574. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Secretary of State1
- Assessment of Latin American Reaction to Possible U.S. Moves Against Cuba
The Department has received reports containing assessments of local reaction to possible U.S. moves against the Castro regime from a total of six of our missions in Latin America. The six posts which have reported thus far are Bogota, Panama City, Mexico City, San Jose, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo. The following is a composite summary of these assessments.
In all of the countries there was an initial enthusiasm for the ideals of the Castro revolution and his successful overthrow of the Batista regime. Castro’s popularity has diminished progressively with the passing of time. There still remains, however, a sympathetic attachment to the aims of the revolution, particularly by the lower economic classes, and by some student and labor groups. The reaction in Mexico is unique due to its own revolutionary history and the identity of themes of the Cuban and Mexican revolutions, i.e., agrarian reform and expropriation of foreign interests.
The reporting posts were unanimous in their assessments that their respective host countries would be appalled at U.S. military action in Cuba under any conditions other than extreme provocation. Montevideo reported that military action would probably provide the opposition with the most damaging propaganda material in recent decades. Buenos Aires stated that the Argentines would consider U.S. military intervention a flagrant violation of the OAS Charter. San Jose and Mexico stated that endorsement of U.S. military action in Cuba could be obtained only if directed at Soviet military forces actually on Cuban soil.
- All posts reported that the United States policy of dignity and restraint toward Cuba has been well received and that their host countries prefer a multilateral approach to the Cuban problem. Mexico reported that unilateral political action by the U.S. would be interpreted as bypassing and weakening the prestige of the OAS. Bogota [Page 1054] stated a severance of relations by the United States would be interpreted by Colombians as a sign of United States lack of confidence in the other Latin American countries. San Jose and Montevideo stated that a break in U.S.-Cuban relations by the U.S. would be generally understood in view of our long policy of restraint and on the basis of national honor.
- The assessment of reactions to U.S. economic action against the Castro regime varies. Panama reported that such action on the part of the United States would lead to cries of “reprisals” and probably increase feeling against the United States. Several posts believe that a convincing case could be made for eliminating the premium paid on Cuban sugar. Most posts agreed that U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba would not be endorsed by the host governments because of their own economic vulnerability to the same type of action.
The general consensus of the reporting posts is that the United States might gain by playing down the bilateral aspects of the Cuban problem, including the seizures of American properties, and emphasizing such points as 1) the elimination of freedom of the press in Cuba, 2) the ignoring of judicial proceedings, 3) the violation of human rights, 4) the disregard for international commitments, and 5) lack of respect for other governments of Latin America.
As soon as other posts have submitted their assessments, a follow-up report will be prepared.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/8–1160. Secret. Drafted by Charles P. Torrey; cleared with Stevenson and Little; and initialed by Rubottom and Herter.↩