531. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 85–2–60


The Problem

To estimate likely developments in the Cuban situation over the next six months, with particular reference to prospects for Communist domination or control of the Castro regime.


Fidel Castro has replaced Batista’s military dictatorship with a radical-nationalist one which is deeply and increasingly influenced by Communists. There is no longer any prospect of democratic government under his regime. Castro remains the dominant leader of Cuba, and the revolution continues in large measure to be an expression of his own unruly and messianic personality. (Paras. 10–13)
Fidel Castro will almost certainly remain in power through 1960, unless he becomes incapacitated to such an extent as to be unable to exercise personal leadership. The opposition to his regime, though growing, is weak and divided and lacks a dynamic leader. [Page 948] Should Fidel Castro depart the scene, a crisis probably would develop in a short time. Raúl Castro and “Che” Guevara would probably seek to carry on, but disaffected elements would almost certainly make a bid for power and there is a better than even chance that the country would be thrown into a period of widespread disorders and bloodshed. (Paras. 25–27, 47–50)
The economic situation, although deteriorating in some sectors, has improved in others, and we do not foresee its causing serious political problems this year. The outlook for private investments remains poor in view of the ever-present threat of expropriation and the increasing degree of state direction of the economy. (Paras. 28–38)
We are unable to answer the simplified question “Is Castro himself a Communist?” Communists are deeply involved in the remodeling of Cuba—more so than in Guatemala in 1954—and the country has become a base for Communism in Latin America. Clearly Castro regards the Communists as helpful and reliable allies in achieving his objectives; Communists and their supporters are in positions of importance throughout the revolutionary government. Given the mutuality of interest between the Castro regime and the Cuban Communists, it is difficult, and in most respects academic to try, to distinguish the policy and actions of the Castro regime from those which would be expected of a government under actual Communist control in the present circumstances in Cuba. This situation will almost certainly persist so long as Fidel Castro and his associates remain in power. Indeed, the outlook is for Castro’s increased dependence on Communists and they will continue to be able to make many decisions and take many actions without consulting him. If this trend continues, the Communists will gain de facto control of the Castro regime, and are2 near this point now. (Paras. 9, 14–19, 22–24, 51)
For the next six months or so, however, it appears unlikely that the Communists will have the desire to make a bid for overt power or the necessary strength to maintain it. We believe that the Communists will avoid moves which would place Cuba demonstrably under the domination or control of the international Communist movement within the meaning of the Caracas resolution. (Para. 52)
Recognition of additional Bloc governments, including Communist China, is likely, and Cuba will probably support the seating of that country in the UN this fall. Bloc aid, probably including the provision of some military equipment, is likely to grow. The Bloc would almost certainly continue economic aid to Cuba and would [Page 949] probably increase the level of aid if US action, governmental or private, threatened to affect adversely the Cuban economy. (Paras. 38, 40–41, 55–56)
We foresee no significant change in Cuban foreign policy over the next six months or so. Castro will almost certainly continue his bitter and vociferous hostility against the US, and accuse both the US Government and US business interests of attempts to destroy the Cuban revolution. Through a series of actions and reactions, this anti-US campaign might come to involve a demand for US withdrawal from Guantanamo, a rupture of diplomatic relations, or danger to the lives of American citizens in Cuba. He will almost certainly continue his extensive propaganda and proselytizing activities in Latin America, seeking thereby to undermine Western Hemisphere solidarity, to reduce US influence in Latin America, and to replace unfriendly governments with ones more closely oriented to his own. He would probably sponsor armed intervention in the event of the fall of the Trujillo regime or other favorable opportunities. Cuba will probably become increasingly isolated and suspect vis-à-vis the other Latin American and most African and Asian governments. (Paras. 39, 42–46, 53–54)

[Here follow paragraphs 8–65, which discuss the political situation, the economy, foreign policy, and the outlook for Cuba.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Secret. A note on the cover sheet indicates that the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and The Joint Staff participated in the preparation of the estimate. Concurred in by the United States Intelligence Board on June 14. Concurring were the Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State; the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army; the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Intelligence, Department of the Navy; the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF; the Director for Intelligence, the Joint Staff; the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Special Operations; and the Director of the National Security Agency. The Atomic Energy Commission representative to the USIB, and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside their jurisdiction.
  2. The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State would substitute “may be” for “are.” [Footnote in the source text.]