27. Telegram From the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba to the Department of State1

937. Subject: Castro Lashes Out at US.

1. In major speech to National Assembly of Poder Popular December 24, Fidel Castro delivered most sweeping critique of US policy since Carter administration took office—including harsh and emotional rejection of recent USG declarations on Cuban policy in Africa. Castro also rebuffed and ridiculed recent US (including presumably senatorial) appeals on behalf of Cuban nationality political prisoners. Castro, in discussing various policy issues, suggested that President Carter has been misguided by his advisors and that, unless USG policy changes, the Cubans will “fight against” President Carter, as they have against previous American Presidents.

2. Major theme of Castro speech was to lay out long-term strategy of consumer sacrifice and heightened investment to reduce Cuba’s dependence on West. While admitting utility of US-Cuban rapprochement, Castro sought to convey impression that he is dealing with US from position of relative strength and that he need not be moved by US pressures and blandishments. He again appeared to condition further progress on contentious US-Cuban issues (e.g., release of remaining AMCIT political prisoners) on full or partial lifting of US embargo, which he termed an immoral negotiating arm of US.

3. Details follow in septel.2

4. Comment: This is first Castro speech since September opening of Interests Sections in which underlying premise is that US-Cuban relations may just as likely deteriorate as improve. Lowering of expectations in this regard may be intended to condition Cuban public opinion in event normalization process comes to naught, to reaffirm Cuban loyalty to USSR at time of sensitive Moscow-Havana economic negotiations, and to place tactical pressure on US administration to soften embargo.

5. Castro was obviously emotionally aroused in this speech, and it remains to be seen whether or how his fiery line will be reflected in early policy decisions and actions. Upcoming visit of Codel Reuss may permit further insights. USINT recommends low-key USG official [Page 67] reaction to Castro’s attack, emphasizing that normalization is at best a difficult process and that actions on both sides are more important than words.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770482–0141. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated for information to Moscow.
  2. Telegram 945 from Havana, December 28. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770483–1146)
  3. In telegram 10 from Havana, January 4, 1978, the Interests Section reported Congressman Reuss’s conversation with Castro, in which the Cuban leader argued that his December 24 speech was “not intended to write-off U.S.-Cuban normalization process,” but he remained cagey about the degree of Cuba’s military commitment to Africa and urged the lifting of the U.S. embargo. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780007–0419)