432. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Martin) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)0


  • Policy Recommendation with respect to Cuba

The coming 18 months are likely to prove the most gruelling that the Cuban people will have to endure. The nadir of the Cuban economy will [Page 1069] probably be reached during this period. The western equipped sectors of the economy will continue to deteriorate for lack of foreign exchange to purchase spare parts and equipment, while the Soviet capital equipment will not have begun to produce. Managerial and administrative personnel trained in the complexity of running a state controlled economy will continue to be lacking. At the same time, the Castro regime, under heavy Soviet pressure and with Soviet assistance, will probably undertake harsh measures to keep the economy from floundering. Experience in other Communist countries would indicate that there is approaching one of the most dangerous periods (from the Communist standpoint) in the process of transition toward a complete “socialist” state. This process will probably be accompanied by severe regimentation and perhaps terror.

We can, therefore, reasonably look for the highest point of Cuban popular dissatisfaction toward the Castro regime during this period. Three factors favor the Castro regimeʼs ability to survive this critical period: (1) the charisma of Fidel Castro; (2) the State security apparatus supported by Soviet involvement; (3) the absence of organized resistance with a political base in Cuba confident of United States support during the Castro regime and afterward. The presence of the third of these factors together with the absence of the first, could place in doubt the survival of Cuban-Marxist-Leninist government.

While we have been moderately successful in infiltrating some Cubans, we have been singularly unsuccessful in creating a political base of internal opposition. Our failure stems primarily from our practice of “controlling” or “managing” the Cuban exiles as individuals. We have not taken advantage of them as groups—as political entities with assets in Cuba. In effect, we have sought to make this a “U.S. show” using Cubans. To this extent, we are probably repeating past mistakes.

To create an opposition with a political base in Cuba, we should adopt a policy of giving assistance to Cuban groups without establishing rigid rules of planning or controlling. Our criteria for assistance (which should consist primarily of sabotage materiel, arms, radio equipment and transport) should be:

that the groups have assets in Cuba (cf., NIE August 1, 1962).1
that the groups will undertake only those actions against the Castro regime which can be reasonably believed to have been accomplished from inside Cuba.
that the groups agree to maintain a high degree of security.

This program would be supplemental to rather than a replacement for existing programs using refugees. The United States role would be primarily that of purveyor of materiel, financial assistance and technical [Page 1070] know-how. Under this policy, we should be prepared for a number of failures and probably a fair amount of publicity. On the other hand, the student or other groups will probably continue to embarass the U.S. with their improvised schemes for attracting attention to the Cuban cause. We would hope, although we cannot be certain, that by providing exile groups that have assets inside Cuba the wherewithal for an internal struggle against Cuba, political opposition would be created and nurtured and that a minimum of external attacks on Cuba by refugees would recur.

Recommendation 2

That you advance the foregoing view for policy approval at the next Special Group meeting. (We would prefer to by-pass the Lansdale group this time for the sake of speed.)

  1. Source: Department of State, ARA/CCA Files: Lot 66 D 501, Policy—1959, 1961, 1962. Top Secret. Drafted by Hurwitch.
  2. Document 363.
  3. No indication of Johnsonʼs approval appears on the source text.