6. Draft Paper Prepared by Gordon Chase of the National Security Council Staff1

OAS Action on Venezuelan Arms Cache—U.S. Objectives and Expectations

The following is a discussion of the action against Cuba we want the OAS to take as a result of the discovery of the Cuban arms cache in Venezuela. It is also a discussion of the results we expect to achieve by getting the OAS to take such action.


U.S. Cuban Policy in General—The bare minimum objective of our Cuba policy is a Cuba which poses no threat to its neighbors and which is not a Soviet satellite. In moving towards this objective we have rejected the options of unprovoked U.S. military intervention in Cuba and of an effective, total blockade around Cuba—primarily because they would risk another US/USSR confrontation. Instead, we are engaged in a variety of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral actions and pressures, both offensive (e.g. economic denial and covert programs) and defensive (e.g. counter-subversion program) which stop short of invasion or blockade.

It is not at all clear that these measures short of military intervention/blockade will lead to our minimum objective. About the most that can be said is that we appear to be moving in the right direction. A tough, nasty, but no invasion/blockade policy, as opposed to a softer policy, is most likely to protect the Hemisphere from Castro’s aggressive intentions and probably lays the best groundwork for bringing about any of the eventualities which would constitute a removal of the Soviet satellite from the Hemisphere—such as an overthrow of the Castro regime or a Soviet decision to quit Cuba. From a domestic political viewpoint, a tough but no invasion/blockade policy, fortuitously, is one policy which the American people appear prepared to support at this time.


The Opportunity Afforded by the Arms Cache Discovery—While the discovery, four months ago, of three tons of Cuban arms is not considered to be sufficiently provocative to lead us to risk a US/USSR [Page 17]confrontation and to take decisive action against Cuba via military intervention/blockade, the discovery of the arms cache does provide us with an excellent opportunity to make further progress in tightening up and extending our present policy towards Cuba. In working towards this end we must be careful to move in those areas where we want to move, and not necessarily in those areas where false logic would appear to dictate that we move. For example, since the crime is a matter of arms, it does not necessarily follow that we must do something flashy and expensive (politically and financially) about arms, especially since our best estimate is that the likelihood of further significant arms shipments from Cuba is small.

In taking advantage of the arms cache discovery and the concomitant OAS attention, there are two areas in which we can profitably move with energy in the shoring up and extension of our isolation policy and in the strengthening of our anti-subversion program.

Further OAS Action to Isolate Cuba—Appropriate OAS action on the arms cache issue can take us a long way in our effort to shore up and extend our present isolation policy. Specifically, the following is what we want:

We want the OAS resolution, in flexible and general language, to provide a basis for possible unilateral U.S. action to reduce Cuban/Free World commercial relations (e.g. the drastic measure of a proclaimed list); more importantly, we want the resolution to encourage as many OAR’s as possible to join us in our effort. At present, one of the major obstacles to our efforts in the field of economic denial is the non-OAS Free World argument that the U.S. is the only country in the Western Hemisphere which is really concerned about Cuba. To counter this argument, we must demonstrate clearly that the Hemisphere regards Cuba as a threat, that the Hemisphere supports the isolation policy, that the Hemisphere looks with disfavor upon traders who do business with Castro, and that the Hemisphere intends to take appropriate action against such traders.

If we fail in this effort to get OAS support, we will probably be faced with a continuation of the serious deterioration which has already begun with respect to our economic denial program. On the other hand, if we succeed in our effort, the chances are considerably enhanced that we will be able to break the growing Cuban/Free World commercial ties. Assuming we can get appropriate OAS language and follow up, it is conceivable that the U.S., Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador will all take some kind of action (not necessarily the same in each country) which will make it clear to Free World traders that they can’t have it both ways and that they must choose between Cuba, with a population of 6,000,000, and selected OAS [Page 18]countries whose populations total about 230,000,000. In selling this proposal to the OAR’s we will point out, inter alia, that they will not be forced to sacrifice much in real terms since there will be relatively few Free World traders who will ultimately choose the Cuban market in such circumstances. Indeed, only Cuba will be seriously hurt.

Assuming the OAS passes a resolution which meets this problem, we will be in a position to follow it up immediately by proposing to willing OAR’s that they meet with us to devise means of implementing the OAS decision—e.g. the circulation of lists of Free World Cuban traders among OAS countries.

