578. Editorial Note

Between August 16 and 21, the Foreign Ministers of the American States held their Sixth Consultative Meeting in San José, Costa Rica, to discuss various Venezuelan Government charges against the Dominican Republic. Immediately following that meeting, the Foreign Ministers remained in San José to hold their Seventh Consultative Meeting from August 22 to 29 to consider the Peruvian Government’s request for a discussion of the defense of the inter-American system and democratic principles against possible threats.

A discussion of the background of the two meetings, a draft agenda, a draft resolution dated August 4 to be submitted by the U.S. Delegation at the Seventh Consultative Meeting, and a summary of [Page 1061] the Cuban Government’s August 1 memorandum submitted to the Inter-American Peace Committee, among other documents, were attached to a memorandum of August 4 from Assistant Secretary Rubottom to Under Secretary Merchant. (Department of State, Central Files, 371.04/8–460)

Prior to his departure for San José, Secretary Herter met on August 15 at the White House with President Eisenhower. According to Goodpaster’s memorandum of the conversation:

“Mr. Herter said he planned to make a strong speech at San Jose, Costa Rica, bringing out that the Cubans have violated everything that they had agreed to in the OAS a year ago. On the President’s suggestion, he confirmed that he would not pitch his remarks in terms of Cuban actions in violation of OAS principles and agreements. He said he anticipated a difficult session, but noted that there is some evidence that the Latin Americans are ‘coming around’ to a point of view very similar to our own. The President stressed that he should make clear that the United States has no desire or intention to ‘punish’ the Cuban people. Such disagreement as we have is with the Castro regime.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Diary Series)

During the Seventh Consultative Meeting, the U.S. Delegation occasionally called Washington to report on developments or to request instructions. On August 25, Herter called the President who left the National Security Council meeting to take the call. According to a memorandum of their telephone conversation:

Herter said that things in the OAS meeting in San Jose had been pretty ‘fuzzy’ up until now, that it had been hard accurately to report. Yesterday he had made a pretty strong statement, followed by others (he named Guatemala for one) that were also strong. They are waiting today to see what Cuba does—he thinks that it may be a ‘bomb blast’ and that afterwards the Cuban delegation will walk out. He said that planes had been scurrying back and forth from Cuba to San Jose presumably with instructions for the delegate.

Herter said that Mexico was ‘weak-kneed’—had been urging Cuba to behave itself, etc. Herter not sure what will prevail. The President said that when Castro said, as he did yesterday, that he was going to seek permanent ties with the bloc (Eastern Europe-Communist and Red China bloc) he thought Mexico was on very thin ground.

Herter more or less thinks Castro has burned his bridges and that it will probably be good if the delegation does walk out. If Cuba leaves then there will be opportunity for ‘secret’ talks with other members, which the President stressed as important.

Herter said the most encouraging thing was that Brazil, Argentina and Chile were strongly in support of US position. There is question about Venezuela and as he said, Mexico is weak. The President said if we could get Venezuela and Mexico on our side we would be getting somewhere.” (ibid.)

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On August 28, Roger Kirk called Goodpaster with a question about the draft resolution that the Foreign Ministers were considering as a final declaration. According to Goodpaster’s memorandum for the record:

“Roger Kirk called me on Sunday from San Jose (August 28th), on behalf of Secretary Herter who was suffering from laryngitis, to say that a copy of the OAS resolution in its final draft was being sent to me by cable, and saying that the Secretary would like to know whether the President approved his signing the document. I called the President, pointing out that the document did not make specific mention of Cuba, but took the form of condemning the Sino-Soviet intervention in the Western Hemisphere. The President, after discussion, said that if this is the best that the Secretary can achieve, he felt he had no choice but to accept it. He said I should ask whether the Secretary is planning to make a statement identifying Cuba as the country involved in the Western Hemisphere. I called Mr. Kirk and conveyed the foregoing to him. He advised that there had been some thought of making a statement at the time of signing. He checked with Mr. Rubottom on this during our call, and advised that there was some reluctance to identify Cuba as the country concerned in the Western Hemisphere, on the grounds that the whole conduct of the conference had so identified Cuba.

