320. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Board of National Estimates (Kent) to Director of Central Intelligence McCone 0


  • The Internal Situation in Cuba


  • A. NIE 85-62, “The Situation and Prospects in Cuba,” dated 21 March 19621
  • B. Memorandum for the Director, “Comment on Tad Szulcʼs New York Times Article on Castroʼs 26 March Speech,” dated 5 April 19622
At the request of the Chief, Task Force “W” we have reviewed the conclusions of NIE 85-62 relating to the internal situation in Cuba in the light of more recent information. We perceive no reason to modify those conclusions except insofar as the Escalante affair enables us to speak more positively on the subject of Castroʼs present relations with the veteran Cuban Communists.
The salient conclusions of NIE 85-62, which we now reaffirm, are:
The initial popular enthusiasm for the Revolution has steadily waned. Nevertheless, Fidel Castro retains the positive support of at least a quarter of the population. There is some active resistance in Cuba, but it is limited, uncoordinated, unsupported, and desperate. The majority of the Cuban people neither support the regime nor resist it, in any active sense. (Paras. 7-10)
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 next year or two will be a critical period for the Castro regime. Nevertheless, the regimeʼs apparatus for surveillance and repression should be able to cope with any popular tendency toward active resistance. In the 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. (Paras. 6, 11-12)
In NIE 85-62 we discussed at length Castroʼs relations with the veteran Communists of the PSP, the prerevolutionary Communist party, [Page 782] and the prospect that the latter would eventually gain control of Cuba through working control of the ORI, the prototype of the more inclusive Communist party now in process of organization. (Paras. 30-37, 133) The Escalante affair sheds new light on this subject and requires modification of our conclusion that, while Castro would remain the titular leader, the real power in Cuba would probably come to be vested in a collective leadership dominated by the veteran Communists. (Para. 2)
Castro himself has now confirmed our estimate of tension within the ruling group, between the “old” and the “new” Communists. Escalante was purged precisely because he was working toward the end which we judged to be likely on the basis of the information available through mid-March. It is evident, however, that Castro has now checked the trend toward old-line Communist control of the ORI and has reasserted his personal leadership of Cuban communism.
It would be a mistake, however, to interpret this development as a revulsion by Castro from communism, or as an open split between Castro and the veteran Cuban Communists. Castroʼs dramatic expulsion of Escalante was almost certainly intended as a warning to other old-line Communists against distinguishing between themselves and the new Communists, but, in deploring such tendencies, Castro called for unity within the new party organization. Blas Roca responded by echoing Castroʼs denunciation of Escalante, making Escalante the scapegoat for the old Communist group.
Tension and mutual distrust between the “old” and the “new” Cuban Communists will probably continue, but Castroʼs goal is still the communization of Cuba—with the collaboration of the old Communists and the support of the USSR, but under his own leadership and control. Castro has now reasserted his authority and the old-line Communists will take care to avoid provoking him further. However, their covert struggle for power within the regime will probably continue.
For the Board of National Estimates
Sherman Kent
  1. Source: Department of State, S/S Files: Lot 65 D 438, Mongoose. Secret.
  2. Document 315.
  3. Szulcʼs article appeared in The New York Times on page 1 on April 4 rather than April 5. Szulc analyzed a televised speech by Castro on March 26, in which Castro severely criticized Cuban Communist Party leader Anibal Escalante and other Communist “militants” whom Castro accused of trying to dominate the Cuban Government. Szulc reported that analysts in Washington had concluded that “the split between Premier Castro and the orthodox Communist leadership could result in a cooling of Cubaʼs relations with the Soviet bloc.”