9. Summary Record of the 523rd Meeting of the National Security Council1

Secretary McNamara’s Mission to Vietnam; OAS Action on Venezuelan Arms Cache

[Omitted here is discussion of Secretary McNamara’s trip to South Vietnam.]

2. OAS Action on Venezuelan Arms Cache

Secretary Rusk said that as a result of the proof of Cuban efforts to subvert the government of Venezuela by shipping arms into that country, we must take stronger action against Cuba than any we have taken so far. He summarized the attached paper, “OAS Action Against Cuba,” and the draft resolution which it contains.2 He made two points:

There is some question as to whether we can get a two-thirds vote in the OAS for the resolution. Venezuela will not be voting.
Paragraph 2 of the resolution is a warning to Cuba. It does not mean that if another incident such as the Venezuelan arms cache occurred, we would be forced to act against Cuba.3

Assistant Secretary Mann commented that the Latin American states go along with us, as they did in the missile crisis, when the U.S. appears ready to use military measures, but there is strong domestic pressure in the various Latin American countries opposing lesser actions against Cuba. Elections in the various Latin American countries make this problem more difficult. Unless we find out by prior questioning that the Latin American states will support a meaningful OAS resolution, we should oppose the convening of the OAS on this issue.4

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The President said we should begin now to find out how the Latin American states feel toward this resolution and then decide what we should do. Let the Venezuelans begin the sounding out, we will support them, and when we know who would support us, we could make a firm decision.

Secretary Dillon expressed his concern about paragraph 2 which he felt was very strong and might force us to act. He suggested that the draft resolution be changed from “should be taken” to “authorizes the member states to take action” in the event that the government of Cuba continues its aggression against other American states.5 The President agreed to the suggested change.

Mr. Mann said that paragraph 2 gives us jurisdictional authority to move troops in the event of further Cuban subversion actions without going back to the OAS for approval. Secretary Rusk doubted that the OAS would give us this kind of a blank check.

Mr. Mann said we would have to twist arms to get the required thirteen votes for the resolution. What we are looking for is authority in advance from the OAS to act quickly and unilaterally. The issue today is not armed warfare but subversion. The UN Charter talks only of armed aggression, and Article 6 of the Rio Treaty defines aggression somewhat broadly. What we need to meet the existing situation is authority such as stated in paragraph 2.

The President agreed that we should try to get advance authority so that we do not have to go back to the OAS in the event of another action by Castro.

In response to Mr. Bundy’s question, Mr. Chayes, as the State Department Legal Adviser, pointed out the legal differences between the statement approved at Punta del Este6 and paragraph 2 of the resolution.

The President suggested that we say this is what we did at Punta del Este and this is what we should now have authority to do so that we can act in an emergency. We should find out how far the Latin American states will go.

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Ambassador Thompson said the resolution created a problem. The Russians would read the resolution to mean that we are no longer committed not to invade Cuba if there is a repetition of an act such as the shipment of arms to Venezuela by Cuba.7

Mr. Mann pointed out that our technique would involve convincing Venezuela to accept our draft as their own and do the sounding out with the other Latin American states as if it were their resolution. The Speaker asked what we would do if we failed to sell the resolution. Mr. Mann repeated his view that we should not call an OAS meeting if we could obtain approval of only a mushy resolution.

Mr. Bundy called attention to the problem involved in paragraph 4 of the resolution calling for the suspension of trade and the suggestion that U.S. shipments of lard to Cuba be allowed. The President saw nothing inconsistent.

Mr. Bundy expressed grave doubts about the wisdom of obtaining support of about thirteen small states if the six large states opposed the resolution. Secretary Rusk said the small countries threatened by Castro are important. The big Latin American states are far away from the threat, and, therefore, consider the threat less important, but we have a responsibility to protect the small nearby threatened countries.

Mr. Mann summarized his understanding that he was authorized to proceed to find out what countries would support the draft resolution.8

Bromley Smith 9
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings, Vol. 1, Tab 4. Secret. Drafted by Bromley Smith. The time of the meeting is from the President’s Daily Diary. (Johnson Library) The first item of record, “Secretary McNamara’s Trip to South Vietnam,” is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. I, Document 71. FitzGerald also drafted an account of the meeting, portions of which are cited in footnotes below.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. According to FitzGerald: “He [Rusk] said that paragraph 2 as drafted is designed as a blank check for OAS or individual member action in the event of further Cuban aggression; that it does not require U.S. action but does constitute a solemn warning both to Castro and the Soviet Union. He pointed out that if we go all out to get this resolution and fail it will have unfortunate effects.” (Memorandum for the Record, March 6; Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80–B01285A, Meetings with President Johnson)
  4. On this point, FitzGerald wrote: “The Secretary of State pointed out that Venezuela is taking a very hard position, i.e. talking about an invasion of Cuba. The President said that it seemed to him that this would only stir things up.”
  5. FitzGerald’s memorandum reads: “Mr. Bundy agreed with Secretary Dillon’s point. Governor Stevenson asked whether under this resolution, in the event of new aggressions by Castro, a meeting of the OAS would have to be held prior to action. He was advised that, although a meeting would be held, action could be taken at once without recourse to such a meeting.”
  6. Reference is to paragraph 3, Resolution II, Final Act of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Punta del Este, Uruguay, January 22–31, 1962. (Department of State Bulletin, February 19, 1962, pp. 278–282) Documentation on the meeting is in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XII Documents 136145.
  7. FitzGerald wrote: “Mr. Bundy pointed out that this pledge was always subject to Cuba’s good behavior and that we would indeed expect the Soviets to help in maintaining that good behavior.”
  8. On this point FitzGerald wrote: “The President said to move ahead with the present resolutions and to have the State Department canvass OAS members concerning the acceptability of these resolutions and report back to him.” (Ibid.)
  9. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.