8. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) to Secretary of State Rusk 1

SUBJECT

  • Draft OAS Resolution Re Cuban Aggression Against Venezuela

Attached for your approval is a draft OAS resolution dealing with the recent aggression by Cuba against Venezuela.2 If, as we anticipate, [Page 23]this draft is acceptable to Venezuela, it would be presented as a Venezuelan rather than a United States initiative. We would, however, have to support it strongly in order to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority.

The draft resolution would do the following: (1) condemn Cuba for its aggression against Venezuela; (2) authorize in advance the taking of necessary measures individually and collectively, including the use of force, against Cuba if it commits aggression of comparable gravity against another American state; (3) recommend that the American governments cooperate in establishing systems of air, sea and land surveillance to prevent clandestine shipment of arms and men from Cuba to their countries; (4) require break in diplomatic and consular relations, suspension of all trade except in food and medicines, and suspension of all air and sea transportation except for humanitarian reasons; (5) provide an umbrella for unilateral action to further the trade embargo; (6) call upon free-world countries to take measures to help the American governments in their efforts to isolate Cuba; and (7) reaffirm the COAS recommendations on measures to counteract Castro-communist subversion. By far the most meaningful part of the resolution is paragraph 2.

Even if we succeed in getting the two-thirds majority for the resolution as a whole there is a possibility that both Mexico and Brazil, perhaps joined by others, would refuse to go along. By committing ourselves to strong support of this resolution we would be accepting not only the risk of a division in the OAS family but the possibility that the countries opposing would refuse to be bound by the two-thirds majority. To some extent these risks can be minimized by working quietly with Venezuela, in advance of setting a date for the OAS meeting, to obtain firm agreement with 13 countries to support a particular resolution. This preliminary work should be done so that we can know in advance what will come out of the OAS meeting.

There is a good chance—provided we take in the beginning strong and decisive leadership in favor of a resolution of this kind—of obtaining the thirteen votes needed for a two-thirds majority under the Rio Treaty.

The critical problem involves paragraph 2 of the resolution. This paragraph in effect says that in the event there should be another aggression by Cuba against an American Republic similar to the recent aggression against Venezuela, the United States would have advance Rio Treaty authorization to move militarily against Cuba itself without the need for calling another OAS meeting. On the other hand, it would, however, leave the United States free to make this decision in the light of all the circumstances existing at the time. It should be noted, of course, that if evidence comes to light of further Cuban aggression and [Page 24]intervention in other American states, the paragraph will give strong impetus to those seeking prompt, decisive military action against the Castro regime. Pressures for action can be expected to be all the greater during an election year.

We should not support this kind of provision unless we are prepared to follow through. The hope is that the risk of escalation in case of United States military action against Cuba would be decreased by saying to the USSR, in essence, immediately after the proposed OAS action, that they should either take the necessary steps to prevent Castro from engaging in further adventures of a subversive character in other American Republics or, if they cannot control Castro, to disengage. Obviously, others are better able than I to judge this aspect of the problem.

The other operative paragraphs in the draft resolution will by themselves have significant beneficial effects, but it is not expected that they will be decisive in bringing about an overthrow of Castro in the foreseeable future. They may, however, constitute good trading material for getting a two-thirds vote on paragraph 2.

If the draft resolution is satisfactory, I recommend that we try to meet with the President today or tomorrow to obtain his approval. Then we will be in a position to send it to President Betancourt who is awaiting our views on the measures which should be taken before initiating consultations.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA/LA Files, 1964: Lot 66 D 65, Cuba 1964. Secret. Drafted by Mann and cleared by Chayes subject to several points concerning the second paragraph of the draft resolution. In a March 2 memorandum to Mann, Chayes warned that “legal arguments will be made by the opponents of the paragraph, both in and out of the OAS, against my view that this paragraph provides a legal basis for future individual or collective action.” He also emphasized “the risks in using substantial international political capital to obtain approval of this paragraph when the result may be both to expose a major division within the OAS and to stimulate immediate demands for U.S. armed intervention against Cuba.” (Ibid.)
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. According to Rusk’s Appointment Book he met Mann and Chayes on March 3, at 9:37 a.m. (Johnson Library) Although no substantive record of the meeting was found, a notation on this memorandum indicates that the draft was “overtaken.” On March 2 Rusk briefed the President on the draft resolution: “Our big problem there is how far to go in relation to the number of votes we’ll get, but we got a good strong resolution, and we think [if] the Venezuelans float that, we can do work in capitals, and come up with a pretty good result on that.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Dean Rusk, March 2, 1964, 11:35 a.m., Tape F64.15, Side B, PNO 1) An uncorrected transcript of the conversation is ibid.