuba. Meanwhile a 50 kilowatt radio station was nearing completion on Swan Island which is 400 miles southwest of Cuba and 110 miles off the Honduran coast. This station, which will become the property of a private corporation, is now on the air for test purposes. It is able to cover the whole Caribbean area at night and nearby areas in the daytime. The station will go on the air quietly at first, will then attack Trujillo, and then later will begin to attack Castro.
Mr. Washburn inquired about the attribution of the Swan Island station. Mr. Dulles said the station would be operated ostensibly by a commercial company which would sell time to anyone able to pay for it. The President asked whether defense forces would be stationed on Swan Island to protect this station. Secretary Herter noted that Honduras claims Swan Island.
The National Security Council:2
Noted and discussed recent developments with regard to the situation in Cuba, in the light of an oral summary thereof by the Secretary of State.