84. Memorandum From Robert Pastor of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Conversation with Castro—Your Request for my Comments (S)

Les2 gave me a copy of the FBI report of the visit by a prominent Cuban-American to Havana in November 1979.3 I found the report quite useful and reasonably informative. It is clear that Castro and Padron are interested in using the Cuban-American community to learn as much as possible about the U.S. and the current thinking of the Administration, as well as of other presidential candidates. It is also clear that Castro has the ability to awe even his worst enemies. (S)

The “source” appears to be a reasonably good listener and reporter, although he also appears to have “ego” problems quite similar to that [Page 180] of Benes.4 It is difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate an anonymous source after a single report. I have asked the FBI if they would disclose the identity of the source, and I will then try to determine, through my own sources, his credibility. If he is a perceptive and observant reporter, there is no reason why we should not use him in the same way that Castro uses him—to ask questions and extract information; and to convey a mood, which would be designed to keep Castro off balance and uncertain of our actions and intentions. On this point, I disagree with State, which apparently feels that it is better for us to convey our intentions and actions clearly to Castro in order to avoid misunderstandings. I believe that it would be better for us if Castro was uncertain about what we had in mind, and perhaps even a little fearful about what we might do. (S)

If the FBI has problems in disclosing the source to me, I will seek your assistance directly with the Director. Otherwise, I will check him out through friends in the community, and send you a more specific recommendation. (S)


Report Prepared in the Federal Bureau of Investigation5


  • Foreign Political Matters—Cuba

The following information is classified secret in its entirety, except where marked “U” for unclassified.

The source of the following information has previously been in contact with this Bureau, but has furnished insufficient information as to judge reliability. The trip by the source to Cuba has been verified. (C)

Source attended the University of Havana from 1948 to 1955, and advised that he developed a close personal friendship with FIDEL CASTRO during and following their respective days at the University of Havana. Source, who describes himself as an active revolutionary from 1948 to 1961 when he fled to the United States, advised that he [Page 181] and CASTRO followed different revolutionary and ideological paths, but acted in concert fighting first the PRIO Government and then the BATISTA regime. In 1949, Source claimed [1½ lines not declassified] CASTRO was to return to Cuba and launch his infamous attack on Moncada in 1953. Again CASTRO fled Cuba, this time to Mexico. Source married in December, 1955, went to Mexico on his honeymoon, and according to Source, [1½ lines not declassified] As the revolution intensified with CASTRO’s return to Cuba from Mexico in 1956, Source aligned himself with ELOY GUTIERREZ MENOYO, who commanded rebel forces called the Second National Front of the Escambray. In 1958, Source claimed he contacted the U.S. Embassy in Havana to warn the United States that CASTRO’s group was dominated by communists and to seek United States support for GUTIERREZ MENOYO’s group over CASTRO. When CASTRO seized power in 1959, Source, as did other factions, supported CASTRO’s revolution [1 line not declassified] As the CASTRO revolution became more and more communistic, Source began to oppose CASTRO and in September, 1960, he was removed [less than 1 line not declassified] for denouncing communism and the communists in CASTRO’s Government. Source went underground rejoining GUTIERREZ MENOYO’s group. Fearing arrest, Source, GUTIERREZ MENOYO, and 17 others fled Cuba and arrived in the United States on January 26, 1961.

On November 16, 1979, Source furnished the following information on a confidential basis and not to be disclosed outside official U.S. Government channels:

Travel to Cuba

Source travelled to Cuba during the period November 8–11, 1979, [1 line not declassified] It was his first visit to Cuba since 1961.

Source arrived in Havana on a chartered Lear jet at 9:00 AM, Thursday, November 8, 1979. He was met at the airport by CARLOS ALFONSO, the President of Havanatur, S.A. (the Cuban controlled Panamanian travel agency and the only agency authorized by the Cuban Government to operate Cuban exile tours from the United States to Cuba). ALFONSO took care of Source’s immigration and customs formalities. A driver and a late model Mercedes sedan were placed at his disposal.

