313. Memorandum of conversation among Foreign Ministers of the American Republics, October 31
- Informal Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics, Washington, D.C., October 2–3, 1962
- See Attached List of Participants
In opening the afternoon session, the Secretary observed that members of the delegations were working on the draft of a communiqué which would state some of the ideas expressed at the current meeting. He said what was desired, to the extent possible, was a statement of mutual concern for developing events in Cuba.
The Haitian Foreign Minister, René CHALMERS, after commenting on the family council feeling of the meeting, then branched into a discussion of the history of communism, its efforts in Latin America, and the need to eliminate the climate which tends to make people accept the line that communism can fulfill their needs.
He announced that his country supports fully the position of Peru for a Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers to deal exclusively with Cuba and its penetration in the Americas. The Government of Haiti, concluded the Foreign Minister, is firmly at the side of the brother countries of America in the fight against Communist penetration in the hemisphere.
Uruguayan Foreign Minister, Homero MARTINEZ Montero, rejected the thesis that by containing Cuba within the perimeter of the island, the continent would be safe. Communism is using Cuba, Castro, and social injustice for penetration. In response, the American Governments must give their peoples a good standard of living, he said.
The Minister pointed out that all Cubans are not Communists; some believe in Castro, others accept him because of their impotency [Facsimile Page 2] to fight him. Castro may come in conflict with his Communist masters. This conflict might tear apart the Cuban regime. The Cuban people should receive the truth from abroad so that they will know what is happening in their country.
The Minister then discussed Cuba’s efforts to join the Latin American Free Trade Zone, which the American Republics frustrated. Referring to Castro’s accusations that provisions of the Montevideo Treaty were being ignored, Martinez asked why the American Republics should validate by their silence Castro’s charges.
Martinez noted that Cuba is politically dominated by Communists and is armed as no other Latin American country. The decision to launch an attack will be taken not by Castro but by the USSR. The latter, said the Minister, will think twice about taking aggressive measures because it knows that the Free World will react strongly.
The Cuban problem cannot be ignored, he continued, but it is difficult to know whether Castro may try coups d’état or armed attacks. But all American Governments must be ready to repel these activities and have the will to defend themselves and others. Martinez asked that there be an exchange between governments of information on subversion affecting the other governments. He suggested that Castro’s [Typeset Page 1025] radio stations, one of which is the strongest in the Caribbean, could be silenced if brief, easy-to-read materials were distributed to Latin Americans. Martinez spoke favorably of the creation of a Latin American radio station to let others, even those in the United States, know what the Latin Americans are thinking.
Speaking of the Alliance for Progress, Martinez said that its effects will be slow in coming and will be delayed more than is advisable. He said that neither the Latin American countries nor the United States are prepared to put the Alliance into effect. Coordination among the governments is imperfect and should be improved.
Martinez then spoke of the problem of low prices for Latin American commodities and ever higher industrial prices. Where prices of Latin American products are higher, less aid is needed, for the Latin Americans prefer dignity. Martinez averred that the Communists offer Latin America safe markets and good returns for their products. Martinez offered an offhand criticism of the Common Market. Referring to a speech of Henri Spaak in the U.N. on the preceding Monday, Martinez noted that Spaak made no mention of Latin America, so that Latin America is outside the Common Market’s world plans. He noted that the Secretary of State has given the Latins hope in saying that the U.S. would use its influence to defend the Latin American export production. Martinez formally proposed at that point that such a statement be included as one of the items of agreement at the current meeting.[Facsimile Page 3]
On the notion of inter-American solidarity, the Foreign Minister noted that the fight against communism cannot be resolved if the American Republics cannot resolve their differences, which are small in comparison.
The Brazilian Special Representative, Afonso ARINOS de Mello Franco, began by explaining the absence of the Brazilian Foreign Minister.
He said that three fundamental conclusions could be drawn from the preceding speeches: (1) the formal appeal of this meeting for a strengthening of continental solidarity; (2) the expression of concern over the Communist threat; (3) the almost unanimous concensus on the advisability that the current meeting conclude with a document corresponding to the statements made at the meeting.
Arinos said that there is no doubt of continental solidarity in recognizing and willingness to meet the continental threat. He had noticed, he said, a few discreet comments to the effect that this solidarity could be harmed. Some countries, he said, seek for themselves the most suitable internal methods to solve the Communist threat. He pointed out that Brazil does not believe that a country’s internal policy for handling the Communist threat can be treated as part of the general question of continental solidarity.[Typeset Page 1026]
Arinos said that Brazil is determined to combat the Communist threat and pointed out that the Communist Party in Brazil is outlawed because it has not technically met the requirements of the electoral law. He then noted that the Communist Party in Brazil in the last election in which it operated pulled about five percent of the vote. Arinos asserted that an inter-American procedure to fight communism cannot be restricted to a plan which does not apply in fact and in practice to his country. He then reviewed steps being taken in Brazil to counter communism and noted certain signs of good results.
