311. Memorandum of conversation among Foreign Ministers of the American Republics, October 21
- Informal Meeting of American Foreign Ministers
- See Attached List of Participants
The Foreign Minister of Paraguay, Raúl SAPENA Pastor, noted that Paraguay is Catholic and very anti-communist, and pointed out that during the 1958 informal MFM he had attacked Soviet Communism and in turn was attacked by several Foreign Ministers. In 1958, Paraguay had realized the Communist danger but, he added, questions must be ripe to be discussed.
The Foreign Minister, in referring to a talk he had had a few years ago with an outstanding world Communist, said the Communist had asked him if he believed that Paraguay would remain anti-communist if its neighbors became Communist, pointing out a problem of international solidarity, that is, a country is Communist or anti-communist depending upon its neighbors. The Paraguayan Minister said that, though Paraguay has suffered from a Cuban invasion from abroad, it was not afraid.
Discussing methods of communism, the Minister pointed out that Communists, utilizing the weapons of misery, take advantage of those [Typeset Page 1013] freedoms which it pretends to protect, without utilizing its own resources. Referring to the Secretary’s statement that U.S. soldiers are willing to defend the world against communism, the Minister noted that the USSR never uses Russian citizens, with the exception of technicians who teach others to fight.[Facsimile Page 2]
He said Communists should be deprived of the environment of poverty; that the Alliance for Progress must grow more rapidly without political ideas interfering with its economic goals. A strengthened Alliance, he said, will be the strongest weapon to defeat communism.
The Minister stressed that his delegation would support any effective measure to fight Soviet Communist domination in Cuba.
The Colombian Foreign Minister, José Antonio MONTALVO, presented two main premises: (1) The hemisphere is anti-communist, and (2) there is a spirit of solidarity. Colombia is close to the inter-American system and, said the Foreign Minister, it is hoped that the system would be strengthened by the Informal Meeting.
The Minister stressed that the problem for America is Cuba. Other problems can wait.
The Minister averred that the Communists are trying to distract attention from Berlin with their efforts in Cuba, which seriously threatens the Hemisphere.
The Minister said that there are two stages in Cuban development; The doctrinary or dogmatic and then the military or strategic stage. Regarding the former, there is nothing, stated the Minister, that we can add to the measures taken at the 8th MFM, where it was stated that Marxism-Leninism is incompatible with the inter-American system.
In turning to the so-called strategic stage, the Minister undertook a discussion of Colombian domestic politics. He briefly described the Colombian political situation: The resolution of the former bitter rivalry between the political parties. He said that in military potential Colombia is weak, but that Colombia now has over 100,000 soldiers to control rural vandalism and banditry which is the result of the Communist conspiracy to subvert the peasants and to destroy the country. He said that Colombia has been victimized by Cuba. The Soviets support these bandit groups in Colombia. They have Soviet propaganda from Cuba. The Minister stated that he could not explain how the bandits obtained weapons.
Examining Cuban military power, the Minister said that Cuba is stronger now than before the April, 1961 invasion and will be still stronger if “we don’t stop the supply of equipment to this base.” He said this is the greatest challenge to the OAS. If America does [Facsimile Page 3] not eliminate this danger, then Cuba will be a permanent beachhead in the Hemisphere and will become an offensive power. The Minister [Typeset Page 1014] went on to say there was no desire to question President Kennedy’s statements on the defensive nature of the Cuban arms build-up but the situation would become worse as Cuban strength grows and if Cuba gets nuclear and atomic warheads. The Minister pointed out that all weapons are defensive or offensive depending on who uses them. The Minister also raised the question of assistance in supplies and trade which Western countries give to Cuba. He also spoke of the building of land and air forces and the aggressive Russian policies which will worsen the situation.
Montalvo in effect rejected a Caribbean security-type arrangement when he stated strongly that it would be a mistake to think of a subregional organization within the regional organization. He said that the countries do not have the necessary military capability.
The Minister stated that while the United States has the greatest responsibility to eliminate the Cuban danger, the small countries have a responsibility. Russia, said the Minister, would not jeopardize its conquests elsewhere because Castro needs help. He said the Soviets work in Colombia by subversion.
The Minister said that total Hemisphere solidarity is better than direct U.S. action. All countries are threatened. Colombia, the Minister said, is ready to fulfill her obligations with respect to the Rio Treaty. No legal argument is needed to invoke the Rio Treaty. If we undertake sanctions against Cuba, said Montalvo, it is better to use general terminology and simply say that we are invoking the Rio Treaty.
