3. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Cuba Meeting—Wednesday, February 19, 19642


  • The Attorney General; General Taylor; Director McCone; Ambassador Bunker; Deputy Secretary Vance; Under Secretary Fowler; Deputy Under Secretary Johnson;Assistant Secretary Mann; Assistant Secretary Behrman; Acting Director Wilson; Special Assistant Califano; Desmond FitzGerald: John Crimmins; McGeorge Bundy; Ralph Dungan; Gordon Chase

The group discussed the problem of OAS action resulting from the Cuban arms cache discovery.3 (State’s staff paper of February 19 is attached.)4

Timing and Form—The OAS investigating team is expected to submit its report to the C/OAS on about February 24.5 Mr. Mann said that while the Venezuelans are anxious to get an MFM under way as soon as possible, we want to slow up the pace. Among other things, we want to give the public some time to digest the OAS report; also, we can use the time to work the corridors and have as many OAR’s as possible on our wave-length by the time of the meeting. Mr. Mann [Page 9] added that the odds are presently better than even that we will get involved with either an extended or a brief MFM.
Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine—Mr. Mann, noting that Castro is probably going to be with us for some time, said that we ought to think seriously about doing something fairly drastic to prevent further Cuban subversion. He suggested that we add a paragraph to our draft OAS resolution which will warn Castro that if he continues with his subversion, we will retaliate with force under the Rio Treaty. Such a paragraph will do two things: First, it will make clear to the Russians and Cubans that we regard subversion as “armed aggression.” Given time to digest this message the Russians may be encouraged to control Castro. Second, it will provide a juridical umbrella for any future forceful retaliation we have to take. The group went on to discuss the Mann proposal at some length.
General Taylor wondered whether this doctrine could have world-wide application.
The Attorney General, in the first instance, expressed doubt on several scores. First, how do you define subversion? Second, subversion is hard to prove even when, on rare occasion, we have the evidence; for every witness we could find to support a charge of subversion, Castro would come up with four who would say there was no subversion. Third, retaliation by force is no simple matter; our decision-making experience of October, 1962 made this clear. Finally, time-lag is a problem; the arms cache occurs and three months later, after the research is completed, we retaliate—this is somewhat unrealistic. Alexis Johnson wondered how we know if a particular act of subversion is Castro-inspired.
Mr. Bundy said that, generally speaking, the Mann proposal has merit and noted that it represents a thickening and variation of the “Kennedy Doctrine”, expressed in President Kennedy’s Miami speech of November 18.6 He added, however, that we should be careful about how much we thicken the Doctrine in the context of the arms cache discovery; our response must be appropriate to the crime. Generally speaking, we should keep the language of the resolution general and flexible and not tie ourselves down to a particular course of action in the event of further Castro subversion. But even general and flexible [Page 10] language will be useful; it will probably serve as a deterrent of sorts and will tend to put the President in a stronger position if and when we do have to resort to forceful action. Mr. Bundy added that we should continue to explore and study the “eye for an eye” doctrine.
The group agreed that we should try to get “warning-type” language into the OAS resolution. If we succeed, it will strengthen our juridical position; if we fail, we lose little and may even gain politically. The group further agreed that the language should be cognate to a possible Presidential statement on the same subject to the U.S. public and to a stern, private warning to the Russians that Cuban subversion could lead to a very dangerous situation. In the latter regard, Mr. Bundy thought that, if we do the job right, the Russians may well take us seriously.
The Attorney General said that we had to concern ourselves not only with preventing the export of subversion from Cuba but also with the problem of responding in the event “another Cuba” occurs in Latin America. Mr. Bundy said that a study last spring indicated that it was extremely difficult to plan for this sort of eventuality which can come in innumerable shapes and sizes, not all of which clearly call for a U.S. response. At the request of the group, he agreed to distribute copies of the study.7 Mr. Bundy added that it might also be worthwhile to study our capabilities to respond (e.g. a “snuff-out” force).

Surveillance Involving Force—The group generally did not favor an OAS resolution which calls for a surveillance system involving the stopping and searching of selected vessels on the high seas (the “force” option). The measure would not be very effective and would probably give us as much trouble as it would give Castro. On the other hand, a resolution which calls for a surveillance system involving the stopping and searching of vessels in territorial waters (the “non-force” option) appears to be the appropriate response to the arms cache issue. Also, with such language as an umbrella, we can work out measures whereby U.S. forces can assist other OAR’s in their territorial waters.

