58. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Cuban Intervention in Venezuelan Affairs—OAS

PARTICIPANTS

  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Foy D. Kohler—G
  • Mr. Anthony M. Solomon—E
  • Ambassador Maurice M. Bernbaum

Following a discussion of Venezuela’s petroleum problem, the Secretary turned to the question of the U.S. position in the OAS on Venezuela’s complaint against Cuba.

Mr. Kohler said that he had come to the conclusion that the idea presented by ARA for the establishment of a list of firms doing business with Cuba to be utilized by the member states of the OAS in denying government contracts to such firms was not feasible. It was his impression based on Mr. Solomon’s views that the potential costs to U.S. policy and U.S. interests were too great to justify the limited benefits which might be derived.

The Secretary then asked whether this would apply to the blacklisting of vessels touching at Cuban ports. Mr. Solomon said this was not a point at issue since such action was already taken by the USG and would merely represent a generalization of our policy. He explained that our policy involved the denial to such vessels of bunkering facilities in U.S. ports as well as government cargoes.

The Secretary then referred to OAS action involving the search of suspicious vessels outside territorial waters. He suggested in this connection the desirability of establishing a Caribbean Security Committee made up of countries bordering the Caribbean Sea. He thought that this would involve specifically the countries directly threatened by Cuban intervention without involving the South American countries more remote from the scene as well as Mexico. It was agreed in the ensuing discussion that this would have the great advantage of creating an organization which could facilitate and implement search procedures.

Ambassador Bernbaum then outlined a program which had been discussed the previous evening by Ambassador Linowitz, Ward Allen [Page 142]and others interested in the problem and which had been described earlier in the morning to Robert Sayre. This provided for the following measures:

1.
An OAS denunciation of Cuban aggression in strong language.
2.
Strong criticism of Soviet responsibility through assistance to Cuba making its actions possible and appealing to the Soviet Union to assist in solving this problem.
3.
An appeal to friendly countries to assist in the efforts of the OAS countries to protect themselves against Cuban aggression by not encouraging or facilitating trade with that country.
4.
The establishment of a high level committee, possibly made up of a selected group of foreign ministers to visit the European countries concerned and possibly the Soviet Union to make known the Latin American concern over the problem and to request collaboration. The results of this trip would be reported back to the MFM. In addition there might be behind the scenes agreement on the action by all OAS Chiefs of State to call in the Ambassadors of the European countries, Soviet Union, Canada and Japan to emphasize the appeal made in the OAS Resolution.

Further steps to be taken by the OAS would be applied in the event of the failure of the mission during its talks in Europe and other areas and would be the subject of further action by the OAS upon the submittal of their report. At that time there would be taken up various punitive measures such as (1) Generalization of U.S. policy toward vessels touching at Cuban ports to the other OAS countries; (2) The pressure on Spain to discontinue its air services to Cuba; and (3) Other appropriate and feasible measures.

Mr. Kohler said that he agreed with this program, particularly in the sense of making known to the Soviet Union the concerted feeling of the OAS countries. He felt that the Latin Americans had been far too weak and delicate in their approaches to the Soviet Union which he thought would be far more sensitive to such pressure than they apparently thought. He also agreed on the desirability of a widespread publicity campaign to make known the Latin American position.

The Secretary thought that this kind of program including the establishment of a Caribbean Security Committee would be useful. He did not, however, want the OAS action to be of such a nature as to create the impression that the United States was about to embark on an important punitive program against Cuba. He thought that we already had too many problems in our basket at the present time for such a policy to be adopted now. It seemed to him that a policy of this nature could be envisaged after a few more crises involving Cuba. The Secretary also wanted to know whether the proposed action by the Chiefs of State would be mentioned in the Resolution. Ambassador Bernbaum said that this might best be done behind the scenes. The Secretary agreed. He then asked whether the Ambassadors concerned would be called in by the Presidents en masse or individually. Ambassador Bernbaum [Page 143]thought that this might best be done individually. The Secretary then said that since a decision of this kind would involve President Johnson he thought it best for him to consult with the President before giving the green light. He wondered whether it might be possible for President Johnson to be exempted from this requirement by utilizing language such as “the highest feasible levels”. Ambassador Bernbaum said that Foreign Ministers in Latin America did not have the prestige and weight of the Secretary of State and that it might therefore be desirable to arrange for the Chiefs of State in Latin America to do the job leaving the way open for the Secretary of State to do it in Washington. This produced some laughter and was left at that.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–7 CUBA. Confidential. Drafted by Bernbaum and approved in S on June 5.