554. Letter From the Ambassador in Cuba (Bonsal) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1

Dear Dick: We do not report by any means all of the rumors or “bolas” which come to our attention. I have, however, heard from two or three sources that Fidel Castro was caught entirely off base by Khrushchev’s July 9 statement2 about what Russia would do to us if we invaded Cuba. The rumor, as I get it, is that he was perfectly furious about a development which puts Cuba entirely under the Soviet wing, and that his illness and consequent non-appearance at [Page 1009] the July 10 demonstration was brought on by his anger at the Russians. According to this same “bola”, Ché Guevara and other Communist elements within the Government worked on Fidel, threatened him with arrest or even with elimination and finally brought him to the point where he made his sick-bed talk on the evening of July 103 expressing appreciation to Khrushchev. As the story goes, however, Fidel is now more or less of a pawn in the hands of Guevara.

I do not have any way to verify this type of “bola”. I am convinced that Guevara is the actual ruler of this country at this time, but that he could not rule for very long without Fidel.4 Raul Castro, when he returns, will undoubtedly furnish the answer to some of the questions about relations with the Soviet Union.

The presence here of mysterious weapons, including rockets, and Migs is increasingly rumored. We have not gotten to the bottom of any of these rumors in a satisfactory fashion but I am convinced that there is a good deal in them. I doubt personally if the weapons obtained will make of Cuba a threat to the United States, but they will certainly be a demonstration of Castro’s ability to arm herself against the policies and wishes of the United States and our friends.

I am quite encouraged by the manner in which the situation is developing here. It is possible that Khrushchev’s statement has counteracted some of the unfavorable reactions from our drastic quota cut or at least has given people something else to think about.

I have had several queries as to whether our attempt to “clarify” the statement of the Mexican legislators about Mexican-Cuban relations5 could not have been handled by us somewhat more discreetly. It has even been suggested that the Mexican Government might have reacted appropriately without any suggestion from us.

Sincerely yours,

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/7–1360. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. See Document 549.
  3. No telegram from Havana has been found reporting on this statement by Castro.
  4. Bonsal inserted the following handwritten footnote at this point: “Fidel may, of course, wake up to this—he certainly has the power to eliminate the Che!”
  5. Reference is to a July 7 statement in the Mexican Congress by Emilio Sanchez Piedra expressing solidarity with Cuba, and a statement by Senate leader Manuel Moreno Sanchez at a news conference on July 9 that Mexico should give oil to Cuba.