54. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


I met this morning with State and CIA to review the latest information on the Cuban landing in Venezuela and to see how we can provide some “quiet leadership”.

The facts in the case are as I described them in staff meeting this morning, except that CIA thinks the second rubber raft foundered and did not make it back to the mother ship.

The Embassy reports that the Venezuelans are more aroused over this incident than during the arms cache in 1963.2 All major Venezuelan parties have publicly condemned the Cubans and called for a vigorous response. Only a small centrist party and the far left have withheld comment. The incident must be acutely embarrassing to the Venezuelan Communist Party which has been trying to resume the “via pacifica” line.

As of this afternoon, the Venezuelan OAS Delegation had taken no action to call for a meeting of the OAS Council to ask for collective action. This probably means that the Venezuelans are still debating whether to move in the OAS or the UN.

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In considering the forum for OAS action and the measures which might be taken, the group concluded:

The only forum where meaningful obligatory action could be taken is a Meeting of Foreign Ministers under the Rio Treaty. This was the body which acted in 1963–64.
The OAS Council, under the special authority given to it by the 1962 MFM, could investigate the incident and make recommendations to governments. But this is an untried authority and it is doubtful whether the governments would want to use it in this case.
Use of armed force against Cuba—to blockade Cuban ports, to intercept and search Cuban ships on the high seas, or to overthrow Castro—is out of the question.
The measures which might be considered are:
  • —to condemn the Castro regime for its continued intervention.
  • —to establish a blacklist (OAS would do this) of trading and shipping entities and vessels which engage in significant new transactions with Cuba and agree that:
    no governmental contracts be awarded to listed entities;
    listed vessels be denied governmental or government-financed cargos;
    OAS member countries apply any other restrictions against the listed entities and vessels which their laws permit, and
    require commercial concerns in OAS member countries to observe the blacklist in their operations.
  • —to call to the attention of those governments supporting AALAPSO Cuba’s aggressive activities and ask them to withdraw their support of the Organization.
  • —to press Mexico to break all ties with Castro.

State is putting the foregoing into a memo for Secretary Rusk3 to get his reaction and views on how to proceed. The Secretary may bring this subject up at the Tuesday luncheon.4

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Cuba, Bowdler File, Vol. II, 2/66–7/67. Confidential.
  2. In telegram 6016 from Caracas, May 14. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–7 CUBA)
  3. Bowdler forwarded the Department memorandum to Rostow on May 16, noting that “it parallels what I put in my memo to you yesterday.” (Memorandum from Bowdler to Rostow, May 16; Johnson Library, National Security File, Venezuela, Vol. III, 12/66–12/68)
  4. May 16; no substantive record of the meeting has been found.