287. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1

The Cuba Issue

This paper presents in option form the strategic and tactical choices with regard to the Cuban issue which were discussed in our memorandum of September 6. It does not contain recommendations.

We have rejected continued intransigence in the OAS as an option on the grounds that it is both unworkable and unwise. An attempt to put pressure on other OAS members to vote against lifting the sanctions would destroy the credibility of the New Dialogue. Even maintaining an anti-Cuban front with Brazil and the smaller conservative regimes—a blocking minority—would be costly and, in the end, unproductive as the OAS sanctions will become a dead letter as soon as even a bare majority votes to lift them.

We therefore see three gross options with implications for our actions in the OAS: (1) grudging acquiescence in the disappearance over time of sanctions against Cuba, (2) graceful acquiescence in that process, (3) moving now to position ourselves to deal with the Cuba problem in a bilateral context.

There are two tactical options in the OAS: a formula for voluntary sanctions or one which repeals the sanctions outright. There appears to be a third option—failure of the OAS to take definitive action—but we have rejected it on the grounds that it would be the worst of both worlds: it would continue the Cuban issue on the inter-American agenda and have no practical effect in deterring Venezuela and others who are now intent on renewing relations with Castro. A majority of less than two-thirds to repeal sanctions would fall in this category. We could continue to insist on the legality of our sanctions but their political foundation would have been destroyed.

Our choice of tactical options depends to some extent on our choice of strategic options: a decision for unconditional repeal would make a policy of grudging acquiescence difficult. A decision for voluntary sanctions, on the other hand, leaves open our choice as to the three strategic options.

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The strategic options are:

Option 1: Pursue a policy of grudging acquiescence. Lift our sanctions only under pressure.


—would give the least offense to Brazil and Chile;

—would defer any necessity for bilateral negotiations with Castro, which, given the lack of advantages for the U.S. in resumption of relations with Cuba, might not be worth the domestic problems such negotiations would create;

—would arouse the least antagonism of domestic groups which are strongly anti-Castro.


—would preserve Castro as a symbol of the U.S. desire to dominate the foreign policy of Latin American states, thereby damaging the credibility of the New Dialogue;

—would preserve the Cuban issue as one on which Latin American regimes can demonstrate their “independence” of the U.S.;

—would lead to a series of confrontations over our third-country sanctions as an increasing number of Latin American states reestablish trade relations with Cuba;

—would provide a continuing series of apparent U.S. defeats at the hands of Castro, as our own sanctions inevitably erode under domestic and international pressure.

Option 2: Pursue a policy of graceful acquiescence; eliminate our third-country sanctions; retain bilateral sanctions; wait for Castro to move toward rapprochement.


—would reduce drastically Castro’s symbolic role and be consistent with the New Dialogue’s emphasis on Latin America’s freedom of action;

—would allow the U.S. to adjust its sanctions at its own pace.


—would be difficult to hang on to bilateral sanctions as other countries rapidly dismantled theirs;

—might prolong the issue domestically.

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Option 3: Maneuver toward bilateral negotiations by beginning now to drop our minor sanctions (e.g. the travel ban), dismantling our third-country sanctions immediately after the OAS vote, and signaling a willingness to end our trade embargo in the context of bilateral negotiations.


—would put an end to Castro’s symbolic role and be consistent with the New Dialogue’s emphasis on Latin America’s freedom of action;

—would have a dramatic impact in Latin America and elsewhere in the world as demonstrating the Administration’s willingness to take bold initiatives;

—could turn the tables on Castro by putting the burden on him to show a willingness to deal with us.

—elimination of sanctions would avoid increasing legal difficulties for U.S. companies operating abroad.


—would displease Brazil and Chile;

—would arouse opposition and criticism from domestic right-wing groups and their congressional sympathizers;

—would raise a number of difficult issues domestically regarding the substance of the U.S. position in negotiating with Castro.

The tactical options in the OAS:

Option 1: Work for a formula for lifting the mandatory OAS sanctions which preserves some international legal basis for continued bilateral sanctions against Cuba.


