558. Memorandum of Discussion at the 451st Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, July 15, 19601

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Mr. Dulles next discussed Cuba, pointing out that the initial response of Castro’s officials to Khrushchev’s public statement of support had been enthusiastic but there was evidence that these officials had had some second thoughts upon further reflection. Even at the time of the mass rally on July 10, Castro had seemed less enthusiastic about the “hug of the bear.” While he had welcomed Soviet support, he had stated that Cuba does not depend for the preservation of its independence on Soviet rockets, but rather on the justice of her cause. Even “Che” Guevara, who had been more enthusiastic than Castro initially, had later stated that any Soviet attempt to make Cuba a satellite would be resisted by Cuba to the last man. Cuban opposition to the Castro regime continued to be unorganized but Khrushchev’s speech could have a powerful influence in producing greater organization.

Mr. Dulles stated that there was evidence, [less than 1 line not declassified] of an increasing tendency toward dictatorship in Cuba. There had been growing arrests of the opposition and pro-Castro lawyers had seized the Havana Bar Association and taken over the Board of the Bar Association. Ambassador Bonsal viewed this as an important step in the establishment of government control over professional organizations. The Workers Federation was pretty much under Communist control. Rodriguez, an important Communist who had heretofore stayed in the background, was playing an increasingly important overt role and was being named Minister of Finance. This, Mr. Dulles suggested, gave Cuba a “nice” financial team. Mr. Dulles noted that the recent defection of the Cuban Ambassador in Bonn represented the sixth such defection by a Cuban Ambassador within the last thirty days. The U.S. Embassy had reported growing feeling that Castro was willing to sacrifice Cuban interests to his greater [Page 1015] ambition of humiliating the U.S., wrecking the inter-American system, and taking over leadership in Latin America. CIA was inclined to believe that reports of Castro’s illness were genuine and that he had some form of pleurisy.

The Cuban Minister of Industry and Commerce feels that Cuba can lick the Cuban sugar and oil problem but is worried about the possibility of an embargo on food shipments to Cuba. If imports of lard, rice, flour and corn were to be cut off, the effects would be worse than the increasing shortages of farm equipment and industrial parts.

Mr. Dulles indicated that the depressed international market for tankers had helped the Soviets obtain tankers for the run to Cuba. Although State had, with some success, taken steps to influence the major tanker owners, there were a number of others around who were willing to carry the oil and it was almost impossible to keep the Soviets from obtaining tankers. In addition, the Russians were using tankers acquired on new contracts to release other Russian tankers for the Cuban run. The British and Scandinavian Governments had not been as cooperative as they might have been.

Khrushchev had ridiculed the idea of Soviet bases in Cuba, saying the USSR could launch its missiles from the Soviet Union. However, some unidentified, large packages had been coming into Cuba and a certain military base had been put off bounds. It might be that the Soviets would, “just for fun”, put up a short-range missile base some place in Cuba. CIA was watching this situation carefully. Khrushchev’s missile threat and the calling of the UN Security Council into session to hear the Cuban charges2 had startled and disturbed Latin American Governments. Many of them were being driven away from their previous attitude of aloofness. They would prefer that the question of Cuba be handled in the OAS rather in the UN.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Mr. Gray asked Secretary Herter whether he wished to say anything about Cuba. Secretary Herter said there was one element he would like to mention. There was no question but that Khrushchev’s intervention had been an assist to the U.S. in our relations with the other Latin Americans. Peru wanted a Ministers’ Meeting of the OAS to consider Cuba. A meeting to consider the matter would be held on Friday3 and the U.S. was hoping for a good vote from Latin America.

