610. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Merchant)1

SUBJECT

  • Establishment of Anti-Cuban Bases in the United States

Discussion

Inevitable leakage and publicity have occurred with respect to anti-Castro training bases in Guatemala. Opposition forces in Guatemala have played politics with this issue and the Cuban Government and press have gone all out to focus hemispheric and world opinion—especially at the UN—upon the existence of such bases in Guatemala and on preparations allegedly underway there for eventual invasion of Cuba.

I am increasingly concerned over the risk which this situation poses to the stability and continuing existence of the Ydígoras Government in Guatemala. Although President Ydígoras himself has accepted this risk and CIA officials profess to be satisfied with the possibilities of suitable cover story and plausible denial with respect to the Guatemalan operations, it seems only a matter of time until Guatemalan, Cuban, or international-body investigators establish beyond reasonable doubt that the Guatemalan Government has lent itself and portions of its national territory to U.S. operations against Castro. In my judgment, any such public revelation would threaten to bring down Ydígoras and face us with the possibility of a power vacuum or worse in this key Caribbean country.

To minimize this danger, I believe we should move promptly to de-emphasize our clandestine training and other activities in Guatemala and to transfer such operations to bases within the United States. Improved security measures would be possible here, and distinct operational advantages would be offered as well. Should public revelation eventually result, the U.S. could, in my judgment, better stand the risk of embarrassing publicity than it could the loss of the present Government of Guatemala.

In proposing the de-emphasis of operations in Guatemala, I would suggest retention of established bases there for such stand-by or occasional use as may be warranted in the future, together with continued [Page 1124]training activities by Guatemalan troops at those same sites for military defense of Guatemala against attack from Cuba or elsewhere. This would additionally reassure President Ydígoras that our shift of operations is only tactical and in no way a conscious move to disengage ourselves from him.

Recommendation

That a meeting be held in your office to discuss this matter and to formulate a Department position on the basis of which we may seek the necessary inter-agency approval for establishment of training and strike bases within the United States.2

  1. Source: Department of State, ARA Special Assistant Files: Lot 62 D 24, Cuba July–December 1960. Secret. Drafted by Devine.
  2. No record has been found of what action, if any, was taken on this recommendation, but see Document 612.