315. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 85-62


The Problem

To analyze the situation in Cuba and the relationships of the Castro regime with both the Soviet Bloc and the Latin American republics, and to estimate the prospects over the next year or so.


Cuba is now, in effect, surrounded by an iron curtain. Our information on internal developments is not as complete or as reliable as we [Page 773] could wish. On some important matters, it is seriously inadequate. These deficiencies are expressly noted where applicable in the text of this estimate: e.g., paragraphs 19, 30, 106, and 111. In general, the information available is sufficient to support the estimate. The estimate will be under continuing review as additional information is obtained.

Summary and Conclusions

The pattern of events in Cuba clearly reveals the historical step by step Communist procedure for attaining complete control of a country. During the past year Cuba has, in effect, gone behind an iron curtain. The regime has thoroughly reorganized its political, economic, police, and military systems in the classic Communist ideological fashion. It has also sought to identify itself with the Soviet Bloc in terms that would obligate the USSR to protect it. The Bloc, however, has avoided any explicit military commitment to defend Cuba. (Paras. 17-29)
In Cuba there is in process of development a single party organization essentially Communist in character. It is designed to be the means of directing and controlling the operations of the government, the economy, and the mass organizations through which revolutionary indoctrination and leadership are transmitted to the people. Fidel Castro will presumably be the titular head of this organization, but the real political power in Cuba is likely to be vested in a collective leadership including Castro but dominated by a group of veteran Communists. Some degree of friction is probable in this relationship, but an open conflict is highly unlikely. (Paras. 30-37, 133)
The regime has sought to commit the Cuban people to positive personal identification with it through propaganda, indoctrination, and mass organizations. At the same time, it has developed a pervasive system of surveillance and police control. (Paras. 38-53)
The forces available to the regime to suppress insurrection or repel invasion have been and are being greatly improved, with substantial Bloc assistance through the provision of materiel and instruction. Cuban military capabilities, however, are essentially defensive. We believe it unlikely that the Bloc will provide Cuba with strategic weapon systems or with air and naval capabilities suitable for major independent military operations overseas. We also believe it unlikely that the Bloc will station in Cuba combat units of any description, at least for the period of this estimate. This attitude would not preclude the liberal provision of Bloc advisers, instructors, and service personnel, the provision of such defensive weapons and equipment as surface-to-air missiles and radars, and such improvement of Cuban naval and air facilities as would enable them to service Soviet units. (Paras. 54-69)
The state has taken over the direct control of all important economic activities in Cuba, and has developed a more elaborate organization for economic management. (Paras. 70-77)
Cuba is now faced with an economic crisis attributable in large part to an acute shortage of the convertible foreign exchange required to finance greatly needed imports of foodstuffs and of replacement parts for machinery and equipment of US origin. The Bloc provides a guaranteed market for Cuban sugar and minerals, and supplies foodstuffs, other consumersʼ goods, and industrial raw materials in return, but not in sufficient quantity to meet Cubaʼs needs. The Bloc has also extended credits for Cuban industrial development, but the actual implementation of these projects is slow. Castro has now told the Cuban people that they face years of privation. (Paras. 78-94)
The initial popular enthusiasm for the revolution has steadily waned. Many men who fought against Batista have been alienated by the even more dictatorial character of the Castro regime and its increasingly Communist complexion. The vaunted agrarian reform has done little to improve the lot of the peasants. Moreover, people are becoming fed up with the privations, exactions, and regimentation that characterize life in Castroʼs Cuba. (Paras. 95-103)
Nevertheless, Fidel Castro and the Revolution retain the positive support of at least a quarter of the population. The hard core of this support consists principally of those who now have a vested interest in the regime: the new managerial class and the Communists. These are reinforced by the substantial numbers of Cubans, especially those in the mass organizations, who are still under the spell of Castroʼs charismatic leadership or are convinced the Revolution has been to their advantage. (Para. 104)
There is active resistance in Cuba, but it is limited, uncoordinated, unsupported, and desperate. The regime, with all the power of repression at its disposal, has shown that it can contain the present level of resistance activity. (Paras. 107-114)
