81. Telegram From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State1
23. Re Embassy telegram 18.2 Following report from Consul Wollam:
“Rebels of ‘second front’ under Raul Castro were by own declaration acting without consultation any other rebel groups or boss Fidel Castro in picking up Americans for which carefully prepared justification and order issued June 22.3
It seemed that four men were responsible, although Raul Castro said he assumed all responsibility and would have to answer to national directorate. Castro is the final authority for all decisions. The others, according to Mr. Anthony Chamberlain, who had more contact with the group at first, were Dr. Lucas Moran a Santiago lawyer, Commander Hannibal (real name not known) and a Cuban whose name was never obtained but who had come recently from Spain and Hungary. According Chamberlain he is a Communist and was indoctrinated in Communism.
Believe that kidnapping plan was partly caused by bombing, strafing activities of Cuban Army. This affects mainly civilian population. Rebels themselves have lost few men by this but claim that many civilians have suffered. This has effect on rebel position since their presence responsible for bombing. Populace generally afraid of planes and I can realize why after being subject similar incident in vicinity of a small church.
Rebels blame United States for ‘providing arms and support to Batista’ and are trying to make most of situation publicitywise. They also have alleged evidence use MAP equipment against them some of which I saw. They have been blind to Stateside adverse reaction but I think they beginning receive some pressure. They would have preferred to make some deal or obtain something implying implicit recognition.
They are fanatic on subject Batista as result own propaganda and many incidents involving themselves or relatives. Army has been its own worst enemy throughout region and has to date been ineffective in controlling rebel activities.[Page 128]
Castro group crossed to second front area in March. It was difficult for me to estimate numbers, as they are divided in small groups, but have increased in size since inception. They have also the support of most country people in area whether it be voluntary or not. They claim control about 80 percent of Oriente east of line approximate latitude 76, in addition to Sierra Maestra and columns now operating other areas Oriente and Camaguey. This probably true in hills.
Americans are being well-treated and given everything possible in rough circumstances. Rebels maintain fiction that they are ‘great’ and that they will be freed when they have observed effects of bombing. Some Americans feel that they being held hostage against further bombings. Fact that bombings have stopped make conditions much better for rebels, but fear renewal when Americans leave.
Americans widely scattered in groups of two or three over unknown area of rebel territory. Would be most difficult to find or move without local rebel assistance. Communications very slow because of poor trails useable only by jeeps and horses and hindered by rainy season mud.
Rebel military force this area and possibly elsewhere has probably been underestimated. I do not see how Army can make inroads in area on basis past record and they have been driven back on each trial so far. Rebels appear indifferently armed but have sufficient weapons for hit and run raids or ambushes in prepared positions. They seem to be short on ammunition. Rebels appear well-organized considering limitations and terrain.
Rebels claim program based on Jose Marti but it is not clearly defined and they mainly have fanatic determination get rid of Batista. Believe probably some Communist influence although Castro volunteered at length that the movement was not. Chamberlain was told that they had people of all stripes. Do not think at this moment that movement is definitely Communist but probably subject infiltration. Most persons seemed very young and somewhat naive and this augmented by isolation and hardships. Naivete evident in this plan and failure to estimate reaction.
Believe my visit unexpected and that it was useful. My role limited to that of consular official interested in welfare citizens and they fully informed that I would not ‘negotiate.’ They took down all said in discussion and may attempt use it but agreed that attempting make propaganda from my visit would be hampering to all. They insisted I honored guest but delayed my meeting Castro.
Think reaction now setting in to unfavorable press and probably receipt notices of alarm from elsewhere. This somewhat nullified by fact some Americans taken accepted rebels stories in total. Think possibly they want principally some very minor face-saving device and [Page 129] would accept statement of previously expressed policy on points mentioned. They were vague on third point (point C) and may not insist. They endeavored not use word ‘conditions’ but would slip.
Results from above cannot be guaranteed as rebels unpredictable and some have martyr complexes. It will probably take several days at best to achieve departure all because of scattering over large area and poor communications.
I prepared do all possible this basis as consular officer arranging departure as protection activity. If this does not work other plans must be considered.
When this accomplished, I still feel concern our future. The Cuban air and ground forces will probably make all-out offensive which may be linked to United States by same propaganda. Rebels suspect there may be offensive. This will not happen while Americans are prisoners. Kidnappings and attacks on Americans might be renewed under these circumstances.”
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/7–358. Secret; Niact. Pouched to Santiago de Cuba.↩
- Document 78.↩
- “Military Order No. 30,” text of which, possibly in an expurgated version, was sent to the Department as an enclosure to despatch 19 from Havana, July 4. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/7–458)↩