Source was driven to and lodged in an area once known as the Country Club section of Havana where heads of state and delegates to the 1979 Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit Conference were lodged. Situated nearby was the pre-CASTRO Biltmore Country Club and the newly constructed palace where the NAM Summit was held.

At his quarters, Source was greeted by CASTRO aide (Colonel) JOSE LUIS PADRON, who asked Source who he would like to see. [Page 182] Source asked to see only two persons, JOSE RAMON MACHADO VENTURA, and an old friend, ALFREDO GUEVARA VALDES.

MACHADO is a member of the Cuban Communist Party Politburo, Secretariat, and Central Committee. He is also a member of the Cuban Government’s Council of State. According to Source, MACHADO is the Chief Organizer/Administrator of the Party.

GUEVARA is reportedly a Vice Minister of the Ministry of Culture. According to Source, GUEVARA oversees Cuba’s film industry/institute and has recently been placed in charge of plans to preserve the section in Havana called Old Havana.

Source made one additional request to PADRON, and that was for a comprehensive listing of books published in Cuba from which list he would be permitted to buy what he wanted. (A listing was furnished to Source two days later and Source bought five books.)

For lunch that first day, PADRON told Source that (Brigadier General) JOSE ABRAHANTES (Vice Minister for Security) would like to have lunch with him. Source agreed and ABRAHANTES appeared within an hour. Source advised that he and ABRAHANTES [2 lines not declassified] They had a polite and social lunch. According to Source, ABRAHANTES made no attempt to interrogate him or to engage in a give-and-take discussion about the Cuban exile community in Miami, its leaders, or Source’s role and influence. Source surmised that ABRAHANTES chose not to discuss Cuban exile matters for professional reasons, i.e., to avoid the danger that a man in his position would probably give up more information than he could gain.

During his lunch with ABRAHANTES, ANTONIO (TONY) DE LA GUARDIA, an associate of JOSE LUIS PADRON, arrived. According to Source, PADRON and DE LA GUARDIA are well known up-and-coming members of the next generation of Cuban leaders. After lunch, DE LA GUARDIA took Source on a tour of the area and the former Biltmore Country Club where today Cuban athletes and gifted children are trained and educated.

At approximately 4:00 PM, that first day, JOSE RAMON MACHADO VENTURA, supra, arrived. Source advised that MACHADO had been a medical student at the University of Havana during the period circa 1952–1957. Despite widespread radical opposition to BATISTA by university students and repression of students by BATISTA at that time, MACHADO remained completely non-political. However, on March 13, 1957, according to Source, MACHADO did him a favor by taking in and treating a sick revolutionary friend of Source. This act and contact with two “revolutionaries” fighting the BATISTA regime politicized MACHADO and, despite his medical background, MACHADO joined the growing revolution against the BATISTA regime. Today, according to Source, MACHADO is the Chief [Page 183] Administrator of the Communist Party of Cuba. Source characterized MACHADO as a hard working individual completely immersed in his work without conviction. In Source’s opinion, MACHADO does not have a drop of communism or Marxism in his blood. The reason for his position is that he is an excellent organizer, which was demonstrated when he was in charge of the reorganization of the medical and health system under CASTRO. It is Source’s overall opinion that the Cuban Government is Castroism and that Cuba’s communist political system is a sham.

At approximately 7:00 PM, that first day, his old friend, ALFREDO GUEVARA, supra, arrived and they reminisced about family and friends. Source advised that GUEVARA has no influence within CASTRO’s ruling circle.

On Friday, November 9, 1979, Source spent the day sightseeing and waiting for CASTRO’s call for their private meeting. That night he diplomatically informed JOSE LUIS PADRON that his meeting with CASTRO had to take place within the next 24 hours because he had to get back to Miami no later than Saturday night. PADRON called him late Friday night explaining that CASTRO was tied up in a meeting since 3:00 PM that day.

