Washington, December 19, 1957
Policy Recommendation for Restoration of Normalcy in Cuba
The political situation in Cuba has deteriorated to such an extent in recent months that the safety of our citizens and our substantial investments in that country (about $1 billion) is seriously threatened. This situation has resulted from a prolonged period of conspiratorial and terroristic activities by a disorganized opposition to unseat the dictatorial Batista Government and the retaliatory imposition of harsh disciplinary measures by the Government to counteract such activities. If the Government were to fall, the revolutionary opposition is at present so short-sighted and disjointed that a period of chaos and anarchy would likely follow which would be exploited to the fullest advantage by Communist and irresponsible elements within and without Cuba.
The present Government came into power through a coup d'etat in March 1952 and later was returned to office in an uncontested election for a period of four years in 1954. President Batista's term is due to expire in February 1959 and general elections are scheduled for June 1, 1958. Batista has steadfastly maintained that he will abide by the Constitution and not run for the Presidency to succeed himself.
The opposition during the past two years has become increasingly militant. This has been particularly true since the successful landing in southeastern Cuba of a small rebel force under the command of Fidel Castro in December 1956. Rebel raids on military installations and the National Palace have been conducted during the past year interspersed with one unsuccessful uprising within the armed forces, numerous bombings and various other acts of sabotage and terrorism. These activities have been carried on for the most part by followers of Castro and ex-President Carlos Prio, who now openly advocate the complete sabotage of the Cuban sugar industry to produce the fall of Batista.
Castro has gained a considerable following particularly among the youth of Cuba during his year of resistance in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of Oriente Province and has attained almost complete military domination of that rugged area. He is variously termed a Communist by those who oppose him and a second Jose Martin by his ardent supporters. His present philosophy and beliefs are not clear but even some of his prominent supporters have at times indicated their distrust of him.
Dr. trio has been exiled in the United States since May 1956. He presently is under investigation by our Department of Justice for violation of our neutrality laws and there is every indication that he will be indicted early in January. He has little popular support even among the opposition and his following consists for the most part of paid mercenaries and those who seek his support only because of his substantial financial resources, all taken from the Cuban treasury.
Those in opposition to the Government are united only in their determination to oust Batista. Otherwise, they are disorganized and suffer from personal rivalries and from disagreement as to the methods to pursue in accomplishing its objective. The majority of the opposition leaders, many of whom are in exile in the United States, have refused to participate in the June 1958 elections because they failed to get what they consider adequate guarantees necessary for free and open elections and they maintain that the elections now scheduled will be "rigged". These elections with four Government coalition and four presently registered splinter opposition parties participating certainly would not be representative, as a large part of the electorate nominally follows those political groups whose leaders have refused to participate and who have recently joined with Castro followers and Dr. Prio to form a Junta de Liberacion Cubana (Cuban Liberation Council) in Miami. The Junta primarily has confined its program to ways and means of overthrowing the Batista regime and has left the issue of what is to follow to the mention of the establishment of a Provisional Government and a return to the Constitution of 1940. It is reported that the Junta and other opposition organizations are now attempting to decide on a person who would act as Provisional President if Batista were overthrown.
Between the intransigent positions of the Government and the militant oppositionists who advocate or support sabotage and terrorism as a means of ousting the Government, there apparently are many Cubans who are either apolitical or nominally opposed to the Government and who would welcome any move for a peaceful and democratic solution to Cuba's present dilemma. Within this large segment to the population probably lies the real hope for a solution.
Should there be further deterioration in the situation in Cuba or should there be a sudden overthrow of the present Government, the concurrent or resulting situation of chaos would most certainly:
1. endanger the lives of United States citizens in that country, their property and their investments;
2. impede the operation of the United States Sugar Act which would result in higher sugar prices to the United States consumers; and
3. encourage the resurgence of communistic and ultranationalistic elements in Cuba which would constitute a severe setback for United States policy and a blow to our leadership in the hemisphere.
During my recent trip to Cuba, I had the opportunity to discuss the Cuban situation with the Embassy and with members of the Cuban press, Government officials, oppositionists, and prominent American residents. I understand that the Ambassador, Deputy Chief of Mission and others of his staff agree substantially with the analysis of the situation summarized in this memorandum, which is being forwarded to Habana for the Embassy's comments. I am convinced that our interest would be best served by the continuation of the present Cuban Government in office until the end of its term, under less tense conditions than now prevail there. We should take various measures short of intervention in an attempt to influence Batista to take the initiative in trying to create a suitable climate for honest and open elections which would be acceptable to the more responsible elements within the opposition and would appeal to that large element of the Cuban populace which still desires a peaceful solution. Our action should be confined to continued friendly suggestion during conversations principally between Batista and our Ambassador combined with various methods of suasion open to us and would be consonant with our overall objectives in Latin America as expressed in NSC 5613/1, "Outline Plan of Operations for Latin America"[sic], section IB, (1)(b)4 and as set forth in our interAmerican commitments as specifically outlined in Article 5(d) of the Charter of the Organization of American States. Such action might follow in several phases outlined as follows:
Our Ambassador would be instructed to increase his present efforts to persuade Batista to initiate within the immediate future certain measures which would have a moderating effect on the opposition and create an atmosphere for compromise.
