275. Memorandum From William Jorden of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Cuba-Latin America Relations

Brent Scowcroft informed me that two recent items in the Daily Brief had caught the President’s eye and elicited some concern. They were:

—August 3 item: “Cuba Invited to Join Latin Group”

—August 8 item: “Venezuelan Démarche on Cuba”

The attached memo gives the President a picture of the current state of play on the Cuba matter.

[Page 731]

Brent mentioned a possible directive to State outlining the Administration’s views on this subject. As noted in the attached memo, State is fully aware of our views and is working hard to conteract the Venezuelan initiative. I have been monitoring the effort closely. I think everything is being done that can be done. I therefore believe that a special directive on this is not needed for it could say nothing new. If I felt State was dragging its heels, of course, I would favor setting them right. But they are not doing so on this one.

Incidentally, while I believe we will come out all right on the present initiative, I am sure you realize that the trend in Latin America as regards Cuba is moving rather fast in the wrong direction. It is inevitable that a majority in the OAS will at some time in the next year support dropping sanctions—or at least letting each country make its own decision as regards relations with Havana.

Recommendation:

That you sign the attached memo to the President.

Attachment

Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon

Undated.

SUBJECT

  • Cuban Relations with Latin America

You expressed an interest in recent developments on this front. The current state of play is as follows:

At the United Nations, Cuba was admitted in March to the Latin American group on an “informal” basis to take part in Law-of-the-Sea consultations. The action was taken on the basis of Cuba’s UN membership.

In Geneva, the Latin American caucus accepted Cuban participation earlier this month for discussions in the Seabeds Committee. This was done over vigorous Brazilian objections but was supported or accepted by the others (we, of course, do not belong to either group).

The latest development is the so-called Venezuelan initiative. The Venezuelans have drafted a memorandum and a resolution for possible submission to the OAS Permanent Council next month. It is also identical to the proposal Peru made in June. It would free member states of the OAS to establish relations with Cuba based on their indi[Page 732]vidual evaluations of their national interests. We have vigorously opposed the Venezuelan proposal on juridical grounds (it is an effort to circumvent the two-thirds vote requirement for resolutions under the Rio Treaty) and on political grounds (there is no evidence Cuba has changed its attitude or behavior, including intervention in the affairs of other countries). Brazil has taken a similarly tough stand.

Our assessment is that the Venezuelan proposal will get the support of all seven OAS members that now have relations with Cuba (Argentina, Barbados, Chile, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and Trinidad-Tobago). They can also expect the votes of Colombia (which has been trying hard to improve relations with Venezuela), Ecuador (same reason), and Panama (to placate local leftists). Thus, with its own vote, Venezuela can count on 11 ayes.

Nays will come from: Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, and the United States. Thus, ten votes against.

Both El Salvador and Guatemala have indicated that they oppose the Venezuelan proposal on juridical grounds but will probably abstain on a substantive vote.

We are working hard, both in Washington and in the two capitals, to convince El Salvador and Guatemala to vote “no” instead of abstaining. We are also encouraging Somoza to intervene with his neighboring presidents (with whom he has considerable influence) to change their position.

Costa Rica is a special problem. While opposing the Venezuelan plan, its Foreign Minister has come up with an initiative of his own. He would have the OAS Organ of Consultation meet and consider whether the reasons for the original sanctions against Cuba still exist. Unless it found that there had been no change—and supported that finding by a two-thirds vote—the sanctions would terminate. We are, of course, opposing this move strongly.

We are also lobbying hard with others who may be wobbly, notably Colombia and Ecuador. But both appear to have given their pledge of support to their neighbor, Venezuela.

If we can swing Guatemala and El Salvador around to a negative vote—and hold Costa Rica in line—we will have the twelve votes to defeat the Venezuelan move. In that case, it is likely that they will not even introduce the resolution formally (you will recall that they dropped the matter once before when it became clear they did not have a majority).

Everyone concerned in State and in the field understands our vigorous opposition to this kind of proposal. And they are working overtime to beat it back. We are cooperating closely with the Brazilians and others of like mind. My staff is monitoring this effort closely.

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In my judgement, a special directive outlining our views on this matter is not needed at this time. I am persuaded that all concerned understand fully the importance we place on defeating the Venezuelan proposition.

Two other matters should be noted: (1) Venezuela itself clearly intends to open relations with Cuba before the end of the year, and probably in the next month, to influence the left-wing vote in the national elections early in 1974; (2) even if the Venezuelan proposition won a majority of votes, we can and will continue to fight it on juridical grounds as a violation of the provisions of the Rio Treaty. And on this, we will have support even from many of those who may be inclined to vote for the Venezuelan resolution on political grounds.

  1. Summary: Jorden drafted and attached a proposed memorandum to President Nixon on relations between Latin America and Cuba, noting that OAS sanctions against Cuba would probably remain intact over the short term but that “the trend in Latin America as regards Cuba is moving rather fast in the wrong direction.”

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files, Box 781, Latin America, Cuba, Vol. IV, 1972. Secret. Sent for action. Kissinger wrote, “File—No sense stirring up a hornet’s nest,” on the memorandum. The draft memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon on Latin American moves to restore relations with Cuba is published as an attachment to this document. The second-to-last paragraph of the draft memorandum beginning, “In my judgement,” was lined out by hand.