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


  • Venezuelan Case Against Cuba

Yesterday I learned that the Venezuelans were about to make a formal request for an MFM to consider the Cuban case.

In checking with ARA I found that they still had not sorted out where they wanted to go because of differences inside the Bureau and with E and EUR. I told Sol Linowitz and BobSayre that they had better alert Foy Kohler—whom the Secretary had tapped to follow up on this one—and ask him to resolve the differences. Getting the Secretary into an MFM without knowing where we are headed is a helluva situation.

Kohler met this morning with Solomon, Stoessel, Covey Oliver, Linowitz, Sayre and Bernbaum.2 I participated.

These are the highlights of the meeting:

Sol reported that the Venezuelans are determined to proceed with a call for an MFM under Art. 39 of the OAS Charter—probably [Page 138] today. They claim practically unanimous support for the convocation, but do not have the faintest idea where they want to come out beyond appointing a group to collect all the evidence on Cuban intervention.
Kohler noted that we are now committed to an MFM and must proceed on this basis.
It was agreed that we could support these measures in the MFM which would find generally wide acceptance among the Latin Americans:
Condemnation of Cuba for its aggressive activity.
Better enforcement of existing OAS sanctions approved in July 1964.
A renewed appeal for cooperation by friendly non-member countries in restricting trade and shipping with Cuba, and a call on countries actively supporting Cuba (the Soviets, etc.) to reassess their position in the light of Cuban subversion.
Action by all OAS Members to deny bunkers and government cargoes to ships in the Cuban trade. The US is already taking this action.
Improvement of surveillance and intercept especially in the Caribbean, search, and seizure of suspicious Cuban and unidentified vessels within a 12-mile zone, permitted under international convention, and search and seizure of such vessels outside the 12-mile zone if there is specific information of subversive intent warranting such action.
A sixth measure was discussed at great length: an OAS blacklist of firms trading with Cuba to which OAS member governments would deny government contracts. Tony Solomon was strongly opposed on general trade policy grounds and the ineffectiveness of the measure. EUR endorsed this view. Covey Oliver favored the measure in the form of an MFM recommendation (not mandatory) as symbolic support for Venezuela. Kohler took it under advisement and to discuss with Secretary Rusk.3
Kohler made a strong point of the need for the Latin Americans to take the initiative in convincing the Europeans that they should restrict trade with Cuba. It was agreed that one action the MFM might take is to select 3 or 4 prominent and effective Latin American Foreign Ministers to go to Europe to discuss the Latin American concern over mounting Cuban intervention and the desire of the OAS for the European governments to curtail their assistance to Castro, particularly in credit guarantees and Iberia’s flights to Cuba. If the Europeans responded [Page 139] to this initiative, fine. If not, the OAS might consider a recommendatory blacklist.
As things now stand, this seems to be the sequence of contemplated action:
Venezuela will ask that the MFM be convoked initially at the ambassadorial level to appoint a committee to make a study of Cuban intervention in Venezuela, and other places (e.g., DR, Colombia, Bolivia, Guatemala) if the governments so request.
The study when completed would be presented to the MFM at the ministerial level.
The MFM would:
  • —denounce Cuba for its continued intervention.
  • —call upon the Europeans to cooperate with the measures approved by the MFM against Cuba in 1964.
  • —appoint a committee of Foreign Ministers to go to Europe to explain OAS concern and OAS desire for their cooperation in restricting assistance to Castro as long as he continues to promote subversion.
Depending upon the response of the Europeans, the MFM would reconvene. If their response is affirmative, no additional OAS action would be taken. If negative, the MFM might:
  • —apply the blacklist.
  • —deny bunkering facilities to ships calling at Cuba.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Venezuela, Vol. III, 12/66–12/68. Secret.
  2. Kohler convened the meeting “as a follow-up to the Secretary’s instruction” that “he [Kohler] work out a coordinated Department position.” (Memorandum for file, May 31; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA Files, 1967–69: Lot 72 D 33, Venezuelan Complaint (Cuba))
  3. Kohler reached a decision before meeting Rusk: “I have mulled this matter over since that [May 31] meeting, trying to lean over backwards to understand the frustrations of ARA and of the Latin American countries. However, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the proposed economic sanction is not feasible.” (Memorandum of record, June 1; ibid., ARA Files, 1967: Lot 70 D 150, Cuba, 1967)