135. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Redrafts of Argentine Resolutions for 8th MFM2


  • The Secretary
  • ARA—Mr. Goodwin
  • RPA—Mr. Jamison
  • RPA—Mr. Bowdler
  • Ambassador del Carril of Argentine Republic
  • Dr. Oscar H. Camilion, Argentine Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs
  • Mr. Ortiz de Rozas, Director General, Political Division, Argentine Foreign Office

After an exchange of amenities during which the Secretary expressed appreciation to the Argentine emissaries for having come all the way to Washington, Under Secretary Camilion explained the purpose [Page 293] of their visit. He indicated that at President Frondizi’s request the Foreign Office had reviewed very carefully the observations made by President Kennedy in his letter and the suggested modifications to their resolutions. They had found these very useful and had reworked their earlier drafts in the light of them. However, there were certain aspects of the changes recommended by the United States, particularly with respect to sanctions, that in their opinion would not command the support desired and hence would threaten the unity of the hemisphere to which President Frondizi attached the greatest importance. He emphasized the need to maintain a united front in the Americas not only against Castro but as a demonstration of purpose within the Free World.

The Secretary stated that there were several ways in which unity could be disrupted. He said we should not lose sight of the fact that the countries geographically close to Cuba are very concerned about the danger to them from Cuba and because of this feel very strongly about the need to take effective measures. Another aspect of unity is that if President Kennedy does not give the American people and the Congress an adequate formula for dealing with the Cuban problem, this could have an erosive effect on our capacity to work with the OAS. Still another consideration is the implications which go beyond the Continent. For example, it is difficult for the United States public to understand our concern over communist penetration in other distant areas of the world and the need to act against it if nothing is done about penetration within our own hemisphere. Also, other countries on the periphery of the Soviet bloc are watching to see how resolutely we handle a problem, such as Cuba, in our own back yard as an indication of how determined we would be to assist them in a difficult situation.

Under Secretary Camilion recognized the validity of these considerations but questioned whether the solution we advanced based on sanctions would really achieve what is being sought. He said that the problem was not one of definition—we are all agreed that Cuba is communist and that this is incompatible with Cuba’s continuation in the OAS—but of the efficacy of the action contemplated. Argentine thought that the more effective measure would be to find a way to suspend Cuba’s participation within the inter-American system.

The Secretary interrupted to say that he wanted to mention another consideration making it very important that decisive action be taken at Punta del Este. He said he had not mentioned this matter to any other Latin American government and did not want to be misinterpreted for bringing it up in this context. He explained that the latest reports from Ambassador Thompson in Moscow on his conversations with Premier Khrushchev show that if the Soviets persist in their current policy on the Berlin problem we are on a collision course which will lead to war. Given this circumstance, it is of the utmost importance that no weakness be [Page 294] shown in Punta del Este lest the Soviets interpret this as a lack of determination on our part. The Secretary went on to say that if suspension of Cuba from the OAS can be worked out, then it might be a substitute for sanctions. He added that if it could not be put into effect quickly, however, we would find it difficult to accept as an alternative.

In an exchange of comments on the effectiveness of sanctions, the Secretary expressed the view that such measures would have a profound impression on the Cuban people and would help us in getting other members of the Free World to align their policies with those of the hemisphere on Cuba and Dr. Camilion again expressed his doubts as to their efficacy. The Secretary then asked Department officers present to try to work out with the Argentine emissaries a formula which might accomplish an effective provision leading rapidly toward exclusion of the Cuban Government from the inter-American system, and to check back with him.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 371.04/1-1862. Confidential. Drafted by Bowdler and approved in S on January 20. The time of the meeting is taken from Rusk’s Appointment Book. (Johnson Library)
  2. The Argentine redrafts are filed with a memorandum prepared in the Department of State summarizing the Argentine position as presented at the January 18 meeting. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/1-1862)