204. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Richardson) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2

[Page 1]


  • Recognition of a Provisional Government in Exile for Cuba

I have attached a very brief sketch of possible steps toward recognition of a provisional Cuban Government in exile (PGC), as you have requested. This sketch has not been developed beyond the barest outline. We have not sought to start extensive background preparation in the Department; only a portion of my own staff and the two principal officers of the Latin American bureau here have been involved.

Assessment of the effectiveness of recognizing a PGC as a warning to the Soviet Union, in relation to its posture towards the PRG of South Viet-Nam, is a critical judgment which I am not yet prepared to make. For present purposes, I am willing to assume that the warning will be heard.

But wholly apart from the question of effectiveness vis-a-vis the Soviets, I feel that the recognition of a PGC (or even taking step one in the attached outline) would have catastrophic effects on our posture toward Cuba and our fragile relationships with Latin America, to say nothing of the repercussions in the rest of the world and here in the United States. Some of the considerations follow.

[Page 2]

1. Recognition of a PGC would be universally viewed as tantamount to a declaration of war against Castro Cuba. Recognition of a PGC means a withdrawal of our present recognition of the Castro Government (granted in January 1959). We do not now maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, but we have never withdrawn our original recognition of the Castro regime. The Cuban exile community would view our initiatives as a United States commitment to overthrow Castro, by force if necessary. Internationally, formation of a provisional government in exile would be viewed as the de jure basis for a state of war; recognition by other countries would imply support for that state.

2. The status of Guantanamo would be imperiled, since by recognition of a PGC we have cast upon that body, and removed from the Castro regime, the duty to carry out Cuban obligations under our Guantanamo treaties.

3. In Latin America, the creation and recognition of a PGC would signal a United States decision to adopt a major interventionist posture. The reaction to the threat implicit in this posture to all of Latin America would be outspokenly hostile. We could expect support, at best, from three or four Latin American countries, such as Nicaragua, Honduras and Paraguay. Since the PGC would clearly not reflect current support of any non-exile Cubans, it could hardly be cast in the mold of an indigenous movement. It would be, and be seen as, solely the creature of the United States Government. One result would be the rehabilitation of Castro by giving him the role of a major Latin nationalist figure, instead of his present quasi-outlaw position. Another would be a divisive and destructive fight within the OAS re Cuba’s representation there.

[Page 3]

4. Reaction in other parts of the world would be scarcely less hostile. Support would be limited to the Republic of China and perhaps one or two other countries. The move would be viewed as a major heating up of the cold war.

5. This move, by withdrawing recognition of the Castro regime, would also eliminate our diplomatic efforts, via the Swiss, to provide a modicum of protection to United States citizens still in Cuba (there are now about 800 officially registered), and to reach a modus vivendi on the aircraft hijacking problem.

6. Lastly, the Cuban exile body in the United States is, as you know, rent with deep political cleavages. The uniting of these diverse elements, preparatory to the establishment of a PGC, would take enormous efforts and require substantial United States commitments. After the Bay of Pigs, the exile groups remain suspicious of official offers of support. In any event, news of any official overtures to this group would become public over night. This project could never be kept quiet until we were ready to move.

I don’t want to belabor the point. The above represents my initial reaction. We should confer on this at your earliest convenience.

Elliot L. Richardson
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 780, Country Files, Latin America, Cuba, Vol. I. Top Secret; Nodis. Attached but not published at Tab A is a June 16 memorandum outlining the possible program to develop and recognize a Provisional Government in Exile for Cuba and a list of potential Cuban exile leaders, with individual biographical information.
  2. The Department of State provided Kissinger with a study on possible steps toward recognition of a provisional Cuban Government in exile.