[Page 1016]

We did not know how soon the problem of Cuba could be taken up because the problem of Trujillo was ahead of it. As a result of the Venezuelan charges, a Special Committee of Three had been sent to Venezuela. The Committee would report back the middle of next week and at that time it would be possible to set a date for a Ministers’ Meeting. Perhaps the week after next or early in August a meeting could be called to discuss the problems of Trujillo and of Castro. There was agreement that the meeting should be held in Washington. None of the Latin Americans wanted the meeting held in their own capital because of fear of local demonstrations on behalf of either Trujillo or Castro. The Secretary stated that we were dealing with timid people but they had moved considerably since Khrushchev’s speech. Monday4 the UN would take up Cuba’s charges of American economic aggression. The Cubans had no particular hope of UN action and the U.S. believed that, after a day or two of debate, the problem would be referred back to the OAS where it belonged.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Secretary Anderson then began discussion of a report5 on the Cuban economic situation but before he was well into his presentation, he was called out of the Council room.

Secretary Herter noted that the U.S. Government had prepared a 90-page document6 which contains a run-down of the principal events of interest in Cuba and U.S. actions with respect to Cuba from the time of the revolution to the present date. Secretary Herter called this report exciting reading and said it would recall many things which have happened which have since been swept under the rug. He said that Ambassador Lodge will use it in the UN debate and that it could be declassified and distributed within the Government.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Mr. Gray at this point asked Secretary Anderson to resume his report on the Cuban economic situation. Secretary Anderson said this report had been obtained through the International Monetary Fund and that it came from a former official of the Castro regime who knows the Cuban economy very well. Summing up the report, Secretary [Page 1017] Anderson said that it indicated that the present situation cannot go on; that it has reached a critical stage. So far there has been no problem because businesses in Cuba have not raised prices despite increases in wages. Cuban businesses have taken losses because of their fear of being accused of counter-revolutionary activity. But such a situation could not continue. Secretary Anderson pointed out that Cuba had built up its reserves by $120 million by imposing severe import restrictions while continuing its export trade. He noted that Cubans were now buying $250,000 a week in currency in the U.S. and he wondered whether they might be stashing it away. Mr. Dulles suggested that they might be obtaining it for use in subversive activities in other Latin American countries.

Mr. Gray referred to a message7 he had seen which seemed to indicate that the U.S. was about to close down the Nicaro plant. Secretary Herter said this was not correct; that there was a split within the State Department; and that the matter was to be considered further this same day. We had given the Cubans until the 12th of July to resume negotiations and had indicated that we would shut down the plant if negotiations were not resumed by that time. On the 12th the Cubans had said they would resume negotiations. The question now was whether we should shut down the plant anyway, since we were not likely to get anywhere in the negotiations, or whether we should take one more crack at negotiations. Secretary Herter himself believed that we should determine what they have to offer. The Cubans have asked for cost accounting figures as a basis for setting a fair valuation on the plant but it was evident that they were stalling. The U.S. could not go on operating the plant much longer in view of the heavy export tax.

Mr. Gray then referred to what he understood were working level differences involving Mr. Dulles and the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the handling of Cubans coming out of Cuba. Mr. Dulles said that he thought the problem arose primarily in the case of Cubans who went back and forth between Cuba and the U.S. and that CIA and other agencies were in the process of working this problem out. Secretary Herter thought, however, that perhaps the problem needed another look. Mr. Gray indicated that he understood that relations at the working level between State, CIA and INS were not the best even though there was general understanding at the top. Acting Attorney General Walsh said that he was sure that General Swing could handle any problem and that the real difficulty was lack of confidence between the representatives of different agencies down the line. Secretary [Page 1018] Herter wondered whether a more basic philosophic question was not involved and whether perhaps a change in the law was not required. In response Acting Attorney General Walsh pointed out that there was some point at which you simply had to circumvent the law and that what was important was that the INS be given a plausible basis for doing so.

