236. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter American Affairs (Meyer) to Secretary of State Rogers1 2

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  • Options with Respect to Possible OAS Reconsideration of Cuba Sanctions


Chile’s resumption of diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba, in violation of its binding (Rio Treaty) obligation under the 1964 OAS decision imposing diplomatic and economic sanctions, set in motion consultations among other OAS members that reveal a growing uneasiness over the continuation of sanctions. (The great majority, however, have no problem for the present with continuing the 1962 exclusion of Cuba from the OAS.)

Some member countries seem to be moving toward the conclusion that Cuba’s interventionism (the reason for the 1964 decision) is no longer enough of a threat to warrant continuing sanctions. A number are seriously concerned over the possibility of further unilateral erosion of OAS sanctions and over the resultant weakening of the integrity of the OAS and the Rio Treaty. Some of these are pondering the possibility of modification, including a formula under which OAS members would be free to follow their own dictates as far as sanctions are concerned in order to avoid a situation of violations. Others feel that an OAS meeting to reconsider the matter would open a Pandora’s Box at a time when change is not justified by any fundamental change in Cuba’s policy of intervention.

Our estimate is that about half of the OAS members would probably favor lifting or modifying sanctions or at least reviewing the matter if someone should take the initiative, although most of these indicate no intention themselves of taking any formal initiative at this time. While this falls short of the two-thirds-required to lift sanctions, it still represents a considerable erosion from the two-thirds originally [Page 2] required to impose them. It also signifies that the U.S. could not muster the necessary two-thirds that would be required to reaffirm sanctions. Hence a new meeting on this matter in all probability would be highly divisive, regardless of the outcome.

For the U.S. the central issue in the long run will be (a) whether to adhere to a position that there should be no change in existing OAS policy on Cuba, in the face of a growing demand for change and at the risk of dividing the OAS on this issue and of inducing further unilateral defections, or (b) whether to adjust our position to accommodate what may become a majority view favoring modification of OAS sanctions, thus enhancing the possibility of preserving OAS integrity and solidarity. This is not yet an immediate issue, however.

Fortunately, the Cuba question is not on the agenda of the April 14–24 Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly in San Jose, so the issue, in the above terms, will probably not have to be joined on that occasion. There are indications, however, that the Chilean and Peruvian Foreign Ministers will mention the Cuba question in their opening (“general debate”) speeches and that corridor conversations will probably take place. Some Ministers may discuss the possibility of a future OAS meeting to review the sanctions question. Nevertheless, we believe there is a good chance of forestalling such a demand for the present and of maintaining OAS sanctions in the short run.

The attached study reviews the whole question of OAS Cuba policy and presents policy and tactical options for the U.S. on the question of maintaining or modifying OAS sanctions. The immediate purpose is to confirm our position in the expectation of informal discussion in San Jose.


1. That, under Policy Options, you approve Option 1, namely: “Maintain a position that there should be no change in OAS decisions on diplomatic and economic sanctions, justifying this position particularly on the evidence of [Page 3] continuing Cuban interventionism and emphasizing the need to continue sanctions as long as Cuba poses a threat. (While maintaining this position, continue to bear in mind our concurrent interest in preserving the integrity and solidarity of the “Inter-American System, and hence remain alert to changing country attitudes toward sanctions that might in time result in further unilateral defections.)”

2. That, under Tactical Options, you approve Option 2, namely: “Actively seek to discourage those who propose a review of OAS decisions in the OAS itself, arguing that, in view of Cuba’s unchanged actions, attitudes and alignments, reconsideration of OAS sanctions policy is not warranted at this time and supporting our argument with concrete evidence; in so doing discourage insofar as possible any further unilateral defections; enlist the assistance of like-minded countries such as Brazil and Argentina in this effort. (While maintaining this position, remain alert to changing country attitudes with a view to reassessing this tactic if and when necessary.)”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 24 CUBA. Secret. Drafted on April 1 by Richard A. Poole (USOAS); cleared by Jova; and the recommended actions were approved by Rogers. In telegram 66661 to San José, April 20, the Department reported that Castro had unilaterally rejected normalization of relations with the U.S. and a return to the OAS. (Ibid., POL CUBA–US)
  2. Noting that some OAS members were considering lifting or modifying sanctions against Cuba, Assistant Secretary Meyer recommended that the U.S. maintain a position against any changes in the OAS’s stance on Cuba and the active discouragement of any reconsideration of OAS policy toward Cuba.