634. Memorandum from FitzGerald to McCone, March 191

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  • Outline of a Program to Exacerbate and Stimulate Disaffection in the Cuban Armed Forces

1. This memorandum is for your information and in response to your request for a program to split the military establishment from the Castro/Communist regime with a view to the replacement of this [Typeset Page 1643] regime by one acceptable to the United States. This memorandum is intended for “in-house” use in its present form.

2. It is the consensus of observers of the Cuban scene that it is unrealistic to expect a popular uprising in Cuba of sufficient size and “staying power” to constitute a threat to the Castro/Communist regime. Even should a large uprising occur, the Administration would be confronted with the dilemma of U.S. military intervention before the uprising is crushed or of standing helplessly by while a Hungarian-type bloodbath is carried out under our noses. Both these alternatives would entail the gravest military and political repercussions for the United States and are therefore assumed to be undesirable except as a last resort.

3. For the purpose of this paper, the following assumptions are made:

a. A mass popular uprising is neither likely to occur nor should it be encouraged under present circumstances;

b. Current policy excludes the overt use of U.S. military force to overthrow the Castro/Communist [Facsimile Page 2] regime, except under circumstances in which Cuba again becomes (or is about to become) an offensive threat to United States and for Hemisphere security.

c. Castro and his followers are unlikely to break with the Soviets in order to make a deal with the United States; nor are they likely to take actions, such as taking sides in the Sino-Soviet dispute, which would cause the Soviets to withdraw their economic and military support to Cuba.

4. Given these assumptions, the only potentially effective course of action open to the United States is a pincers strategy of economic strangulation to weaken and undermine the regime in conjunction with an intensive probing effort to identify and establish channels of communication to disaffected and potentially dissident non-Communist elements in the power centers of the regime. With regard to the covert aspects of an economic strangulation program, I intend to submit to you in the near future a request for policy approval to mount sabotage operations against Cuban-owned ships and cargoes as the first stage of a broader sabotage program. As you know, only last week we secured Special Group approval for a psychological warfare program to stimulate low-risk simple sabotage in Cuba.

5. With regard to the other arm of the pincers—the power center of the regime—we propose to devote our main effort against key officers in the armed forces and militia. There is a steady, but as yet unconfirmed, flow of reports alleging that a number of these officers are disenchanted with Castro’s management of Cuban affairs and appalled at the growing infiltration of doctrinaire Communists into significant positions in the Cuban Government. They are also reported to be increasingly disturbed at the growing subservience of Cuba to [Typeset Page 1644] Soviet domination. To the extent that these officers are motivated by idealogical considerations, they are allegedly opposed to Castro because he has “betrayed the original aims of the Revolution.” (These aims are defined in President Kennedy’s speech to the Cuban Brigade in the Orange Bowl on 29 December 1962 as follows: “The Cuban people were promised by the revolution political liberty, social justice, intellectual freedom, [Facsimile Page 3] land for the campesinos, and an end to economic exploitation.”) Still others may be disaffected for purely personal reasons, i.e., because they have been by-passed for promotion or other honors, or they may feel that they are on the wrong bandwagon because in the long run Castro cannot survive the intense economic and political pressure of the United States, even with Soviet aid.

6. We propose to identify and seek out these officers and, whatever their motives for dissidence might be, try to convince them that their future lies only in disposing of Castro and establishing a new government which could be returned to the OAS family of nations. It seems reasonable to assume that, under proper circumstances, a group of these officers would be ready to carry out a coup against Castro and his immediate entourage and establish a new non-Communist government which will take immediate steps to bring about Soviet withdrawal from Cuba. (The proposed operations outlined in this paper will require a relatively long lead time to reach fruition; it is probable that by then the issue of Soviet combat troops in Cuba will have been resolved and therefore, to the extent that these troops constitute a deterrent to a coup against Castro, this deterrent would probably no longer exist.) At this point, one might well ask why there has not been to date any significant visible evidence of dissension in the Cuban armed forces and militia either before or since the arrival of large numbers of Soviet military personnel in Cuba. Moreover, there have been almost no noteworthy defections to the West of military personnel since April 1961, although there have been numerous opportunities for officers to escape from Cuba or defect while on trips abroad.

7. Undoubtedly, the continued presence of Soviet forces in Cuba contributes to their reticence to act against Castro, but we believe of even greater importance is the fact that there exists no acceptable alternative to Castro for these people at the present time. To justify the risks entailed in attempting a coup against Castro, it seems to us they would require that the following conditions be met:

a. Alternative leadership;

b. A belief that they would receive U.S. and OAS recognition and military assistance should the coup reach a stalemate or should the Soviets threaten to or attempt to retaliate against the rebels;

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c. U.S. will provide economic aid and political support to the new government to replace that of the Soviets and, in general, will not try to “turn the clock back” (“the Revolution Yes; Communism No”).