On Saturday, November 10, 1979, Source was informed by PADRON that CASTRO would see him at 1:00 PM that day, alone. At 1:00 PM sharp, ABRAHANTES arrived and said that CASTRO was waiting. ABRAHANTES drove Source to the palace. ABRAHANTES had a gun openly displayed in his car. His car was a simple Russian made Lada with no air conditioning. There were no bodyguards with or following ABRAHANTES. He drove no differently than the common driver in Havana. Judging from the people who recognized ABRAHANTES as he drove by, Source surmised that ABRAHANTES regularly drives himself about in the same car and without bodyguards.

At the palace, while exiting the elevator leading to CASTRO’s office, Source observed “PEPIN” NARANJO, who Source characterized as CASTRO’s Chief of Staff.

Four Hour Meeting With Castro

CASTRO was standing away from his desk when Source was ushered in. He politely greeted Source and led him to two chairs situated away from CASTRO’s presidential desk which Source interpreted as a signal that their meeting was to be informal. The only other person in the room was ABRAHANTES, who had pulled up a chair at a discreet distance, but within earshot of the ensuing conversation.

CASTRO began by asking Source about his well being and his family.

CASTRO was keenly interested in the 1980 presidential election in the United States, solicited Source’s views on the CARTER versus [Page 184] KENNEDY battle, and asked if in the final analysis President CARTER would be reelected. CASTRO solicited Source’s views on KENNEDY’s position on various political and economic matters and was most inquisitive about details concerning KENNEDY’s Chappaquiddick incident. On the other hand, CASTRO asked Source about the possibility of a Republican Party candidate winning the election.

CASTRO was very inquisitive about Source’s business, personal income, and the United States income tax system. At CASTRO’s prodding, Source explained in detail to CASTRO the United States tax system, both business and personal. CASTRO acted surprised that Source paid $40,000 in personal income taxes on a personal gross income of $100,000. Source pointed out to CASTRO that because of his background and notoriety, he paid his personal taxes above board to avoid any problems with the U.S. Government. CASTRO contrasted the same $100,000 gross personal income against most European tax systems indicating that although a tax of $40,000 on $100,000 was very high in his opinion, it was not nearly as high as it would be in most European countries.

On the Soviet troop issue, CASTRO told Source that Soviet troops had been dispatched to Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis and that he had asked the Soviets to keep the troops in Cuba as a guarantee that the United States would not invade Cuba. CASTRO told Source that since 1962, there has been no substantial change in the composition or mission of the Soviet troop detachment in Cuba. CASTRO stressed that the Soviet troops in Cuba are under the complete control of the Cuban Government and that they can do nothing without the consent of the Cuban Government.

CASTRO told Source that he believes that there are people in the U.S. Government who are stumbling blocks to the lifting of the trade embargo and to normalization of relations. CASTRO cited national security adviser ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI as the principal stumbling block.

CASTRO told Source that the United States charge that the Cuban Government had trained and directed the invasion of Shaba Province (in southern Zaire by Katangan rebels based in Angola during May, 1978) was not true. CASTRO told Source that he had dispatched a private message to President CARTER in advance of the invasion telling President CARTER that the invasion was imminent.

CASTRO told Source that he personally urged Panama’s OMAR TORRIJOS to sign the Panama Canal Treaty as written.

CASTRO told Source that Cuba supported and assisted the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua. On the other hand, CASTRO claimed that Cuba was/is responsible for influencing the Sandinista ruling junta to “moderate” the revolution, i.e. setting a moderate course in carrying [Page 185] out the final stages of the revolution and in implementing the policies of the new (Sandinista) Nicaraguan Revolutionary Government. CASTRO told Source that had he wanted to, he could have really “screwed up” the Nicaraguan situation in terms of violence before and after the downfall of the Somoza Government (and perhaps with respect to the membership and policies of the ruling Sandinista junta that emerged following Somoza’s downfall).

CASTRO asked Source how much he paid for electricity in the United States and asked questions in general about the growing cost of electricity in the United States. CASTRO told Source that Cuba was building a nuclear power station and that in his opinion, nuclear energy was the only foreseeable solution to the world’s energy problem. CASTRO acted dumbfounded at the growing anti-nuclear movement in the United States and asked Source how the United States was going to solve the problem of nuclear energy vis-a-vis the anti-nuclear movement.