“I asked whether consideration had been given to the idea of saying that while the conference had identified Cuba as the country involved, the United States would have preferred specific mention. I stressed to him that this is a question and not a suggestion or instruction from the President. In further discussion with Mr. Kirk he made clear that the Venezuelans and Mexicans in particular are being very ‘soft’ in this matter, principally for internal reasons and concern of the government that other political factions would use Castro sympathy on the part of public opinion of their country against them.

“I then called the President back to report this. He said to press the issue no further.” (ibid., Herter Papers, August 1960)

Goodpaster’s memorandum is also published in Declassified Documents, 1981, 124A.

At the conclusion of the conference, Herter telephoned the President to report that on every vote the United States had been supported “18 or 19 to 1 or nothing.” Herter said that “there had been almost complete unanimity and that is just about everything the traffic would bear.” The President replied that he “was feeling much better about the meeting.” Herter emphasized that “they had to move pretty slowly” and “could not overplay their hand for fear of antagonizing many people.” The Secretary observed that “it came out pretty well.” (Memorandum of telephone conversation, August 29; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries)

Upon returning to Washington, Herter met with the President on August 30 to discuss, among other things, the meeting at San José. According to Goodpaster’s memorandum of the conversation, after Herter and the President briefly discussed the situation in the Congo: [Page 1063]

“Mr. Herter then gave a report on the meeting at San Jose. He said the initial atmosphere was rather tense, with the U.S. almost isolated and viewed with skepticism as the meeting began. It has been traditional among the Latin Americans to look at the United States as the ‘big bad wolf’ and be fearful of us—specifically of the possibility we will exercise our preponderant power. He said there is a curious attitude among the Latin Americans. They are emotional in their desire to work out their own destiny; at the same time they think the United States is under an obligation to give them large-scale help. [Here follow remarks unrelated to Cuba.]

“With regard to the Cuban resolution, Mr. Herter said there are several passages which give a clear expression of opposition to the deprivation of freedom in Cuba. Mr. Herter said we were fortunate in the way the Good Offices resolution was handled at the meeting. The Cubans rejected it three times. We took the position that we were ready to have it passed, and to have the facts brought out. The Cuban action damaged their position in the conference materially. [Here follow remarks unrelated to Cuba.] Mr. Herter said that action has been started to cut down on the number of Dominican consulates. He stated that Governor Munoz-Marin has asked for the Cuban consulate in Puerto Rico to be closed, having received information of a plot by them to assassinate him.

“Mr. Herter said that Foreign Minister Arcaya of Venezuela was a bad actor in the OAS conference. President Betancourt finally instructed the Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS to sign the resolutions, and withdrew Arcoya from the conference. He added that the Peruvian government also had finally to withdraw its Foreign Minister. The Honduran Foreign Minister was collaborating with the Cubans, with the support of his President, and Haitian representatives were doing the same. Mr. Herter said that Argentina and Colombia had been excellent in giving firm support.

“Mr. Herter next said that he had talked with Foreign Minister Tello of Mexico. Lopez-Mateos is planning a trip to the north of Mexico in late October and thought there would be a good possibility of his meeting with the President at that time. Mr. Herter said that Tello had been a problem at the OAS. He expressed sympathy for the Cubans, partly because the Mexicans did not have elections after their Revolution until four years had passed. Tello said Cuba should be allowed more time. However, when the showdown came, Tello gave us support.

“Mr. Herter said the meeting avoided the subject of economic aid entirely. He did not raise it because it would look like a bribe. In this connection he said that Nelson Rockefeller had sent a long draft resolution down to him on economic aid. They did not introduce it, however, for just this reason. All in all, Mr. Herter thought he had come out fairly well in the conference. He noted that Mr. Dillon will carry forward the economic discussions at the Bogota meeting the following week. [Here follow remarks unrelated to Cuba.]