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d. Assurance that those who bring about and support the coup will not be persecuted by U.S. authorities and Cuban exiles because they remained in Cuba as key officers of Castro’s military establishment;

e. Assurance that the United States will accept and support the free will of the Cuban people as expressed in free elections when feasible.

8. Against this background and in full recognition of the fact that we are dealing with a probing operation rather than a reliable blueprint for overthrow of the Castro regime, Special Affairs Staff will, with your approval, proceed as follows:

a. Propaganda/Psychological Warfare Operation

We will intensify already established CIA-controlled radio broadcasts, mailing operations, and other actions addressed to the armed forces and militia, urging them to organize and act while there is still time before they are shunted aside by loyal Communists. Previous appeals to military personnel have had little impact because there has been virtually no convincing authoritative evidence of U.S. readiness to meet the conditions outlined in paragraph 7 above. The only notable exception to this is the statement made by the President in his Orange Bowl speech on 29 December: “Under the Alianza Para el Progresso, we support for Cuba and for all the countries of this hemisphere the right of free elections and the free exercise of basic human freedoms. We support land reform and the right of every campesino to own the land he tills. We support the effort of every free nation to pursue programs of economic progress. We support the right of every free people to freely transform the economic and political institutions of society so that they may serve the welfare of all.”

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. . . “And I believe these are the principles of the great majority of the Cuban people today, and I am confident that all over the island of Cuba, in the government itself, in the army and in the militia, there are many who hold to this freedom faith, who have viewed with dismay the destruction of freedom on their island and who are determined to restore that freedom so that the Cuban people may once more govern themselves.”

We hope to correct this deficiency by working through Mr. Cottrell’s group to have prominent Administration spokesmen, if not the President himself, make public statements elaborating upon the President’s remarks of 29 December, directing their appeals at the armed forces of Cuba to assure them that the United States would accept and support a change in regime brought about internally by a coup, provided Communists are excluded from government and the Soviet Union is required to withdraw completely from Cuba.

We also intend to request USIA to have VOA devote special attention to its military audience inside Cuba, playing up the assurances described above.

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A large variety of variations on these themes can be developed, all of which are designed to create an atmosphere responsive to OAS urgings that Castro be thrown out and Cuba return to the Hemisphere family of nations.

b. Singleton Clandestine Operations

Concurrent with the propaganda program outlined above, we will make an intensive effort to identify, seek out and establish lines of communication with disaffected or potentially dissident key personnel in the armed forces. This will permit us to determine whether and under what circumstances they would be prepared to act against Castro. The real payoff will come when we are able to gain access to and negotiate with key military personalities who are ready, willing and able to dispose of Castro and his immediate entourage.

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We are now conducting a survey of all our existing covert collection and action assets, both inside and outside Cuba, to obtain leads to key Cuban military officers who have reason to be disgruntled with Castro or who are vulnerable in some way. To refine our targeting, we are simultaneously bringing up to date our inventory of key officers in the Cuban Armed Forces and militia.

While this is in progress, we are making arrangements to recontact a number of former 26th of July adherents, now in exile, who participated in the revolution until it became apparent that Castro had betrayed them. We hope, through these former 26th of July men, to establish contact with those military officers still active in the regime. In this connection we are reviewing all available contacts who are knowledgeable of the military personalities inside Cuba and we will renew our debriefing of these contacts on a systematic basis to discover operational leads into the Cuban military organization. Other alleged leads to 26th of July oriented dissident elements inside Cuba provided by journalists such as Tad Szulc (New York Times) and other well-wishers are being fully explored.

We feel that greater use can be made of friendly Latin American military attachés resident in Havana to assist us in spotting and possibly establishing contact for us with Cuban military personnel. We will explore this possibility in cooperation with WH Division.

Finally, we will, of course, follow closely the activities of Mr. James Donovan and other opportunities that may arise to support our efforts.

9. I can assure you that the highest priority has been assigned to this program within Special Affairs Staff. While it is much too early to give you a valid reading on what can be expected of this program, I am most hopeful that progress can be made without too great delay. I will keep you apprised of our progress or of obstacles we might meet along the way.

Desmond FitzGerald
Chief, Special Affairs Staff
  1. Outline of a program to exacerbate and stimulate disaffection in the Cuban Armed Forces. Secret. 6 pp. CIA Files: Job 91–00741R, Mongoose Papers, Box 1.