159. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Cuba and Communist Activities in Latin America
- The Secretary of State
- Asst. Secretary Martin
- Ambassador Gordon A.J. DeSeabra (Interpreter)
- Finance Minister Dantas
- Ambassador Campos
- Ambassador Bernardes
The Secretary, referring back to the conversations on Cuba held last year,2 recalled that there were two points that were not negotiable:
- the military and political connection between Cuba and Moscow;
- the attempts by Cuba to foment subversion in other Hemisphere countries.
The first point was brought to a dramatic climax last October. Since then the missiles and bombers have gone, some troops have left. Since it is not exactly known how many troops will remain in Cuba, the problem is still very much with us. The U.S. was gratified at the unanimity shown in the O.A.S. on the quarantine, the Brazilian position being particularly significant. It was such unanimity that made possible a peaceful solution of the missile problem. Had there not been unity in the O.A.S. or in N.A.T.O., Khrushchev might have made a different judgment on the missile situation.
The second point was still troublesome. While Cuba was not the sole channel used by the communists for subversive activities in Latin America, Cuba was extensively used for the supply of funds, the movements of persons, propaganda broadcasts, etc. The U.S. was concerned with measures to reduce or eliminate that subversive pressure from Cuba, which has been felt especially in Venezuela, as in other parts of the Hemisphere. The Secretary went on to say that there appeared to be no serious interest in Havana in a reconciliation with the rest of the Hemisphere. During the Mikoyan visit, several points of view were apparently expressed within the Cuba regime, one favoring continued ties with Moscow, another advocating a closer tie to Peking, and a third which [Page 335] might be termed a Titoist approach. The fact remained that there was no thought being given to a reconciliation with the rest of the Hemisphere. The Secretary asked Minister Dantas to comment on the two points raised, as well as to give his impressions, on the basis of information obtained from the Brazilian Embassy in Havana, on the present state of affairs in Cuba and on the present attitudes of the leadership in that nation.
Minister Dantas said he had had no recent contact with sources of information on Cuba, and asked Ambassador Bernardes to make some comments.
Ambassador Bernardes said that the impression of the Brazilian Embassy in Cuba was that there had been some training in subversion of individuals from Latin America. There was no knowledge of any Brazilians having been trained, leaving the possibility that the number had been so small that the Embassy had no knowledge of it. Such training was aimed particularly at Venezuela and the Caribbean area, but did not seem to present a serious problem with regard to Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay for instance. The economic situation was deteriorating daily in Cuba, with severe shortages and strict rationing. Just the same Castro was still getting a hard core support, and there was no prospect of a popular uprising at this time. There were divergencies inside the Cuban Government between the followers of Moscow and those of Peking. But Cuba was so economically dependent on Moscow that it could not afford to go over to the Chinese.
Ambassador Gordon asked whether there had been any change in the Brazilian attitude in the O.A.S. toward possible collective action against Cuba-subversion.
Ambassador Bernardes mentioned that the proposed resolution on that matter might be made acceptable, although there should be a reference to respecting constitutional procedures, since there are in Brazil constitutional limitations on interference with the movement of people in and out of Brazil. He also said that Brazilian support would be much easier if there were some known cases; so far there had been no known case of Brazilians who had actually been trained in Cuba in subversive techniques.
Ambassador Gordon mentioned the Lima documents that contained some evidence.
Ambassador Bernardes indicated that the individuals in question had not been trained in Cuba.
The Secretary asked whether communists in Brazil made their contacts with Moscow through Cuba.
Minister Dantas explained that communist contacts with Moscow were made mainly through Czechoslovakia, although the pro-Peking faction had a closer contact with Cuba. In Brazil the orthodox communists [Page 336] were now denouncing those who had close ties with Cuba, such as Francisco Juliao. As for Carlos Prestes, his actual status within the communist party of Brazil is not very well known. He still enjoys some prestige, but he no longer appears to be the effective leader. The activities of communist groups in Brazil are not very important in the domestic scene. Communists concentrate their efforts mainly on endeavoring to maintain positions of leadership in the labor unions, where they are being challenged by non-communist labor leaders.
Turning to the initial remarks made by the Secretary, Minister Dantas recalled that ever since the first talks about Cuba, the major concerns of the Brazilian Government were identical to those of the U.S. Government; to wit, to eliminate Cuba’s military ties with the Soviet Bloc and to eliminate the promotion from Cuba of subversive activities in the Hemisphere. The only significant difference between the U.S. and Brazil was in the methods to be used to obtain the ends mentioned above. Early in 1962, it had been thought in Brazil that it would be possible to arrive at an agreement with Cuba to eliminate these two dangers while respecting the evolution of the Socialist regime in Cuba, by securing a commitment on the part of Cuba to abstain from military ties with the Soviets as well as refraining from further subversive activities in the Hemisphere. Those are the objectives to which the Brazilian Government had remained, and still remains, faithful. Since then there have occurred two events, one more important than the other, which show the consistency of the continued Brazilian position. The first important event was that at the time of the quarantine, Brazil gave its support to the blockade so as to avoid any military danger from Cuba, military ties with the Soviets, and the introduction of nuclear weapons in other countries of the Hemisphere. The other more recent event had to do with subversive activities. For some time, pro-Cuba groups in Brazil had been organizing and publicizing a Congress for Solidarity with Cuba, to be held in Rio with participants from all over the world. In the last few weeks, the Brazilian Government had voiced its disapproval of the Congress, its untimeliness, and had instructed its Consular offices to refuse visas to anyone desiring to attend the Congress.
The Secretary asked whether there had ever been any information or complaints from neighboring countries regarding any subversive activities based in Brazil.
Ambassador Bernardes mentioned that he did not know of any such complaints. He added that at the time the documents had been found in Peru, there had been comments in the Peruvian press about possible international ramifications. But there had been no official complaint on the part of the Peruvian Government.[Page 337]
Ambassador Gordon mentioned that there had been rumors of subversive activities in Bolivia and Paraguay, but Ambassador Bernardes said nothing more had transpired.