Mr. Gray noted that the U.S. Government had made some pretty strong statements on the establishment of a Soviet military presence in Latin America. It was possible that Raul Castro on his present trip would conclude a mutual security pact or military assistance agreement with the USSR. If he did so, what would we do against the background of our strong statements? In response Secretary Herter said it depended on the form such agreements took. He did not believe that it was likely that the Russians would take such action. A more serious immediate problem, he said, was the problem of Guantanamo. Khrushchev in his statement had indicated that the Russians would back the Cubans if they took over Guantanamo. Mr. Gray inquired whether we continued to be prepared to protect Guantanamo against any such Cuban effort and was assured by Secretary Herter that there was no change in our policy in this respect.

Mr. Gray then inquired about the attitude of the Canadians toward the Cuban problem. Secretary Anderson stated that in a meeting of ministers and ambassadors, the U.S. had laid out its views as to what had taken place in Cuba with some frankness. The Canadians had responded that it was not the policy of the Canadian Government to support economic sanctions. The Canadians believed that the U.S. should continue its policy of patient forebearance. When the U.S. representatives had asked how long we should continue such a policy, the Canadians had said “indefinitely.” The U.S. representatives had asked the Canadians whether they were aware of Khrushchev’s recent statements. The indications were that they were only vaguely aware of those statements. The Canadians had been insistent that the initiative should lie with the Latin American countries and that those countries should appeal to the U.S. for aid before we took action. In response the U.S. representatives had pointed out that Latin American Governments could not take such action because, if they did so, the government leaders risked being imprisoned or killed. The Canadians were unwilling to accept any view of Cuban developments except the view that it was simply an internal revolution. They felt that the U.S. was preoccupied with communism. They stated they could not imperil the free right of their banking institutions and businesses to take up any slack that might be created by U.S. economic sanctions. Altogether it was a very disturbing conversation. The Canadians were completely unwilling to accept the idea that international communism was attempting to subvert other countries. They took the view that people [Page 1019] should choose for themselves and that it was their business if they chose communism. When the U.S. representatives had talked with the Canadians about conversations on this subject in NATO, the Canadians had stated that NATO was not involved.8

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Robert H. Johnson
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Robert H. Johnson on July 18. The Secretary of State presided at the meeting.
  2. On July 11, the Cuban Government filed a complaint with the U.N. Security Council charging that the United States had intervened in Cuban domestic affairs and had committed economic aggression against Cuba. (U.N. doc. S/4378)
  3. Reference is apparently to Saturday, July 16. On July 16 and again on July 18, the OAS Council met in special session to consider the Peruvian Government’s July 13 request that a Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs be convoked. For text of the Peruvian Government’s note, see Department of State, Inter-American Efforts To Relieve International Tensions in the Western Hemisphere, 1959–1960 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962), p. 221.
  4. On Monday, July 18, and on July 19, the U.N. Security Council met to consider the Cuban complaint, which was presented by Foreign Minister Roa. U.S. Representative Lodge denied the Cuban charges and argued that the United Nations should take no action until the Organization of American States had an opportunity to deal with the situation. On July 19, the Security Council approved a resolution submitted by Ecuador and Argentina to this effect by a vote of 9 to 0 with 2 abstentions (U.S.S.R. and Poland). (U.N. doc. S/4395)
  5. Not further identified.
  6. Reference is to a draft paper, July 15, entitled “Responsibility of the Cuban Government for Increased International Tensions in the Hemisphere.” The final form of this paper, dated August 1, was submitted to the Inter-American Peace Committee on August 2 and released to the public on August 7. For text of the paper, see Department of State Bulletin, August 25, 1960, pp. 317–346.
  7. Reference may be to instruction A–9 to Havana, July 12, in which the Department asked the Embassy formally to notify the Cuban Government of the U.S. Government’s intention to suspend the Nicaro nickel operation. (Department of State, Central Files, 837.2547/7–1260)
  8. The preceding discussion constituted NSC Action No. 2261. (ibid., S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council) On July 19, at 5:30 p.m., Gray briefed the President on the discussion at this NSC meeting. (Memorandum by Gray, July 26; Eisenhower Library, Project “Clean Up” Records, Meetings with the President) Gray’s memorandum is published in Declassified Documents, 1986, 552.