The majority of the Cuban people neither support the regime nor resist it, in any active sense. They are grumbling and resentful, but apparently hopeless and passive, resigned to acceptance of the present regime as the effective government in being with which they must learn to live for lack of a feasible alternative. (Para. 106)
The next year or two will be a critical period for the Castro regime. The 1962 sugar crop will be the smallest in years; the difficulty of acquiring convertible foreign exchange will be greater than ever. Want of convertible exchange will limit Cubaʼs ability to purchase foodstuffs and other needed supplies in the Free World. No substantial increase in the supplies provided by the Bloc is likely during 1962. In these circumstances it is unlikely that the total output of the Cuban economy in 1962 [Page 775] can rise above the 1961 level. Under consequent privations, the Cuban people are likely to become more restive. Much will depend on whether the regime succeeds in directing their resentment toward the US, or whether it comes to focus on the regime. (Paras. 92, 94, 106, 129)
The regimeʼs apparatus for surveillance and repression should be able to cope with any popular tendency toward active resistance. Any impulse toward widespread revolt is inhibited by the fear which this apparatus inspires, and also by the lack of dynamic leadership and of any expectation of liberation within the foreseeable future. In these circumstances, increasing antagonism toward the regime is likely to produce only a manageable increase in isolated acts of sabotage or of open defiance on the part of a few desperate men. A sequence of disaffection-repression-resistance could conceivably be set in motion, but would be unlikely to cause major difficulties for the regime in the absence of considerable external support. (Paras. 114, 132)
The overriding concern of Cuban foreign policy is to obtain external support and protection against the hostility of the US. The USSR and other Bloc states will continue to render such aid and support to the Castro regime as they consider necessary. If the overthrow of the regime should be seriously threatened by either external or internal forces, the USSR would almost certainly not intervene directly with its own forces. However, interpreting even an internal threat as US intervention, the USSR would seek to deter the US by vigorous political action, including threats of retaliation on the periphery of the Bloc as well as ambiguous references to Soviet nuclear power. Nevertheless, the USSR would almost certainly never intend to hazard its own safety for the sake of Cuba. (Paras. 23-27, 122, 130, 134)
By the end of 1960, Castro had few admirers left among politically active Latin Americans, except the Communists, extremist splinter groups broken off from the established social revolutionary parties, and certain student and labor elements. (Para. 116)
At Punta del Este the OAS unanimously condemned communism in Cuba as incompatible with the inter-American system and laid the groundwork for increased efforts to combat Castro-Communist subversion. However, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador abstained on the operative resolution excluding the Castro regime from the organs of the OAS. The Castro regime will seek to cultivate those Latin American governments which have shown reluctance to support measures against it and will probably refrain from flagrant acts which could provide the occasion for US or OAS intervention in Cuba. (Paras. 115-120, 128)
The Castro-Communist threat in Latin America results from the ability of a well-organized subversive movement centered in Cuba to exploit the natural tendency of entrenched oligarchies to resist the growing [Page 776] demand for radical social reform. What is seen by radical revolutionary elements in Latin America is that, while others have talked of social reform, Fidel Castro has actually accomplished a radical social revolution in Cuba, and has done so in defiance of the Yankees with the support of an apparently more powerful patron. Relatively moderate reformist regimes are now ascendant in most Latin American countries, but, if the Alliance for Progress should fail to produce its intended social reforms in time to meet rising popular demands, the conviction will grow that Castroʼs way is the only way to get timely and positive results. Thus, despite Castroʼs alienation of the moderate reformists, there remains a danger that the Cuban example will set the pattern of the impending social revolution in Latin America. (Paras. 66-69, 115-118, 120-121)

[Here follows the 21-page Discussion section of the estimate.]

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD (C) A Files: FRC 71 A 2896, McNamara Briefing Notebooks, 12 Jan. 63. Secret. A covering note indicates that this estimate, submitted by McCone, was prepared by CIA, and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Defense, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, the Joint Staff, and NSA. All members of the USIB concurred on March 21 except the representative of the AEC, who abstained on the grounds that the topic was outside his jurisdiction.