The Minister said he favored a final communique at the end of the Meeting, affirming belief in democracy and freedom of the peoples.
He agreed with the representatives of the Dominican Republic and Paraguay that it is important to have a coordination of efforts on the ideological level to disseminate the ideas of the Western world. He offered Colombia’s moral support. The Foreign Minister said that Latin America has a balanced judgment of President Kennedy, who is being incited by his countrymen, but does not allow himself to be pushed off the brink, but it was comforting to know, that if the USSR takes aggressive measures, the United States can annihilate it. He reiterated that we should tell the world that we would invoke the Rio Treaty if necessary.[Facsimile Page 4]
The Foreign Minister of Panama, Galileo Solís, said that very little has been done to point out the falseness of communist doctrines. The smaller countries, he urged, can help in this regard since they cannot help with arms. The Minister said that the masses swallow communist deceits of promises of paradise. Solís asked if the American republics have sufficient resources to convince their masses of the advantages to be had in following democratic life. A tremendous effort is required to prepare the masses to resist communism, he said.[Typeset Page 1015]
Referring to economic development, the Minister commented that the Alliance for Progress is prepared to resolve the struggle against communism. He pointed out, however, that one year of the Alliance for Progress brings the conclusion that the immediate impact of the Alliance is retrogressive. He said that the Latin American countries have to adopt laws to change their fiscal structure. These laws react slowly, but fiscal needs are immediate. Therefore, said the Minister, there must be economic assistance to meet the increased fiscal load.
The Minister said that Russia can maintain its political communist system only by expansion. Rather than open war, stated the Minister, the Communists infiltrate. Panama is a victim of this. It is more serious than a military aggression, because it uses the needs of the masses for its ends.
The Minister indicated that the Caribbean countries are receiving the direct impact of the communist infiltration. These countries, he said, look with longing for continental solidarity to confront the menace, otherwise each country must try to save itself. He continued that the Charter will not get in the way of a country which feels its security threatened.
Although Panama is a small country, said Solís, she offers her full support to maintain inter-American solidarity at any cost in order to demonstrate to those countries more distant that sooner or later they may find themselves in a similar situation.
Secretary Rusk, at this point took the floor to say that the United States wished to consult with the Hemisphere and NATO countries on trade with Cuba. He pointed out that shipping to Cuba is not a significant hemisphere problem, but it is a serious problem with other friendly countries. He indicated that the United States has been discussing the problem with NATO allies. Germany, Turkey and others are taking steps to handle the problem, but other maritime countries do not have legal authority or the [Facsimile Page 5] political possibility to demonstrate such a degree of cooperation. Therefore, said the Secretary, the United States has felt that it would be possible to make use of its own facilities and opportunities to restrict the Cuban trade. The President had asked him, the Secretary declared, to consult NATO and with the Ministers present on four points. The U.S. would:
1. Close all U.S. ports to all ships of a country if any ship under that country’s flag carries arms to Cuba.
2. Direct that no U.S. cargoes be carried on foreign flag ships if any ship of the same owners is used hereafter in Bloc-Cuba trade.
3. Direct that no U.S. flag ship or U.S. owned ship shall carry goods to or from Cuba.
4. Close all U.S. ports to any ship which on the same continuous voyage was or is being used in Bloc-Cuba trade.
The Secretary said these points involve legal and practical problems.
The Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, Daniel ODUBER Quirós, recalled that Costa Rica had helped groups fighting for democracy, that Costa Rica supported Castro before 1959, and even after that date. He said that Costa Rica believes that the Cuban Government is accountable for betraying “our” revolution. Castro has started to fade in the last six months according to information reaching Costa Rica, he said. The Castro Revolution is starting into another phase, that being the Soviet Commissar phase so well known in the European satellites. He said the signs of occupation are clear and recalled statements of some of the other delegations on discrimination in rationing in favor of foreigners.
The Minister explained that Russia’s technique in the case of Cuba was to make itself appear as a protector of countries wanting to be independent. However, since July, because of developments in Cuba, Russia has been forced to unmask to a growing degree its true intention. The countries of the Western Hemisphere have not been telling the world what is happening, he said. The Soviet Union does not want professional communists to defend Castro. It wants “new liberal groups.” It has failed in this regard to a growing degree and, therefore, has now been forced to change its tactic and resort to giving military aid.[Facsimile Page 6]
The Minister emphasized the strategic position of the Caribbean in hemispheric politics. Today, he said, we are being challenged in this strategic area. If Costa Rica fights against communism, it wants all of Latin America to fight, through the democratic system. He emphasized that we have confidence in democracy as the means for realizing our hopes. However, we must not continue hiding our conviction. If we are only content to yell “anti-communist”, he said, we will lose.
