573. Letter From President Eisenhower to Prime Minister Macmillan 1

Dear Harold : Since my return from Denver I have discussed more fully your letter concerning the Cuban problem2 which Chris kindly acknowledged for me at my request.3 It is indeed most gratifying [Page 1050] and reassuring that we are in general agreement in our analysis and estimate that the Castro regime is fully committed to a course inimical to our mutual interests in the area and that the only hope for an improvement in the situation must lie in its replacement.

As you have so accurately pictured, the great majority of the liberal middle-class elements in Cuba, which were primarily responsible for Castro’s accession to power, have now withdrawn their support and many have fled the country to engage in open opposition to the Castro regime. From these very people who are the most knowledgeable as to the internal political situation we have received the unanimous view that the Castro regime’s police control and Communist terror tactics have thoroughly initimidated the politically articulate Cubans, and that left undisturbed, the regime will increase its domination to the point that internal opposition is unlikely ever to attain sufficient strength and resolution to overthrow Castro. Scarcely a day passes that opposition leaders do not stress to us their view that with the clear promise of support from the U.S.S.R. and Red China, time is now working for Castro. In the short run I doubt that this is true; Castro’s open bid for a satellite role has had the effect of thoroughly alarming most of the Governments in this Hemisphere and, hopefully, has disposed many of them to support pressures and efforts to bring about a change of regime in Cuba. Yet their foundations too often rest uneasily on outmoded societies ripe for change, and to make such changes in an evolutionary manner is the responsibility of any wise government. Should Castro manage to survive for another year or more, these nations run the risk of being overtaken by revolution with conditions such as those now existing in Cuba. This kind of change, when it brings Communism in its wake, is intolerable from the standpoint of our national interest and that of the liberal democratic Christian tradition which we all share.

You ask quite understandably how we really mean to achieve our aim of unseating Castro and replacing him by a more suitable regime. Depending somewhat on the results of the forthcoming Council of Foreign Ministers in San Jose, Costa Rica on August sixteenth, we expect to move ahead with further economic measures designed to bring pressure on the Cuban economy. To be sure, this will cause some Cubans to rally to Castro’s support, but the great mass of Cubans, who were completely apathetic toward Castro and Bastista before January first, 1959, are still chiefly concerned with their own individual well-being. We are now receiving more and more reports of a return to that earlier apathy on the part of the campesinos, particularly as they discover that most of the promises have been empty ones and that often they are worse off than before.

Moreover, although relatively poor and accustomed to hardship by our standards, by Latin American standards Cubans have had one of the highest levels of living in the area and far higher than comparable [Page 1051] classes in the Middle and Far East. A recently returned long-time resident among the country people remarked, “The average Cuban sugar worker wants to receive his earnings in cash and go to the store, buy a white guayabera, white shoes, a bottle of rum and go to a dance; not be paid in script redeemable at a government (people’s) store where only work clothing and rice and beans are to be had and a lecture by a Government official is the only entertainment offered.” I do not underestimate the strength of the fanatic minority still dedicated to Castro nor conceive of any broad support for the abandonment of all of the measures taken by his regime. On the other hand, we have ample evidence to suggest that even among the masses there is as of now no deep unquestioning commitment to his revolution. Moreover, the Government’s virulent anti-United States campaign until now has had singularly little effect despite its control and utilization of all the public information media in the country.

The recent spontaneous gesture of protest by the Congregation at the Cathedral in Habana which shouted “Cuba, Yes; Communism, No” has been followed by a pastoral letter read on August 74 in all the Catholic churches on the island in which the Communist influence now evident in the present Cuban regime is strongly condemned. Reports of growing opposition among students to the seizure of the University of Habana by a Communist-led minority is another hopeful sign. We must emphasize that the world struggle is not Communism against capitalism; it is dictatorship against freedom. The Cuban development is one manifestation of this truth.

We are steadily intensifying our counter-propaganda efforts in the other countries of the Hemisphere. We shall emphasize to the OAS and to the UN whenever the occasion may arise the extent to which Communism has assumed control in Cuba. We shall seek and use every possible opportunity short of outright intervention which might bring pressure to bear on Castro. In line with this latter point we have sought informally by various means not only to discourage and prevent the chartering of tankers with some degree of success, but have also discouraged the shipment of lubricants, spare parts, catalysts and other needed items to the extent that, although by no means certain, we feel the seizure of the refineries may yet cause serious difficulties for the Cuban economy. Needless to say, such help as you can continue to give us in this effort will be most welcome.

You will have learned that over the week end Castro announced the seizure of the bulk of the remaining private American investment in Cuba.5 This action was not unexpected as the legal facade on which it is based is the Nationalization Law of July 6, 1960, which was the [Page 1052] subject of a formal protest by this Government on July 16.6 Nevertheless it is indicative of the extremes to which the Castro Government is prepared to go, and is a further clear indication of its intention to accept satellite status in the Communist bloc. You will also have noted Castro’s presumed effort to drive a wedge between us by his failure to nationalize the Shell property at the same time he nationalized the American oil properties. We shall be reviewing possible courses of action responsive to this latest unjustifiable action while we await the results of the San Jose meeting.

In closing, I wish to stress that we shall also be substantially increasing our efforts on the positive side by way of economic, financial and technical assistance to the countries of Latin America. As we have so often said to the Cubans to no avail, we recognized the need for major changes, revolution if you will, in the Cuban social and economic structure, and were and are prepared, if asked, to assist Cuba and any one of the other countries in bringing about needed improvements carried out legally and responsibly under democratic regimes.

Although we must make sure of the ultimate achievement of our aim, I fully agree that our course is fraught with difficulties and dangers. Your cooperation and support are therefore especially appreciated.

With warm regard,

As ever,

Ike 7
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File. Secret; Presidential Handling. Transmitted to London in telegram 879, which is the source text. A draft of the letter prepared in the Department of State was sent to the President under cover of a memorandum by Merchant of August 6. The memorandum and the draft, which shows the President’s handwritten changes, are ibid.
  2. Document 566.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 566.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. The announcement was made on August 6. The Embassy in Havana delivered a note of protest to the Cuban Government on August 8. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, August 29, 1960, p. 316.
  6. See footnote 3, Document 545.
  7. Telegram 879 bears this typed signature.