599. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) to the Secretary of State1

SUBJECT:

  • President’s Inquiry Regarding Cuban Opposition Groups

Discussion:

During the President’s visit to Mexico, it was suggested to him that the United States Government should not be supporting the anti-Castro group know as the Frente Revolucionario Democratico (FRD), described as a communist-influenced group, but should instead give full support to a movement known as Unidad Cubana de Liberacion (UCL). The Central Intelligence Agency is prepared to brief the President on this matter on Monday, October 31, and I believe that you should be aware of the following information which it will be covering in considerably greater detail.

The FRD is a coalition of several anti-Castro groups which was organized in New York last spring and publicly announced at a press conference of its Executive Committee members in Mexico City on June 21, 1960. The groups composing the FRD are anti-Castro, anti-Communist, and anti-Batista. The membership of its Executive Committee is as follows:

Antonio Varona, leader of a large faction of the Autentico Party, which was the official political party during the administrations of Ramon Grau Martin and Carlos Prio (1944–52);

Justo Carrillo, head of the Montecristi Group, which was formed in 1952 by wealthy professionals and businessmen in opposition to the Batista dictatorship;

Jose Ignacio Rasco, head of the Christian Democratic Movement (MDC), which was formed in late 1959 by young Catholic groups in opposition to the Castro regime;

Manuel Artime, nominal head of the Movimiento Recuperacion Revolucionario, an underground anti-Castro movement formed in 1959, whose membership consists principally of defectors from the 26th-of-July Movement; and

Rafael Sardina Sanchez, former Vice President of the Asociacion de Colonos Cubanos (Cuban Association of Cane Growers).

With regard to the charge that the FRD is a communist-influenced group, there is no indication that any of the above FRD leaders has ever been involved in Communist activities or evidenced Communist sympathy. The constitutional manifesto of the FRD strongly condemns [Page 1105]the dictatorial and communistic nature of the Castro regime. CIA states that the political orientation of FRD leaders can be described as varying from moderately conservative to moderately liberal; the group has been carefully constituted so as to attract the widest possible popular support in Cuba while avoiding extremes or the inclusion of persons who have become discredited on the basis of past political activities.

The opposition movement suggested to the President as a preferable alternative was the Unidad Cubana de Liberacion (UCL), under the leadership of Francisco G. Cajigas, a former wealthy Cuban businessman now turned political leader. The UCL is the outgrowth of a coalition formed in early 1960 of all anti-Castro groups which were, in varying degree, supporting General Jose Pedraza as their military leader. A number of these groups were identified with the former Batista regime but, more particularly, Pedraza himself was developing a military force in the Dominican Republic with the active personal support of Trujillo, and those two facts served to mark these forces as totally unacceptable in Cuba. While Cajigas is a reputable individual and had no political connection with Batista, he has tainted himself by affiliation with former Batista supporters and with the Trujillo government. The UCL has made determined efforts to gain U.S. Government recognition and support. Spokesmen for the UCL, which in general may be considered to represent the conservative stratum of Cuban politics, have on occasion charged the more liberal FRD with being leftist, if not Communist.

Other Cuban opposition movements and leaders have frequently sought to join with or even take over the FRD. In those cases where the latter group has declined to become thus associated, the other interested groups and their spokesmen have sometimes reacted angrily, have charged the FRD with being leftist or Communist, and have alleged that the U.S. Government is backing the FRD and has chosen less than an optimum instrument for opposing Castro.

All things considered, the political orientation of the FRD is believed to be an acceptable one from the United States point of view and one capable of attracting a fairly wide strata of popular Cuban support. This does not rule out, of course, the possible desirability of its incorporating additional elements; however, it is, I believe, important from the point of view of the Frente’s own standing and acceptability, that any such inclusions be most carefully considered.

  1. Source: Department of State, ARA Special Assistant Files: Lot 62 D 24, Cuba–Opposition Groups 1960. Secret. Drafted by Devine. Initialed by Mann and Herter.