543. Memorandum for the Files by the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1


  • Cuba

I told the ARA staff the following at our meeting this morning:

I wanted them to know something of my thoughts behind the various recommendations being made and actions being taken with respect to our presently extremely complex relations with Cuba and, for that matter, the rest of the Hemisphere. For all practical purposes, we are now in virtual open conflict with the Castro government. We have gone as far as we can in trying to distinguish between the Cuban people and their present government, much as we sympathize with the plight of what we believe to be the great majority of Cubans. The recent series of articles by Thomas Wolf in the Washington Post clearly shows the extent to which the Cuban “people” have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked and out-maneuvered, assuming that some of them have been alert, by the communists.

We want to go as far as we can through juridical procedures in the OAS. We have built up the image of the OAS in our public statements, as well as in our private advice to the President and others in the government, to a stronger position perhaps than is really justified. We must defend the U.S. interest which is now seriously menaced by Cuban developments. In all honesty, I believe that we will also be defending the Hemisphere’s interest.

There are very few really courageous leaders in Latin America who are willing to get behind us and publicly acknowledge the extent of the communist menace in Cuba. Ydigoras is one. The Frondizi statement in yesterday’s newspaper2 was encouraging, as have been the reports from their Foreign Office in the last few days. The Betancourt approach, while understandable, is responsive to one man’s obsession and his hatred of another, Trujillo. The Lleras Camargo approach is super-juridical and tied too closely to Betancourt, to be useful to us at this time. The Pedro Beltran approach, unless he is willing courageously to say to his own government and to his people [Page 978] what he said to us, will do us little good. This does not attempt to analyze each government leader nor each government’s position in the Americas, although I should cite the encouraging responses we have had from Uruguay in the past few months. I trust that we can count on El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica, although there are cracks in some of this armor.

What we must do in defense of our interest and the Hemisphere’s interest is to keep moving in the face of the Cuban menace. This is extremely difficult when we get telegrams from the field such as that from Habana today.3 Other advisers whom we respect would push us in different directions.

I believe that most of the Latin American leaders in their heart of hearts want and expect the United States to move effectively against Cuba now. Their positions are such that many of them cannot give us the support they would like to give us. (I am afraid that some of them would not hesitate to criticize us later if we don’t move.)

We have every right to expect that they will defend their home fronts, however. We shouldn’t hesitate to tell them this when the crucial moment comes. This will mean considerable courage in itself to stand up in the face of the deliberately fomented pro-Castro demonstrations which, these other government leaders must realize, are being directed at their overthrow. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they publicly defend everything that the United States does. It certainly does mean that they stand firm in defense of the principles which they and we hold dear or the consequences inexorably will be: 1. The destruction of the whole inter-American system which we have come to respect so much in the last half century, and 2. The possible thrust of the communist apparatus much more openly than it now is in their own countries.

  1. Source: Department of State, Rubottom–Mann Files: Lot 62 D 418, Cuba (July–Sept.) 1960. Secret. Drafted by Rubottom. Attached to a July 6 memorandum from Rubottom to all Office Directors in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, in which he noted that he had “embellished my remarks to some extent in the interest of achieving greater impact and in order to give credit where it is due to a few other helpful governments in the Hemisphere.”
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Not further identified.