17. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Todman) to Secretary of State Vance1

Congressman Dellums’ Visit to Havana

Congressman Dellums of California visited Havana in late May and shortly after returning briefed the President about his talks with Castro. He asked me to come down to the Hill on June 30. I found some of his comments thought-provoking:

Castro assured Dellums that he did not plan to send combat troops to Ethiopia because he could not, Ethiopia being 1½ times as far away as Angola. However, Castro could not give his assurance publicly because it could cause problems for Mengistu whom he admires.

Castro said he is barely hanging-on in Angola and is disturbed by internecine conflict within the MPLA. Castro is shocked by the low value placed on human life throughout Africa and the brutal methods used in Angola to settle scores; e.g., Neto put some of his enemies in a car, set it on fire, and had it pushed over a cliff.

Castro has given up on Latin America as an arena for Cuban international activity because the middle class is too well-entrenched there. Instead Castro has turned to Africa, where he believes the countries can turn directly from tribalism to socialism. Castro thinks Cuba can make a special contribution in eradicating disease because of its surplus of young doctors.

Dellums is convinced that Castro wants better relations with the US because he is uncomfortable being so dependent on the USSR.

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Dellums said he told Castro that the release of political prisoners was critical for bringing about a more favorable US public attitude toward Cuba.

Dellums is well aware that the US and Cuban Governments are now in direct touch. However, if the Department ever needs a direct confidential intermediary to Castro, he is ready to serve.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770142–1484. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Gleysteen on July 5; cleared in H.