238. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Switzerland1

2149. REPCU. Verbatim Text.

Request Stadelhofer present following note immediately to Foreign Office:

The United States Government has been informed through the Swiss Government of the note which was given the Swiss Ambassador in Havana at 11:15 AM on February 6 and which stated that as of 12:00 Noon of that same day the furnishing of water to the Naval Base at Guantanamo would be suspended and that the suspension would be maintained until the Cuban fishermen at present under detention in the United States were put at liberty.

As indicated in the note which the United States Government sent to the Government of Cuba through the Swiss Government on February 4, 1964,2 the four Cuban fishing boats were apprehended within the territorial sea of the United States off East Key in the Dry Tortugas. Further confirmation of this fact is to be found in the testimony of two of the masters of the Cuban fishing boats—Jose Manuel Ventura of the Cardenas No. 14 and Manuel Gomez Barrios of the Lambda No. [Page 589] 8—who have admitted to United States Coast Guard officials that they were knowingly fishing in United States waters. Furthermore a monitored conversation between the Lambda No. 33 and the control station in Havana which took place at 2:25 p.m. on February 2 read as follows:

  • Havana: Where are you anchored?
  • Lambda 33: Well, we are east of Tortugas. Go ahead
  • Havana: International waters?
  • Lambda 33: Well no, this is national water, national water
  • Havana: I understand

From the foregoing it is clear that, first, the Cuban fishing vessels knew they were fishing inside the territorial sea of the United States and, second, that the Cuban authorities in Havana were also aware of this fact.

In the light of the clear violation of international law and of the laws of the United States represented by the illegal fishing of the Cuban vessels in US territorial waters, the Government of Cuba has no justification whatsoever for the arbitrary and irresponsible act of suspending water service to the Guantanamo Naval Base in direct violation of the existing contract between the water company and the Base which runs until 1969.

The Government of the United States protests in vigorous terms this totally unwarranted action and wishes to point out to the Government of Cuba that there can be no relationship whatsoever between measures taken by the Government of the United States against persons who have violated its laws and the unjustified suspension of water service to the Naval Base by the Cuban Government. Any effort to do so is entirely inadmissible to the Government of the United States. Thus the case of the Cuban nationals apprehended illegally fishing in United States territorial waters will proceed under the full guarantees for a fair trial by the State of Florida.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 33–4 CUBA–US. Confidential. Drafted by Bowdler, approved by U. Alexis Johnson, and cleared by Crimmins, Mann, and Leonard Meeker, the Legal Advisor. Repeated to USUN New York and the Cuban Coordinators Miami Office.
  2. See Document 228.