We want the OAS resolution to encourage further steps within the Hemisphere to isolate Cuba. First, we want the remaining five OAS countries which maintain diplomatic and consular relations with Cuba to sever such relations. Such a step will be dramatic evidence of Cuba’s isolation and to some extent will hinder Cuba’s subversive operations by denying Cuba the use of its overseas missions for this purpose. Importantly, it will be a clear sign to other Free World countries that the Hemisphere, expressing itself through the OAS, feels strongly about Cuba. It will also be a heavy psychological blow to Castro who has tried persistently and energetically in the past several months to establish “normal” relations with many Free World countries. Second, we want the suspension of all trade (except food and medicines) between Cuba and the OAR’s. While trade between Cuba and the OAR’s is small, such action will again demonstrate Cuba’s isolation and OAS solidarity on the matter of Free World trade with Cuba. Third, we want a general call to Free World countries to cooperate with us in our effort.
Further OAS Action to Counter Castro/Communist Subversion— Appropriate OAS action on the arms cache issue can also take us a long way in our effort to strengthen our counter-subversion program. Specifically, the following is what we want:
We want the OAS resolution, in flexible and general language, to warn Castro that the OAS will not stand by idly if he continues his subversive efforts. This resolution will be cognate with a possible Presidential statement along similar lines to the U.S. public and with a stern, private warning to the Russians that Cuban subversion is leading to a highly dangerous situation. Hopefully, such a resolution will have two main results. First, it will deter Castro from further subversive actions; among other things, the Russians may find it in their interest to control Castro more closely. Second, it will provide a juridical umbrella for and pre-position the OAS and/or the U.S., to use force against Cuba in the future if it is deemed desirable to do so.
We want the OAS resolution to call for the establishment of a surveillance system which will permit the stopping and searching in [Page 19]territorial waters of all vessels suspected of carrying arms and subversives; a similar air surveillance system will also be established. While there are some negative aspects to such a resolution (few, if any, arms will be found), there are good reasons for having it. First, since an arms cache is involved, we must, at a minimum make a bow towards the problem of controlling arms shipments. Also, the resolution will be viewed as a tightening measure, and the fact that no further arms shipments occur can be interpreted as a result of the establishment of a surveillance system. Second, it will possibly deter Castro somewhat from sending men and arms to Latin America. Third, it will provide a peg on which to hang closer and more effective bilateral cooperation which may be called for in the future. For example, the U.S. and Venezuela may want to work out an arrangement whereby U.S. vessels can enter Venezuelan waters to assist in the seizure of a suspect vessel. Fourth, while it will give us an instrument to harass Castro marginally, it has no significant escalation implications.
We want the OAS resolution to call for the suspension of all air and sea communications between Cuba and OAS countries—ie. that ships and aircraft of OAS countries will not go to Cuba, that Cuban aircraft and ships will not be permitted in OAS country ports or airfields and that ships and aircraft of non-OAS countries will not be allowed to stop at an OAS country port or airfield if proceeding enroute to or from Cuba. This action will have some most desirable effects. It will considerably increase Cuba’s difficulties in exporting subversives, especially if the Cuba/Mexico air-link is cut. In addition, it will probably be effective in reducing even further the number of Free World ships which still call at Cuban ports.
We want the OAS resolution to encourage further steps within the Hemisphere to counter Castro/Communist subversion. We want a condemnation of the Castro regime for its aggressive acts against Venezuela. Also, we want a renewed call for alert against Castro/Communist subversion and an endorsement of the Lavalle Committee recommendations outlining specific measures on control of travel, funds, and propaganda for subversive purposes.

Priority Listing of U.S. Objectives—The following is a summary listing of the major actions we want. They are listed in order of their importance in furthering the objectives of present U.S. policy towards Cuba.

OAS words and action to stop the rapid deterioration in our economic denial program.
Warning to Castro regarding future subversive action, with the threat of meaningful retaliation.
Breaking of air and sea communications with Cuba.
Breaking of diplomatic and consular relations.
Establishment of a surveillance system.

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It should be noted that the actions most important to us may not be the most difficult to get. For example, the economic sanctions may not be as difficult to get as the breaking of diplomatic relations.


Tactics—It is impossible to predict how many of the above mentioned actions we will get until we have an opportunity to publicize the arms cache issue and to reconnoiter the OAS landscape. Our general objective is to obtain as much of the total package as possible. To this end, our tactics will include the following elements.

To the extent possible, we will keep Venezuela in the lead. We will be close behind the Venezuelans, however, supporting them with great determination and energy.
A high noise-level will be needed in Latin America to obtain our objective. To this end, the USIA will proceed with a large scale effort to publicize the investigating committee’s report.
A fairly high noise-level will be desirable in non-OAS Free World countries to gain their acceptance of OAS decisions, particularly in the economic field. The general theme we will convey is that a confident but outraged Hemisphere is banding together to take further measures against Cuba. We have been telling the truth all along about the Cuban threat to Latin America and the arms cache discovery proves it. As appropriate, we will distribute the USIS film to non-OAS Free World countries.
Domestically, the arms cache issue will be played in low-key. The general theme will be that the U.S. is not directly threatened and the real Cuban threat is subversion directed against Latin America. While we intend to aid the Hemisphere as much as possible in the fight against Cuban subversion, the control of subversives is and must necessarily be primarily the responsibility of the target countries.

A low-key posture in the U.S. will be very difficult to maintain if an MFM is scheduled in Washington. Therefore, if an MFM is to be held, we will consider carefully whether or not it should be held elsewhere.

Practical Results—Assuming we are entirely successful in obtaining all the OAS action we want, we must be clear as to what the practical results will be, and what they will not be.
There will not be an immediate overthrow of the Castro regime and an immediate and complete cessation of Castro/Communist subversion in Latin America.
There will be a juridical umbrella for the use of force against Cuba in the future, if deemed desirable.
There will be, at a minimum, a delay in an upswing of the Cuban economy.
There will be an increased burden placed on the Soviets to support the Cuban economy.
There will be a further political isolation of Castro. Psychologically, this will wound Castro deeply.
There will be a substantial impediment put in the way of Castro/Communist subversive activities in Latin America.
Gordon Chase 2
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Cuba, OAS Resolution (Arms Cache), Vol. II, Memos, 11/63–9/64. Secret. Chase forwarded the draft paper to Bundy under cover of a February 24 memorandum in which he noted the draft was cleared by John Crimmins and asked if Bundy wanted it circulated to the participants of the Friday meeting. No record of Bundy’s response or a final version of the paper has been found.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.