55. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Snow) to the Acting Secretary of State1


  • Sales of Arms to Cuba


In the Secretary’s approval of ARA’s memorandum of March 24, 1958, on the above subject (Tab A),2 he indicated that he wished no arms to be furnished to Cuba until conditions there improved to the point where this equipment “will be dependably used for hemispheric defense and not used up in internal strife”. He also indicated that he wished to be informed of any other elements which might alter that decision.

In preparing the recommendations in its March 24 memorandum, ARA took into account that there are three different bases on which arms have been supplied to Cuba: (1) grant aid under the bilateral Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, (2) sales arranged through the Department of Defense under authority of Section 106 of the Mutual Security Act (Tab B)3 and (3) sales by private American firms. A primary factor in our recommendation to suspend arms shipments to Cuba last month was our desire to be sure that military equipment provided Cuba under the MDA Agreement would be used in accordance with the terms of that agreement. While there is no legal or contractual prohibition on the use for internal security purposes of arms sold under methods (2) and (3) above, the export of such equipment from the United States is controlled by the Executive Branch under its munitions control procedures in “furtherance of world peace and the security and foreign policy of the United States” (Tab C). It is in our interest to preserve flexibility in the exercise of such control. If the Cuban Government takes effective steps toward a peaceful and constructive solution of the disturbed internal situation, we should be [Page 93] in a position, when appropriate, to encourage further progress along these lines by approving selected sales of military equipment to Cuba by the Department of Defense or by private American firms, should such requests be made.

The Cuban Government has cancelled all outstanding requests to purchase combat equipment in the United States (Tab D) and has turned to other sources of supply (e.g., the Dominican Republic). Following the abortive attempt by Fidel Castro to overthrow the Government of Cuba in early April, the situation is now quiet in Cuba. National elections are scheduled for November 3, 1958.


That, in keeping with the Secretary’s desire, shipments of combat equipment for Cuba under the grant Military Assistance Program continue to be withheld until there is assurance that such equipment will be used only in defense of the hemisphere.
That sales of combat equipment to Cuba by the Department of Defense or by private American firms be selectively approved whenever in the judgment of the Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs or the Acting Assistant Secretary such approval would further our foreign-policy objectives as set forth above.
That shipment of non-combat items, such as certain communications equipment, furnished to Cuba as a grant under the Military Assistance Program or sold to the Cuban Government by the Department of Defense or by private American companies, be approved. (Some requests for purchase of non-combat items were recently approved. See Tab E).4
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.5612/5–658. Secret. Drafted by Little, cleared with Dreier, initialed by Wieland and Snow, and concurred in by H, P, W/MSC, and Murphy. In giving H’s concurrence, Assistant Secretary Macomber wrote on the source text: “Concur with recommendations 1 & 3. Recommendation #2 will cause considerable Congressional difficulty”.
  2. Document 41.
  3. Tabs B, C, D, and E, not attached to the source text, have not been further identified.
  4. Herter initialed his approval of each of the three recommendations.