“Reverting to the discussion of the OAS meeting, Mr. Herter said that he wished the resolution as passed could have been stronger. The President said he realized the difficulty. He recalled that he had taken the Cuban problem up with four Latin American Presidents on his visit to Latin America, and they just would not reply to his question. He had observed that for Latin America to progress economically, [Page 1064] there must be large-scale private investment along with public investment, and that this would be harmed by Castro’s behavior. He asked what they would do about Castro and they would not comment. Mr. Herter said the most troubling thing is that in every country the strength of the Leftists is growing. Within Cuba he found a change in attitude at the time of the Mikoyan visit. Prior to that time the Cubans had made offers of settlement. We have information that he advised them to confiscate the holdings of U.S. business people, adding that Russia would stand behind them. The President asked, outside of Brazil and Venezuela, which were the most left-wing countries. Mr. Herter said that Chile is making every effort to be firm and Argentina is doing the same. Brazil is definitely showing Leftist influence and is very soft in its attitudes. He did not mention other countries. The President asked whether the U.S. has started a program of guaranteeing investment against appropriation. Mr. Herter said that we have, under an ICA law about four years ago which provides for insurance against this contingency.” (ibid., Diary Series)

In a Progress Report on Cuba, September 8, Frank J. Devine, Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, made the following comment about the meeting at San José:

“This meeting culminated with a rejection of Cuban attempts to brand the U.S. as an aggressor and, after the Cuban delegation had walked out, a 19–0 vote approving the ‘Declaration of San Jose’ which reaffirms the tenets of hemispheric solidarity and rejects extra-continental intervention. Neither the agenda nor the final resolution of the Seventh Meeting mentions Cuba by name. The Cubans simultaneously condemned action taken at the meeting and claimed that they themselves emerged the victors. U.S. public and congressional reaction has been mixed. Critics draw highly unfavorable comparisons between the actions taken with respect to Trujillo and those taken (or not taken) in the case of Castro. While the final resolution of the Seventh Meeting falls considerably short of what we would like to have seen adopted, it measures up much more favorably when viewed in terms of the extremes of the spectrum of Latin American thought and sentiment represented among delegates to the Seventh Meeting.”

For text of “The Declaration of San José, Costa Rica”, as well as separate statements by Mexico and Guatemala, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1960, pages 219–220.

In describing the aftermath of the San José meeting, Devine noted:

“The Cuban government has reacted angrily and defiantly to the proceedings of the Seventh Meeting. To counter the ‘Declaration of San Jose’ it has issued its own ‘Declaration of Habana’ and begun dissemination on a hemisphere-wide basis. Cuban appeals for solidarity and support are being received by student, labor, intellectual, leftist, and other groups all through the area. Further U.S. properties have been intervened. Foreign Minister Roa, receiving a hero’s welcome upon return to Habana, has resorted to the vilest and most incredible type of invective with regard to Chiefs of State and Foreign Ministers of the other American republics. Some of his statements have elicited [Page 1065] prompt and strong protests from other nations, notably Argentina and brazil. Even the protests have been rejected in unprecedented language.”

Devine described planning within the U.S. Government as follows:

“With the meetings of Foreign Ministers behind us, we are now facing up to the additional actions which may be required in dealing with the Cuban problem. Shipments of trucks and jeeps destined directly or indirectly for the military forces of Cuba (or the Dominican Republic) were placed under restriction this week by the Department of Commerce. We are additionally readying selected economic pressures for application at an appropriate time. We are also pushing ahead with necessary action looking toward early abrogation of preferential trade arrangements between this country and Cuba. Recognizing the fairly steady deterioration of the situation, we are also reviewing prospects and likelihood of evacuation action and are pressing for all feasible reduction of staff and American dependents in Habana. Simultaneously, looking toward the day when Castro finally disappears, officers of the Department are drawing up contingency planning contemplating our relations with and assistance to any successor government.” (Eisenhower Library, Records of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Cuba)