—meets the minimal requirements of Brazil and Chile;

—heads off predictable attempts to charge us with economic coercion under the OAS Charter if we maintain bilateral sanctions;

—defers the question of bilateral negotiations and allows us to proceed more slowly in lifting our own sanctions.


—leaves the possibility of future and fruitless debate within the OAS on the juridical status of voluntary sanctions;

—voluntary sanctions would be anomalous under the Rio Treaty which contemplates collective action.

Option 2: Work for an unconditional repeal of sanctions by the OAS .


—extracts the issue once and for all from the deliberations of the OAS;

—provides a clear juridical solution to the benefit of the Rio Treaty and its machinery;

—puts the pressure on Castro to negotiate with us.

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—Would tend to force U.S. policy to move toward an accommodation with Castro at a pace faster than we or a number of other countries might wish.

Immediate Decisions

There are a number of immediate tactical decisions which we have to make:

Decisions in the OAS

1. Do we oppose convocation of a November MFM, do we abstain, or do we vote for?

Voting against would be intransigent, “no-budge” position which we believe is not a viable option. Voting in favor would be more apt to signal that the U.S. was getting ready to change its Cuba policy than would abstention.



Vote For

2. Do we oppose establishment of a Committee of Inquiry, abstain, or vote for?

Same considerations apply as under 1, above.



Vote For

3. Do we press for terms of reference for the Committee of Inquiry that require a finding as to whether Cuba has ceased to be a threat to the peace and security of the hemisphere or broader language which avoids a confrontation on the issue of the authority of the Rio Treaty?

As our memo of September 6 explains, it would be extremely difficult for a number of countries for internal reasons to have to vote either way as to whether Castro remains a menace under the peace and security provisions of the 1964 resolution. Also, a finding that he is not would carry the implication of a collective decision that individual bilateral sanctions were no longer justified. On the other hand, a broader criterion relating the decision to changing conditions in the world (détente and the New Dialogue), as Facio and others have in mind, would make no connection with the original 1964 resolution. We could try for terms of reference that fall somewhere between these two formulations but it will not be easy to bridge the gap.

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Insist on a determination under the 1964 resolution __________

Allow Latins to work it out as they wish __________

Work for an intermediate formula __________

(We have in mind a formula that would avoid forcing a vote on whether Castro remains a threat, but which does not completely ignore the 1964 resolution.)

Decisions Regarding Bilateral Restrictions

1. By September 14. Should restriction on the use of U.S. passports for travel to Cuba (and to North Korea and North Vietnam) be renewed by this date or allowed to lapse?

Renew __________

Allow lapse __________

2. By September 16. Should we allow Cuban delegates to attend the World Energy Conference later this month or do we reaffirm President Nixon’s denial of the request?

Allow them to attend __________

Reaffirm denial __________

3. In replying to Senator Fulbright’s request for Administration views on a bill that would eliminate prohibitions of U.S. assistance to countries that (a) furnish assistance to Cuba, (b) trade with Cuba, or (c) allow the use of their ships and aircraft in the Cuban trade, do we:

—tell him we prefer to take no position at this time __________

—tell him privately that we find the proposal useful and will support it publicly at the proper time __________

—tell him we would support language making the third-country sanctions dependent on the OAS sanctions __________

—notify him that our policy holds and we oppose the change his bill would signal __________

  1. Summary: In a paper transmitted to Kissinger, the Department outlined possible strategies for handling the Cuba issue in the OAS.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P820097–1646. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Bloomfield on September 10, and cleared by Shlaudeman, Feldman, and Einaudi. Kissinger did not indicate a preference for any of the options presented in the paper. Sent as Tab A under a September 11 covering memorandum from Bowdler to Kissinger, which noted that the options in the paper would be discussed in a September 12 meeting to be attended by Sisco, Rogers, Bowdler, Shlaudeman, Mailliard, Lord, Feldman, Einaudi, and Anderson. No other record of the meeting has been found. Also attached to the covering memorandum but not published is a September 11 memorandum from Mailliard to Kissinger outlining an alternative set of decisions to be made on U.S. policy toward possible OAS action on Cuba (Tab B). The paper is based on a longer study of the Cuba issue transmitted by Bowdler to Kissinger under a September 6 memorandum. (Ibid., P820097–1467)