561. Memorandum of Discussion at the 452d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, July 21, 19601

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

Next Mr. Dulles stated the Communists were tightening their grip on Cuba. A Latin American young Communist organization was to meet on the 26th of July in Cuba. [1 sentence (1½ lines) not declassified] Delegates were expected from most of the Communist Bloc and Afro-Asian countries including the FLN. Peruvian and other anti-Communist groups would boycott the meeting. [1 sentence (2 lines) not declassified] Havana University had become a creature of the regime as a result of a take-over on July 15. The student federation had ousted anti-Communist professors and was recruiting Leftist professors from other Latin American universities. This would of course improve the situation in these other universities while worsening it in Havana. On the 14th of July the Communists’ daily paper had taken over the printing plant formerly used by Revolucion, the official regime paper which was moving to larger quarters. This action strengthened the Communist daily. Catholic circles in Cuba appeared to be moving away from a previous policy of vacillation. Castro, from his sickbed on July 18, denounced the “Falangists” among the priests. This had been a reaction to the spontaneous demonstrations on the 17 and 18 of July. These demonstrations had been led by Catholic prelates who had been sent to Cuba by Rome in April and May of last year. Mr. Dulles observed in passing that while Castro was probably ill, he also appeared to be in temporary retirement, perhaps because he was not sure of the line he should take. Mr. McCone asked whether these demonstrations had been truly spontaneous or whether they were the product of clerical leadership. Mr Dulles said he was not sure of the answer to this question. The government, Mr. Dulles said, appeared to be cracking down on the church. It had recently denied foreign exchange to two high churchmen who wished to go to Europe. The attitude of the church might be a very important element in future Cuban developments. Mr. Dulles noted that the editor of a very popular Cuban weekly which circulates widely in Latin America had defected on July 18 and at that time had made a very eloquent speech. [1 sentence (1½ lines) not declassified] It was the view of Ambassador Bonsal that Khrushchev’s declaration may have been a serious blow to the Castro regime because it removed doubts as to the Communist orientation of that regime.

[Page 1022]

Mr. Dulles noted that a 14-man Communist Chinese mission headed by the Chinese Deputy Minister of Foreign Commerce, was in Cuba. The Communist Chinese are likely to agree to buy 500,000 tons of sugar. They have bought 130,000 tons already. There is a large Chinese community in Cuba of about 30,000. Some of these are Communist and some are anti-Communist but the majority, as in the case of the overseas Chinese generally, would probably prefer to be left alone. Mr. Dulles noted that Raul Castro had arrived in Moscow on July 17 and was due to go to Cairo on July 22. He then read parts of the communiqué that had been issued that morning following the Raul CastroKhrushchev conversations.2

Mr. Dulles went on to say that [less than 1 line not declassified] had revealed nebulous and somewhat pro-Castro actions on the part of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister had recommended to the UAR and Bolivia through Venezuelan Embassies in those countries that neutralists support Castro. The Foreign Minister had advised Bolivia and the UAR of conversations with the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela (Mr. Sparks) in which the Venezuelan Foreign Minister had said that Venezuela would not hesitate to back Castro in the OAS and in the UN. Betancourt, however, was pursuing a different policy. Secretary Herter pointed out that Venezuela was now concentrating on Trujillo and did not want the problem of Cuba mixed up with it. He went on to note that an OAS mission was in Venezuela and would report back at the end of the week. At that time the OAS would set a time and place for a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the OAS to deal with the Dominican question. The U.S. was also working to get the Cuban problem on the agenda. There was considerable disagreement over where the meeting should be held and recently it had been suggested that it might be held in Puerto Rico on the assumption that Puerto Rico could control any pro-Castro demonstrations. However, the U.S. was somewhat disturbed by this proposal. Secretary Herter pointed to one encouraging note. Colombian President Camargo had said yesterday that this was not simply a dispute between Cuba and the U.S. but involved intervention by another power in the Western Hemisphere. Such intervention, he had said, should be dealt with under the Monroe Doctrine which had been transformed into an inter-American doctrine.

Mr. Allen pointed out that a people-to-people committee had recently been organized to express the regard of the American people for the Cuban people. This represented a new departure in the people-to-people movement. Usually these committees were organized [Page 1023] among missionary groups, stamp collectors, etc., and had not got into the political field, although a people-to-people American-Islamic Council had been somewhat involved in political activity. This new group had written a round-robin letter to the Cuban people which had been signed by fifteen prominent Americans. It had been published in Spanish-language newspapers in Miami and New York. Three thousand copies of the Miami newspaper had been sold on newsstands in Cuba and 22 thousand more copies had been ordered for distribution in Cuba. In addition a tear sheet containing the letter had been sent to two thousand leaders all over Latin America. The activities of this group have not got into the U.S. press to any extent but there was a surprising amount of interest in Latin American circles. A Chinese in New York had had the letter translated into Chinese for distribution to the Chinese in Cuba.

Mr. McCone said that he had talked with tanker owners and it was their view that there was no way to keep Cuba from getting surplus tankers. Even if the large operators cooperate, the Cubans would be able to get all the tankers they need. A boycott by the major oil companies of tanker owners who provide tankers is not likely to be effective because the oil companies have imposed such boycotts before and then have forgotten them when the market for tankers changes.

Mr. McCone went on to say that Mexican friends of his were alarmed over the Communist trend in Mexico. These friends had expressed their views in connection with the announcement of a leading member of the Mexican Parliament of his support for Castro. These Mexicans said that the U.S. did not realize the extent of this insidious movement in Mexico. Secretary Herter said that this development had not gone unnoticed by State. Mr. McCone felt, however, that it had gone unnoticed by the American people. Mr. Dulles stated that Mexico had its most anti-Communist government in a long while. Secretary Herter interjected to say, however, that the government was not strong. [1 sentence (2½ lines) not declassified] Secretary Mueller asked whether the trend referred to by Mr. McCone represented simply an extension of the Socialist philosophy or actual association with the Soviets. Mr. Dulles said there were many Leftists in Mexico but there was no trend toward association with the Soviets and that there had been no new political developments in Mexico in the last few months. He pointed out that the pro-Castro statement of a member of the Mexican Parliament3 did not reflect the attitude of the Mexican Government. Secretary Herter noted that we had indications that ex-President Cardenas was an active spearhead in this.

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Returning to the question of the Cuban oil situation, Mr. Gray said he understood that the real limiting factor was the operation of the refineries and obtaining spare parts for the refineries. He wondered whether the line was being held on supplying such spare parts. Secretary Herter said he thought so and went on to state that the Cubans could be expected to have some trouble operating the refineries, partly as a result of intermittent interruptions in the power supply. The tanker problem, he noted, had been taken up in NATO which had reached the conclusion that it was beyond control. Mr. Dulles noted that there were 268 surplus tankers available and Secretary Mueller added that this represented six million dead-weight tons of tanker capacity.

Mr. Gray asked what percentage of the Cuban population was Catholic. It was agreed in the discussion that followed that a very large percentage of the Cubans were Catholic, perhaps as high as 95% or more. Mr. McCone pointed out, however, that traditionally the Catholics in Latin America were not very active church members.4

[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 21. The Secretary of State presided at the meeting.
  2. For a translation of the communiqué as published in Pravda on July 21 at the conclusion of Raúl Castro’s visit to Moscow, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. XII, no. 29, August 17, 1960, pp. 17–18.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 554.
  4. This discussion of the Cuban situation constitutes NSC Action No. 2269. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)