88. Memorandum From the Acting Director of the Office of Inter-American Regional Political Affairs (Dreier) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Snow)1


  • Possible Resort to OAS re Prisoners Held by Cuban Insurrectionists

If our present efforts to negotiate the release of the remaining U.S. prisoners held by the Castro forces in Cuba fail, there will of course be considerable pressure for outright U.S. intervention in the Cuban picture to liberate these hostages. Before considering any such step, I believe we should put the matter up to the OAS in some form so that we at least demonstrate our desire to call in the organized inter-American community before taking the law into our own hands.

The Council of the OAS does not have authority to deal with any such situation. Nor would it be possible, in my opinion, for us to invoke the Rio Treaty since in order to do so we must demonstrate that the political independence or territorial integrity of the United States is threatened by an act susceptible of disturbing the peace of America—a condition which cannot be said to exist. Review of the whole OAS structure indicates to me only one possibility of calling upon that organization; namely, the Inter-American Peace Committee (IAPC). The IAPC is governed by a statute approved by the Council of the OAS in May 1956,2 which supplants previous statutes going back as far as 1940. Under the present statute, the competence of the IAPC is described as follows:

  • Article 1. The Inter-American Peace Committee shall keep constant vigilance, within the scope of its authority, to ensure that states between which any dispute or controversy exists will solve it as quickly as possible, to which end it shall suggest measures and steps conducive to a settlement, and it shall at all times respect the methods or procedures agreed upon by the Parties.
  • Article 2. Any state directly concerned in a dispute or controversy with another American state may request the Committee to take action, but the Committee, once the provisions of Articles 15 and 16 of these Statutes have been complied with, shall take up the case only with the prior consent of the Parties and when no other procedure for its pacific settlement is in progress.

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The two major conditions that must be met to enable the IAPC to deal with a problem are that there must be a controversy or dispute between the two governments and that both governments must agree to have the Committee intervene therein. It would, therefore, be necessary to obtain the agreement of the Cuban Government to bring a “dispute” to the Committee and ask the Committee’s suggestions as to how this problem might be resolved. The Committee could then recommend that the two governments designate one or more emissaries to Castro in order to request the liberation of these prisoners in the interest of preventing the development of a serious dispute involving two American governments. It could be emphasized that the United States was bringing this matter up in this way because of its desire to avoid any unilateral intervention in the internal situation of Cuba. It would have to be emphasized to the Committee that the matter being brought to their consideration was entirely the matter of the release of U.S. citizens held by Cuban forces, and did not in any way involve the Committee in the civil conflict between the Cuban Government and insurrectionists.

If a delegation of the IAPC went to Cuba and appealed directly to Castro, it would be widely recognized as a step involving the prestige and moral force of the OAS. If it succeeded, all well and good. If not, it would at least have demonstrated the U.S. desire to work through the OAS and would place Castro in a very unfavorable light before the Latin American countries.

While there are several problems connected with this idea which would have to be explored carefully in detail, I believe they could be overcome. One difficulty is meeting the requirement that there should be a “dispute” or “controversy” between the United States and Cuba. Perhaps the greatest difficulty would be to get the Cuban Government to agree to this procedure which would imply public admission of their inability to control events in their own country. In any event, no step towards bringing the matter before the IAPC should be taken until a pretty thorough understanding had been reached through diplomatic consultations as to how it would work out.

The first step would be to consult informally and discreetly with members of the Committee which I should be glad to do whenever you and Mr. Rubottom think the time is right.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/7–958. Confidential. Drafted and initialed by Dreier. Also sent to Marjorie Whiteman.
  2. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1956, pp. 323–326.