535. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Secretary of State1


  • United States Policies toward Cuba

Almost one year ago the Department decided,2 along with CIA, that it would be impossible to carry on friendly relations with the Castro Government in Cuba and that, as a consequence, we should devise means to help bring about his overthrow and replacement by a government friendly to the United States. This decision has been implemented by (1) cooperating to the minimum extent possible with the Cuban Government while undertaking to maintain a facade of relations with it, (2) tolerating Castro in his anti-U.S., extremist statements and actions while he revealed his true colors to the world, and (3) covertly supporting the build-up of anti-Castro elements. Castro’s hostility toward the U.S. Government and his unwillingness to cooperate with U.S. private companies has driven him to seek arms, raw materials, including oil, and economic assistance from whatever source available, principally the communist bloc.

There was undoubtedly a predisposition favorable to communism on the part of many of Castro’s most trusted advisers, and perhaps Castro himself; the whole Castro page in history conceivably could represent a dramatic high point in the international communist conspiracy with Castro himself as a communist tool.

Officials in the various agencies who have been given responsibilities in connection with Cuba need to be constantly aware of the desirability, indeed the necessity if we are not to lose incalculably through destruction of the U.S. image as a defender of the principle of non-intervention, of permitting our policy to come to fruition. This will require more time. The identification of Castro with communism has spurred the growth of anti-Castro feeling in Cuba. Leading Cuban dissidents are now organizing outside of Cuba as well, and we have reason to hope that their strength will reach such proportions as to [Page 956] bring about his downfall, perhaps within a period of months. This would be the most desirable end to the Castro menace, assuming that he is replaced by elements friendly to the U.S.

Additional time is also necessary, however, to permit the ripening of the anti-Castro feeling in the rest of the Americas. This is vital since we shall have to turn to the OAS for action against Cuba if the Cuban dissidents should prove incapable of ousting Castro. Ambassador Dreier has prepared some comments on the general posture of the OAS toward Cuba (Tab A).3 In my opinion, the situation in the Americas is moving rapidly and favorably from our standpoint.

Meanwhile, our own attitude toward Cuba has perceptively shifted in the last few days, as the New York Times noted yesterday. Last Monday I made a public statement identifying the Castro revolution with international communism. On Wednesday you supported the Administration version of the sugar legislation which would authorize the President to cut the Cuban sugar quota.4 It is widely known that we are now prepared to use such authority. The U.S. oil companies have refused to run Russian crude through their refineries in Cuba, and it is generally known that this action was taken with the approval of the U.S. Government. A Cuban delegation, headed by the Minister of Agriculture, is arriving today to negotiate the possible purchase by Cuba of the Nicaro nickel installation. There is one report that the Cuban Government does not actually want to take over the plant at this time and may be prepared to allow the U.S. to continue operating the plant with a 5%, instead of 25%, export tax as called for under a present Cuban mining law. This would be a decided pulling in of horns by Cuba, but we certainly do not intend to agree to a sale of the Nicaro properties on anything other than a satisfactory basis, which is almost unthinkable in view of our relations with Cuba today.

As far as our broad commercial relations with Cuba are concerned, Mr. Mann is now undertaking at Mr. Dillon’s request to prepare a definitive set of recommendations regarding our bilateral trading arrangements, our mutual commitments under GATT, and other aspects involved in our trading relationships with that country. These will also presumably include references to the possibility of export controls, exchange restrictions and other steps that might be taken short of the full application of the Trading with the Enemy Act, and also the application of that Act itself.

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How do we deal with Cuba at this critical juncture? How do we satisfy those who would demand “action”? The situation is moving satisfactorily, in my opinion. We should maintain a steady hand and not be panicked into some extreme step which would suddenly give Castro the chance to appear to be the victim of economic or other aggression. (Most commentators are “excusing” us for planning to cut the Cuban sugar quota.) This may mean that the Cuban Government may next intervene the U.S.-owned oil refineries; it may intervene or expropriate the U.S.-owned utility companies; it may be driven to expropriating the sugar mills. In these instances, and if we refrain from any extreme overt retaliation, we would be the aggrieved party. When the judgment day comes, as I believe it will in the not too distant future, we should be able to obtain adequate, just and effective compensation for the expropriated properties at the very least, or possibly even to resume our traditionally close, commercial ties with Cuba, both in the private and public sector.

Security in the execution of our various programs relating to Cuba should be stressed continually. I am deeply concerned at the number of people in official Washington and elsewhere who are talking about these programs. All officials involved in discussions relating to Cuba should be cautioned to place the most stringent security on their work.

For your information there are attached the following papers:5

OAS posture.
Build-up of Anti-Castro Elements.
Cuban Bilateral Relations.
U.S.-Cuban Relations.
  • Sugar
  • Oil
  • Nicaro
  • Economic agreements
  • Possible counter measures
NIE—June 14, 1960.
My statement before House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Latin America.
The OAS and Possible Soviet-Cuban Military Collaboration.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.37/6–2760. Secret; No Distribution. Drafted by Rubottom and initialed by Rubottom and Herter.
  2. Reference may be to the policy recommendations set forth in Document 376 and the attachment thereto or to the decision alluded to in footnote 3, Document 419, but for which no other record has been found.
  3. Not printed.
  4. For text of Rubottom’s June 20 statement before the House Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs, see Department of State Bulletin, July 11, 1960, pp. 60–64. For text of Herter’s June 22 testimony, see Extension of the Sugar Act of 1948 as Amended. Hearings before the House Committee on Agriculture, 86th Congress, 2d Session (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960).
  5. Attachments a, b, c, d, f, and g are not printed. For text of NIE 85–2–60 of June 14, see Document 531.