Moving to the question of regional action against the Castro threat, Arinos commented on the Venezuelan Foreign Minister’s idea that there are certain disadvantages in officially recognizing that the pressures are stronger in certain regions of the continent by asking which countries would be officially designated as the “nerve center of the storm”. The Brazilian acknowledged that there is no doubt that special situations exist which make the Cuban Communist threat more keenly felt and effective in given regions of the [Facsimile Page 4] continent. Therefore, within the framework suggested today by the Mexican delegate, there should be recognized the spontaneous right of the representatives of these countries to coordinate or organize themselves into a sort of regional organization. Their defensive organization would operate in the framework of existing treaties.
The Minister commented that the final communiqué ought not to state that a general universal course of action is recommended for a given region. It is not acceptable to recommend measures for specific countries which already have their own ways to combat communism.
Arinos emphasized that the communiqué should express a unanimous concensus. A spirit of tact is required to find the common ground for agreement. Arinos stressed that he came to the meeting with an open mind. Claiming that those who do not know Brazil had expressed doubts about her, Arinos also commented that understanding is indispensable for continental solidarity.
The Chilean Foreign Minister, Carlos MARTINEZ Sotomayor, said that his presence at the informal meeting was true proof that Chile understands the gesture of the Department of State, and that Chile wishes to express her friendship. He then explained the Chilean constitutional provision requiring Chamber of Deputies approval for his attendance at the informal meeting and that the Chamber had approved his attendance when it was made clear that there would be no votes, resolutions, nor agenda. The Minister expressed agreement with the issuance of a communiqué at the end of the meeting, but he understood that it would be a simple narration or description of unanimity on general or specific ideas.
He expressed agreement with the Peruvian’s statement that three kinds of methods are necessary to combat communism: Military, eco[Typeset Page 1027]nomic, and political. The Chilean Foreign Minister agreed with the Brazilian delegate’s speech which suggested three minimum aspects as unanimous agreement of the meeting: (1) continental solidarity; (2) recognition of the threat of communism in America; and (3) issuance of a communiqué.
Reviewing the situation in Chile, the Foreign Minister said that pro-Castro activities are not at present important. The Communist Party is legal in Chile and has seats in Congress. It may be, the Minister said, that the public does not accept the Castro image any more. Exporting the Cuban revolution to Chile, he said, makes no sense. This fact can be seen in Chilean elections, [Facsimile Page 5] the Minister said, recalling a recent by-election in Santiago where the group representing Castro was defeated, and a non-Castroite was elected.
Fueling his argument that Castro is not a problem in Chile, the Minister said that no arms have been exported to Chile. Martinez stated categorically that no groups of Chileans are going to Cuba, although a few individuals go there but cannot remain outside Chile for an extended period because of passport limitations. There are FAO technicians who are Chilean who went to Cuba during the first stage of the revolution and not quite a hundred are still there. Gorostiza of Mexico nodded his head affirmatively when the Chilean delegate said that Gorostiza would probably know that the number of Chileans going to Cuba is limited.
The Minister said that the Cuban situation is part of the Cold War. He subscribed to Minister Oduber’s comment that communism should be faced positively. Democracy, said Martinez, must show that it can accomplish the revolution and put an end to poverty, illness, and ignorance. It is most essential, he added, that the American Republics offer steadily greater respect for human rights and improvement of democratic institutions. These measures the Foreign Ministers adopted at the 8th MFM against only one negative vote. The American Republics have the instruments and elements through existing agreements to handle the events of the past few months in Cuba.
The Chilean Foreign Minister said that there was some difference between the scope which the U.S. Government placed on the communiqué and the scope seen by certain others who cannot trespass certain constitutional limitations.
He said that if there are differences between the Republics over a communiqué, they will be creating a remedy worse than the disease and will be contributing to the Castro revolution in Cuba. Chile believes, said Martinez, in the efficacy of the mechanisms of the OAS and through these will give the fullest cooperation in the framework of continental solidarity. The final communiqué should not be a document which could be misunderstood.[Typeset Page 1028]
The Bolivian Foreign Minister, José FELLMAN Velarde, said Bolivia is here to demonstrate its solidarity. He added that because of the Bolivian position in the inter-American system, he would not present any issues not in line with the cordiality of the gathering. He reaffirmed his expectation that no resolutions or recommendations would be adopted.[Facsimile Page 6]
Reviewing the opinions expressed by the foreign ministers, Fellman categorized: (1) those of a special nature, relating particularly to certain countries. Presumably thinking of the Caribbean area, Fellman said that Bolivia recognizes the right of a group of countries to “coordinate agreements”, (2) those of a multilateral nature concerning controls on travel, etc. Bolivia, he said, supports all such ideas in line with the decisions taken at the 8th MFM which cover all these points, (3) those suggestions which would be operative through the OAS. Bolivia, said Fellman, could not give its opinion on these because of its being separated provisionally, he hoped, from the OAS.
