203. Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1 2

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  • Feasibility of Covert External Economic Sabotage Against Cuba

1. Background

The greatest handicap to external economic operations against Cuba is the locale in which the operations would have to be conducted. Most of Cuba’s free world trade, other than sugar, is with the Western European countries and Canada. These major trading partners, the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, France and Spain have extended significant amounts of medium term (three to five year) credits to Cuba which are currently granted in spite of United States Government representations at the highest levels. Cuba has been prompt in servicing her European debts, and the United Kingdom and France continue to finance and raise credit limits on desperately needed Cuban purchases of transportation, industrial and other capital equipment. The high imbalance of trade with Cuba assists the economy of these Western countries, and the credits extended to Cuba have given the Castro regime the flexibility to cope with a grave, domestic economic crisis while pursuing other external revolutionary activities. Soviet assistance to Cuba has been, and probably will continue to be, adequate to keep the Cuban economy afloat, but will not be sufficient to make the regime prosper or to bring about any appreciable easing of current hardships endured by the populace.

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Taking into consideration that the European countries named above think of Cuba as a good credit risk and trading partner, that they are NATO allies of the United States and are also otherwise bound to us by treaties or ties of friendship, the overall risk in conducting such a program in these countries is very high, if not unacceptable.

2. Covert Economic Warfare Techniques

Against this background, the following covert techniques were examined in depth to determine their feasibility, projected effectiveness and risk factors:

  • A. Denial/Sabotage of Cuban exports to the Free World
  • B. Sabotage of Cuban imports from the Free World (fertilizer, transportation/industrial/capital equipment at point of manufacture, in-
  • C. Utilization of incendiary devices against Cuban ships
  • D. Blacklisting firms trading with Cuba
  • E. Denial to Cuba of Free World sugar markets.

Because of unacceptable risk and questionable effectiveness, implementation of items A through C is not feasible. Pertinent factors are: past experience with the security of operations of this type; the very long lead time necessary to locate, recruit, train and deploy agents; and the local conditions (physical and political) in various Western countries—all present myriad problems that argue against actions of this kind.

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Item D would be feasible but only with full (overt) United States Government participation. Without it, the blacklistings would have only limited effectiveness.

That leaves item E (i.e., the denial to Cuba of Free World sugar markets,) which is viewed as a feasible, though expensive covert operation. It would involve the formation of a Free World consortium of sugar brokers who would aggressively enter the Japanese market and substitute Free World sugar for Cuban sugar. A summary of this concept is attached.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Box 207, Agency Files, CIA, Vol. I, January–December 31, 1969. Secret; Sensitive. Attached to a May 15, 1969, covering memorandum from Karamessines to Kissinger. Attached but not published is a 2-page summary entitled “Denial to Cuba of Free World Sugar Market.”
  2. The CIA prepared a study on the feasibility of covert economic warfare against Cuba.