General Taylor dissented; he favored the “force” option. It would act as a deterrent to the Cubans and would give us a reprisal capability.

Cuban Reaction—The group agreed that, in response to OAS charges, the Cubans will take the public line that the OAS ought to investigate U.S. overt and covert aggressions against Cuba. The Cubans have already started peddling this line.

Proclaimed List—The group agreed that we should consider laying a basis in the OAS for possible proclaimed list action. Mr. Bundy noted that it would be nice if other OAR’s took proclaimed list action also. It would not only make the measure more effective in impeding Free World commercial ties with Cuba, but would also demonstrate to the Free World that the U.S. is not alone in its concern over Cuba. Mr. Fowler added that the proclaimed list action should be prospective and should not include the freezing of assets.

One stumbling block to a proclaimed list is the Soviet Bloc dimension—i.e. can we blacklist Free World firms which trade with Cuba while not blacklisting Soviet Bloc organizations which trade with Cuba? Mr. Johnson and Mr. Behrman felt that this appeared to be an impossible hurdle. Messrs. Bundy, Mann, and Fowler felt that the apparent inconsistency was bearable; in this regard, Mr. Fowler noted that we expect more from our friends than our enemies.


Salability of a Tough OAS Resolution—Mr. Mann felt that with careful planning and great determination, we may well be able to get a tough resolution out of the OAS. The group then discussed the consequences of getting beaten in the OAS; Mr. Bundy noted that going in tough and getting licked may not be so unbearable from certain points of view.

Mr. Bundy pointed out that we should be under no illusions about the coming OAS action. As tough as our resolution may be, the chances are very good that we will still be living with Castro some time from now and that we might just as well get used to the idea. At the same time, we should probably continue our present nasty course; among other things, it makes life a little tougher for Castro and raises slightly the poor odds that he will come apart and be overthrown.

Venezuelan Leadership and Noise-Level—The group agreed that while the Venezuelans should publicly lead the fight, we will have to give them plenty of support. In this regard, USIA is geared up to do an intensive selling job in Latin America if it is deemed desirable; the U.S. Government will have to determine the size and shape of the noise-level to be produced during the period which follows the submission of the OAS report.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Cuba, OAS Resolution (Arms Cache), Vol. II, Memos, 11/63–9/64. Secret; No Distribution. Drafted by Chase on February 22.
  2. On February 18 Rusk called Mann to discuss the upcoming meeting: “The Sec said he thought Bundy believed the Cabinet people should be there but the Sec said he thought it was something which should be worked out beforehand. The Sec said he thought it should be discussed below the Cabinet level. He said when you got it to the Cabinet level, it didn’t lift it to Cabinet level but brought it back into the seminar business. Mann said he would talk to Bundy.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Calls 2/11/64–2/29/64)
  3. On November 28, 1963, the Venezuelan Government announced it had discovered a large arms cache on the coast of the Paraguaná Peninsula; that an internal investigation had determined that the arms were of Cuban origin, intended for use in a guerrilla operation to seize power in Caracas before the Presidential elections of December 1; and that evidence against Cuba would be presented to the OAS, thereby justifying retaliatory measures under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, the so-called “Rio Treaty” of 1947. Regarding the initial response to the discovery of the arms cache, See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XII, Documents 169171. For text of the Rio Treaty, see 4 Bevans 559 or Department of State Bulletin, September 21, 1947, pp. 565–567.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. The report was submitted to the COAS and made public on February 24. At a news conference on February 27 Rusk said that the report should lead the OAS to act in such a way that Castro would clearly understand that subversion “will not be acceptable in the hemisphere.” (Department of State Bulletin, March 16, 1964, p. 408)
  6. On November 18, 1963, in an address before the Inter-American Press Association in Miami President Kennedy announced the so-called Kennedy Doctrine: “The American States must be ready to come to the aid of any government requesting aid to prevent a take-over linked to the policies of foreign communism rather than to an internal desire for change. My country is prepared to do this. We in this hemisphere must also use every resource at our command to prevent the establishment of another Cuba in this hemisphere.” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 872–877)
  7. Reference is presumably to a May 25, 1963, memorandum from Bundy to the President printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1962, volume XII Document 167. Bundy distributed copies of the memorandum to Robert F. Kennedy et al. on February 21, 1964. (Ibid., Document 168, footnote 3)