The Minister declared emphatically that we should give a collective report to the press and “demand” continental solidarity. He emphasized a point which he said he considered of utmost importance, that being that the strongest nation represented in the Meeting, the United States, was the least desirous of taking unilateral action for its security; that it, instead, had called all of its sister nations to Washington to consult.
He then proposed that there be a Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs to:
1. Study the possibilities of determining if the continuing arms build-up in Cuba constitutes an act of aggression;
2. Study how to strengthen the exercise of representative democracy;
3. Agree on the coordination of an increase in surveillance by land, sea and air;
4. Establish an effective exchange of information on developments in and activities of Cuba throughout the Hemisphere; and[Typeset Page 1017]
5. Establish a method for coordination of propaganda to counter that of the Communists. The propaganda would make clear to the people the exact nature of the differences between democracy and communism.
The Colombian Foreign Minister, in reply to a question by the Foreign Minister of Uruguay, Homero MARTINEZ Montero, stated that there were positive and negative proofs of communist agitation among the Colombian bandit groups. As positive proof he cited large amounts of propaganda and weapons found among the groups. As a “negative” proof, the Minister explained that there had been a political struggle between the two Colombian political parties. Since the struggle no longer exists, and the bandit trouble still exists in Colombia, the origin of this trouble must be foreign groups. He added that Colombia does not have any ship’s log [Facsimile Page 7] stating that ships carried weapons, but Colombia has received oil drums and upon opening them has found them full of rifles. Weapons might be smuggled from Panama, and these might be traced to Cuba, but Colombia had no proof.
The Uruguayan Minister, noting that four countries at the Meeting still maintain diplomatic representatives in Cuba, said that Uruguay has reports that the Cuban food and health situation is very bad and that there is no domestic reserve of food.
The Brazilian Foreign Minister said that his Ambassador in Habana had reported that there is a food shortage in Cuba, but not a famine. The Chilean Foreign Minister agreed, and added that the rationing and the issuance of food cards in Cuba indicate that discrimination has been shown in the amount of food made available, with foreigners and certain Cuban families getting preference. The Mexican Representative said that Mexico’s information coincided in general with the Brazilian, Uruguayan, and Chilean information.
Secretary Rusk thanked the Uruguayan for underlining the importance in exchanging information and the possibility of pooling information. The Secretary said that Canadian trade with Cuba has changed greatly, with a drop from $35 to $7 million. He noted a severe reduction in the amount of foreign exchange available to Cuba, and that the current supply of oil in Cuba, with rationing, will last for several months. The Secretary said that he would have information on this subject compiled for the Ministers.
The Dominican Foreign Minister commented that the British Embassy in Habana has been helpful to the Dominicans in supplying information, also Cubans who once worked for Castro brought out information. Regarding rationing in Cuba, Dr. Bonilla said there is a new class in Cuba, and Castro’s enemies do not receive their food quotas.
The Uruguayan Foreign Minister expressed his conviction that the Foreign Ministers receive a large amount of propaganda from the exile [Typeset Page 1018] Cuban revolutionary councils. He asked the Secretary of State to enlighten the group as to whether there is more than one revolutionary council, and if one day should there be a new government in Cuba, whether there would be unity among exiles.
The Secretary responded that we need experts for precise information on this question. He commented that the Cubans find it difficult to agree among themselves and have different views. They have real political differences, although personal rivalries also prevail. The Secretary said that the assembled group should share information on this subject in detail.[Facsimile Page 8]
The Dominican Foreign Minister said that he had been in touch with Dr. Miro Cardona, whose group represents what was formerly twenty groups. Unfortunately, Bonilla added, there are 122 additional groups. Some have so-called leaders and the members of the groups are the intimate friends of the leader. The Minister said he believed that Miro’s group can be unified with the more important of the other Cuban exile groups. These groups should have a voice.
The Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Benjamin PERALTA Páez, in a short statement, expressed support for inter-American solidarity. He asserted that the inter-American system as expressed in treaties is flexible but is not able to take into account all possible measures. At the 8th MFM, the Foreign Ministers united against threats. The Minister expressed his and his Government’s hope that America will continue along the paths of glorious dignity.
(The above conversations were carried on through interpreters.)
- Communism in the Western Hemisphere. Confidential. 8 pp. DOS, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.↩