Fellman agreed that there was a consensus at the informal meeting to put democratic government in opposition to the Communist system. The best way to do this is to offer freedom, economic security, and a better distribution of wealth. He suggested that the communiqué ought to mention the adequate treatment of Latin American raw materials.
Secretary Rusk, as Chairman, noted that it was not for him to offer a ruling on the inclusion of such an item because it is not his function. Speaking of the communiqué to be discussed later, the Secretary indicated that since the meeting is informal, no group can put into the mouths of others its views. “It will be fine if we can agree”, said the Secretary, “and if some countries cannot agree perhaps “we can talk about that later.”
Minister Bonilla of the Dominican Republic distributed to the Ministers the SCCS report of its investigation in the Dominican Republic of Castro’s subversive efforts and opined that the instruments of the OAS are available and should be used. He said that he was preparing a draft “execution plan” for the resolutions of Punta del Este which he did not have time to complete prior to the termination of the informal meeting. He promised, however, that when completed the plan would be sent to all present. Bonilla called for solutions to the differences which separate the American countries, and asked Bolivia and Chile to join hands again so that Bolivia might again be a member of the OAS.
Discussion of Draft Communiqué
The Secretary of State introduced for discussion a draft communiqué which had been prepared for the Ministers’ consideration.
The comments of the Chilean Foreign Minister stressed that the communiqué should always describe the meeting as informal. He rec[Typeset Page 1029]ommended repeatedly changes of wording in order to make the [Facsimile Page 7] communiqué less resolution-like in nature. The Chilean rejected a revised paragraph dealing with limitations on the Cuban trade, but finally did not insist that his reservation be recorded when the paragraph, with slight changes, was included in the communiqué. The Chilean also expressed on different occasions a preference to use the adjective “communist” or “international communist” in preference to the word “Sino-Soviet”.
The Mexican Representative questioned frequently the harshness of the wording and content of some paragraphs because of his fear that they might harm Mexico’s diplomatic relations with Habana, and Mexico’s efforts to secure safe conduct for Cuban asylees.
The Brazilian Representative made it clear that uppermost in his mind was inter-American adherence to principles of self-determination and nonintervention. He secured inclusion of a statement of these principles in the communiqué. He also claimed that some of the portions of the draft were unacceptable because they dictated methods for combatting communism in conflict with Brazilian internal law. Primarily because of his objections, as well as the objections of the Mexican, there was deleted from the communiqué a paragraph which stated that the Castro regime has betrayed the original postulates of the Cuban revolution and subjugated Cuban sovereignty to Soviet imperialism. The Brazilian generally attempted to blunt the impact of the wording of the communiqué.
The Bolivian Foreign Minister frequently suggested revised wording, stressing the more trivial. He also suggested revised wording to tone down a strong phraseology in the communiqué and more than once indicated that he could not express an opinion on those parts of the communiqué directly related to the OAS. The Bolivian Foreign Minister obtained inclusion of a statement that adequate treatment should be given Latin American export commodities.
The original draft of one of the paragraphs recognized the fact that the Caribbean area is particularly vulnerable to the Castro threat. The Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, joined by the Foreign Minister of Guatemala, requested that this reference be deleted.
The Peruvian Foreign Minister frequently stressed the need for unanimity on the contents of the communiqué and complained that nowhere in the draft communiqué was there a reference to the need for inter-American solidarity. The Secretary pointed out that paragraph one made such a reference.[Facsimile Page 8]
The Colombian Foreign Minister made several suggestions aimed at resolving differences of opinion. Some of his comments implied complaint at too weak a communiqué.[Typeset Page 1030]
The Secretary of State, in closing the informal meeting, noted that there has been a growing solidarity among the American Republics since the 8th MFM as well as a growing awareness in the United States of the problem of Cuba. He expected that the United States would be in constant touch with the other American Republics on these matters. Secretary Rusk reiterated that he did not bring to the informal meeting any concealed intentions. He asked the Ministers to leave in a spirit of confidence and solidarity, with emphasis on their agreement at the informal meeting.
(Interpreters were utilized during the course of the conversation.)
- Communist infiltration in Cuba. Confidential. 8 pp. DOS, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.↩