CASTRO did not discuss the origins of his African policies, but did point out to Source, particularly with respect to Angola, that Cuban troops and technicians would remain in Angola and that he would not pull them out without the concurrence of the Angolan Government. CASTRO maintained that Angola cannot function without Cuban assistance to the point that the Cubans have to drive buses in Angola because the Angolans cannot manage that simple mechanical task themselves. CASTRO indicated that Cuba is striving to make Angola self-supporting, a policy somewhat akin to the goals of the American Vietnamization Program in Vietnam. African students on the Isle of Pines in Cuba are there with this objective in mind—to educate and train them to achieve a self-supporting home country.

Concerning the political prisoner release program, CASTRO told Source that all political prisoners that are to be released under the announced program have been released (3,600 according to published figures in the news media). CASTRO indicated that the political prisoner release program was announced and completed without a response by/from the U.S. Government. CASTRO told Source that (because of a lack of response from the United States) the remaining political prisoners will not be released for they now represent “cards” for future negotiations with the United States.

On the subject of the recently concluded 6th Non-Aligned Summit Conference in Cuba and CASTRO’s assumed leadership of the NAM during the next three years, CASTRO and Source both agreed that despite views to the contrary, CASTRO and Cuba have less flexibility in carrying out Cuban policies abroad because CASTRO now has the added burden of “consulting” with member NAM Governments.

[Page 186]


According to Source, at no time before or while in Cuba was he told by CASTRO or his aides why CASTRO wanted to see him. In Source’s opinion, this is another trial balloon launched by CASTRO to open a sincere channel of communication between Cuba and the U.S. Government. Source surmises that others, particularly Miami banker [Omission is in the original], have failed to establish a meaningful third party dialogue between Cuba and the United States, i.e. that [Omission is in the original] is perhaps misunderstood or viewed with skepticism by U.S. Government officials with whom [Omission is in the original] discusses his meetings with CASTRO. Source believes that he is one of a select few who knows and understands CASTRO and more importantly that he is a person who cannot be manipulated or fooled by CASTRO and CASTRO knows this. Source therefore believes that he can more adequately explain and interpret the substances and nuances of CASTRO’s conversations, his views, and policies.

In a discussion regarding CASTRO’s past and future intentions in Central and South America, Source retorted that according to his sources, Mexico, with its newly discovered energy resources, has laid claim to Central and South America as its sole sphere of influence. Source’s sources informed him that CASTRO’s recent meeting with the President of Mexico was called for by the President of Mexico for that very reason—to put CASTRO on notice that Central and South America were Mexico’s exclusive sphere of influence and that CASTRO was to limit his sphere of influence to the Caribbean.

Source advised that CASTRO appeared to be physically well, however, his skin appeared to be unusually pale in color despite CASTRO’s claim that he regularly jogs and swims to keep fit. CASTRO indicated that at age 53, he intends to slow down (he did not indicate under doctor’s orders) and conduct matters of state in a more tranquil manner. The subject of tranquillity surfaced during their discussion of the upcoming 1980 presidential election in the United States. Source pointed out and cautioned CASTRO that Cuba was likely to be a campaign issue and that CASTRO should understand American politics and not be drawn into responding to the Cuban issue each and every time the issue was raised; to do so would be foolhardy and never ending. Among CASTRO’s parting comments to Source was that he was going to follow his advice and be “tranquilo” towards any campaign rhetoric about Cuba.

The information furnished by our Source is sensitive and singular in nature. No dissemination may be made outside of your headquarters without the prior concurrence of this Bureau.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 15, Cuba, 12/79. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. Presumably Les Denend.
  3. Attached below.
  4. Bernardo Benes was a Cuban exile lawyer. A March 22, 1978, memorandum from Carlucci to Brzezinski discussed Benes’s February 16, 1978, meeting with Castro. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 10, Cuba, 2–4/78)
  5. Secret.