571. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, August 3, 19601

SUBJECT

  • Proposed Offer of Good Offices to United States and Cuba

PARTICIPANTS

  • The Secretary of State
  • Mexican Ambassador Antonio Carrillo Flores
  • Assistant Secretary R. R. Rubottom, Jr.
  • Dr. José Gallastegui, Private Secretary to the Mexican Foreign Minister
  • Melville E. Osborne—CMA

Mr. Rubottom informed the Secretary that the Private Secretary to the Mexican Foreign Minister was in the Secretary’s waiting room. The Secretary suggested that he be invited to the meeting if the Mexican Ambassador concurred. When the Mexican Ambassador agreed, Mr. Gallastegui was ushered into the meeting.

Commenting that it clearly stated the purpose of his call, the Mexican Ambassador presented the Secretary with a translation of a letter2 he had received from the President of Mexico which stated that the Mexican President had initiated communication with the President [Page 1046] of Brazil and the Prime Minister of Canada to suggest that the three countries offer the United States and Cuba their good offices in the controversy between the two countries; Brazil agreed but as the position of Canada was not yet determined, the approaches were to be made to the Governments of Cuba and the United States by the respective Ambassadors of Brazil and Mexico. The letter also stated that the Mexican President had personally conducted the negotiations leading to these approaches and he considered the negotiations of transcendent and personal interest.

When the Secretary finished reading the letter, the Ambassador explained that he had discussed the contents of the letter with Mr. Rubottom on August 23 and also the points that made the United States hesitate to accept such an offer; when the Mexican President telephoned him the following day, he had conveyed the gist of their conversation. In accordance with the Mexican President’s instructions, the Ambassador requested permission to make the following comments orally.

  • First, Mexico does not condone the remarks that have been made by Cuban officials and other leaders against the United States and its leaders nor those against other countries and leaders of Latin America, including Mexico. Mexico realizes the enormity of the threat to the hemisphere presented by the communist menace even more than the United States since Mexico’s social and political institutions make it more vulnerable to that menace than the United States.
  • Second, the Ambassador wished to point out that he was not making a formal offer of good offices but was merely having exploratory talks that might lead to a formal offer at a later date. He added that Mexico considered the term, good offices, to mean only efforts to bring two countries together for discussions and not to imply subsequent mediation. He said he knew that in the United States concept good offices is usually related to mediation and he wished to emphasize that he was making Mexico’s offer within the meaning of the Pact of Bogota4 which did not tie good offices to mediation.
  • Third, Mexico recognized that the Cuban situation presented both multilateral and bilateral problems, but believed that the two are related and it might be possible to deal with the multilateral questions more easily at San José if the bilateral matters had already been dealt with between the two countries. He added that Mexico recognized that the San José meeting should take place and in making the offer of good offices Mexico was not attempting to avoid that meeting.
  • Fourth, in accepting or rejecting the offer of good offices, the moral implications should be considered by the two countries concerned, for it might be an indication of their real willingness to settle the bilateral problems.

The Secretary replied that he deeply appreciated the Mexican offer and the spirit in which it was made. He asked that his appreciation be conveyed personally to President López Mateos. He said that he could readily understand Mexico’s concern, for it is true that the existence of a communist regime 90 miles from the United States shores, though serious, would not present the grave problems to the United States that it would present to the other countries of the hemisphere and to the inter-American system. He said the United States believes that the multilateral problems presented by Cuba are of such overwhelming importance and significance to the countries of the hemisphere and to the Organization of American States that they should be considered first. When they have been dealt with and a decision made as to whether or not the hemisphere is willing to have a Soviet oriented and dominated country in its midst, the lesser problems of a purely bilateral concern would be easier to prepare to treat. He added that as a practical matter little could be done with regard to those bilateral problems in the brief time remaining before the San José meeting. After the meeting had taken place, he said, an offer looking toward the settlement of bilateral problems might prove helpful. The Secretary stated that the United States has always and still is ready and willing to discuss its bilateral problems with Cuba but has consistently been rebuffed by Cuba in its attempts.

The Mexican Ambassador then inquired whether the United States intended to introduce a resolution at the San José meeting that would deal with such aspects of the Cuban revolution as expropriation of property. He pointed out that there was initially in Latin America generally, and even now among leftist groups, a great deal of enthusiasm for the objectives of economic and social reform implicit in the Cuban revolution. Many people in Mexico recall their own revolution which involved expropriations and though from the beginning of the revolution Mexico always adhered to the principles of international law relating to compensation, in their hearts the Mexican people recall the difficulties that arose from the Mexican expropriations.

The Secretary replied that the United States also had hopes for the value of the Cuban revolution to the Cuban people, but these had proven false. He said that the United States had always recognized the right of expropriation with compensation and its position on this subject has been frequently and clearly stated in public. He stated that the United States did not intend to raise such bilateral matters as trade and the expropriation of property any more than was necessary to a complete discussion of the issues to be raised at San José. Mr. Rubottom pointed out that Cuba itself had raised these bilateral matters before [Page 1048] the United Nations which had referred the matters to the OAS; furthermore, only the day before Cuba had itself presented a statement of its bilateral grievances to the Peace Committee of the OAS 5 for consideration in connection with the Committee’s report to be presented at the San José meeting.

The Mexican Ambassador then said he would like to ask the following theoretical question; if Cuba withdrew its request for multilateral consideration by the UN and the OAS of its bilateral problems with the United States, would the United States then find it possible to avoid raising these bilateral problems at San José. The Secretary replied that he thought this might well be so.

Mr. Rubottom inquired whether a similar approach was being made in Habana by the Mexican Ambassador there. Ambassador Carrillo Flores replied that an appointment had been obtained by the Mexican Ambassador to Cuba with the Cuban Foreign Minister on the previous day (August 2), but he did not know the results of the meeting. The Secretary said he would be interested to know the results.6

The Mexican Ambassador said that he would convey to his Government that the United States neither accepted nor refused the good offices of Mexico, but believed the question should be left for determination following the San José meeting.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.37/8–360. Confidential. Drafted by Osborne, initialed by Rubottom, and approved on August 9.
  2. Not found.
  3. A memorandum of this conversation is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.37/8–260.
  4. Reference is to the Charter of the Organization of American States, signed at Bogota, April 30, 1948; 2 UST 2394.
  5. See Document 578.
  6. In a memorandum to Herter on August 4, Rubottom wrote that Carrillo Flores had telephoned that morning to report that the Mexican and Brazilian Ambassadors in Havana had called on Roa the previous day to offer their countries’ good offices. Roa had reportedly received the offer favorably, but had to contact Dorticos. In response to Carrillo Flores’ question, Rubottom told him that the Canadian Government had told the Department of State that it knew of the good offices effort. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/8–460)
  7. Immediately following this conversation with the Mexican Ambassador, Herter met with Brazilian Ambassador Moreira Salles. (ibid., 611.37/8–360)