263. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Weekly Report: The Flamingo in the Bahamas (U)

While on vacation in the Bahamas last week, Bob Pastor offered to brief Bahamian Prime Minister Pindling on the Cuban situation if he so desired. He did, and he also asked Bob to meet for extensive conversations with Foreign Minister Adderly. The discussions centered on the Flamingo incident and its implications for the security of the Bahamas and the entire Caribbean.2 (S)

On May 10, the Bahamian Coast Guard boat, Flamingo, captured two Cuban fishing vessels one quarter mile off a Bahamian island. The Cubans, some of whom had been captured before, radioed for help and several MIG–21s arrived, harassed the Flamingo, and then sunk it and strafed and killed four Bahamian sailors. Still, the Commander of the Flamingo took control of one of the Cuban boats, captured the eight fishermen and brought them to Ragged Island. This occurred in daylight and in Bahamian waters. Sunday morning, a Cuban transport [Page 626] plane, a helicopter and MIG fighters harassed the island, apparently looking to recapture the Cubans. (S)

The Government of the Bahamas (GOB) is a moderate and progressive government, interested in internal development and disinterested in international affairs. Pindling’s preference would be to try to close out this incident as quickly as possible, but he is also worried that the Cubans may have been sending a message with graver implications for the Bahamas: leave our fishing boats alone or else; Cuba is a power to be reckoned with. Nonetheless, the GOB induced the Cubans to negotiate by threatening to take the issue to the UN Security Council. After some give and take, the Cubans responded with a note, which the GOB interpreted as largely meeting their three conditions: (1) that Cuba was responsible for the incident; (2) that Cuba will pay for damages; and (3) that Cuba will respect Bahamian soverignty. (S)

Bob explained recent internal developments in Cuba and the increasing close relationship between Cuba and the USSR in military, political and economic affairs. After Bob described the large quantities of offensive military equipment which the Soviets have given free of charge to the Cubans, Pindling said: “If you get that much military power, you are going to want to use it.” Pindling was concerned about future Cuban aggression. As he was unaware of your October 1, 1979 speech on the Soviet brigade,3 Bob described it and explained that the US would be prepared to assist the GOB in resisting Cuban aggression. But Bob encouraged the GOB to look to its like-minded neighbors in the Caribbean Basin to formulate appropriate security responses to the Cuban threat, and said that the US would be interested in discussing these issues in greater depth with other moderate nations in the area. It is not clear whether the GOB will follow up and play a larger role in the Caribbean area, which would clearly be in our interests as well as those of the GOB’s neighbors. But we shall follow this closely. In addition, we are reviewing a wide range of security issues as they relate to the Caribbean area and to US-Bahamian relations. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 5, Bahamas, 1/77–1/81. Secret. Sent for action. A notation in an unknown hand at the top of the page reads, “DR [Daily Report] on Jun 3.”
  2. See Document 262.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 262.