Cuban orders for United States arms should be approved at once, although no shipments should go forward without specific clearance, in an understanding between State and Defense. The Ambassador should be instructed to see Batista to advise him directly of this action. He could point out to Batista that this action will involve the United States Government in severe criticism unless the Cuban Government takes prompt measures to improve its own position by curtailing brutalities and restoring guarantees. The Ambassador might refer to his previous conversations with Batista and the latter's indicated desire to restore normalcy to Cuba. He could assure Batista that his suggestions came out of our genuine interest to be of assistance toward this end, and when adopted, would have the effect of demonstrating to the Cuban populace which of those among the opposition were genuinely interested in resorting to ballots instead of bullets to reach a solution.
He could point out that constructive action at this time by Batista, particularly when opposition activities appear to be at a low point, would give the impression of (a) a confident government demonstrating statesmanship and strength; (b) tend to swing the majority of the population into a peaceful campaign for healthy elections and away from the present tendency toward increasing violence; (c) by doing so, also tend to force the extreme radicals in the Castro and terrorist forces into isolated positions where, with less support from public opinion, they would be more vulnerable to proper control by the authorities which should have, under improved conditions, more support from Cuban public opinion; (d) help clarify issues in United States public opinion by demonstrating a government making a dramatic and sincere effort to restore peace and carry on normal, peaceful, democratic processes rather than permit United States opinion to continue with the impression of Batista operating a police state using extreme brutalities as its only means of remaining in power; (e) the improved United States public opinion would, by reflection, help Batista in turn to carry out a more constructive program; and (f) if successful in the above, enable Batista to leave public office after 25 years of political service with a successful record instead of a record of failure. His favorable position in Cuban and hemispheric history would thus be assured rather than endangered if the present state of crisis is prolonged or intensified.
In making his proposal the Ambassador would remind Batista (1) that our Government has exerted considerable effort in recent months to prevent arms shipments from this country by Cuban rebel elements and has carried on an exhaustive investigation into the possible violation of our neutrality laws by Cuban exiles including Dr. Prio, and (2) sales of arms to Cuba will continue despite the considerable adverse criticism we have been receiving from our press, the general United States public and our Congress for such sales, with the understanding that the arms will not be misused and that the Government will take constructive measures to ease the critical situation existing in Cuba. On this basis we should attempt to persuade Batista to take the six following successive steps toward creating a favorable political atmosphere in Cuba:
1. Early restoration of Constitutional Guarantees now suspended until January 27, 1958.
2. At least a partial amnesty for political prisoners.
3. A public statement denouncing violence on both sides, pledging strict punishment of all law enforcement agents who exercise unnecessary brutality in carrying out their missions, and appealing to oppositionists also to cease terrorism and sabotage.
4. An appeal, subsequent to the restoration of constitutional guarantees, to the competent members of the Judiciary to discourage sabotage and terrorism through proper and strict application of existing laws.
5. An appeal to the press through its leaders to agree to publish only the facts on past events and to refrain from inciting rebellion through exaggeration or distortion of the facts, or through incendiary editorials and articles.
6. A quiet removal, transfer, or retirement of those military and police officers who have been notorious for their excessive brutalities in the past as well as a gradual withdrawal and dissolution of hated Masferrer goon squads.
If Batista could be encouraged to take the steps outlined in Phase I, in whole or in part, the way would be paved for him or his representatives to initiate a series of meetings intended to establish a propitious electoral climate. These meetings might include himself or civilian and military representatives of his Government and proGovernment political parties; representatives of the "responsible opposition parties" functioning in Cuba; and church, press, principal civic organizations and professional societies, including educational federations. If these meetings show any sign of even relative success, overtures could be made to leaders of at least some of the less virulent exile groups in the United States. The purpose of the meetings would be to seek at least minimal terms for an understanding among the contending forces for an acceptable election, with assurances the results would be respected.
If a significant part of Phase I, or any other constructive measures contributing toward the same end, and a substantial part of Phase II are undertaken by Batista, the State Department should consider a public statement praising the efforts of the Cuban Government to effect a peaceful solution to the disturbances there.
We would suggest to Batista that he reiterate at such meetings his desire to retire from the Cuban political scene at the end of his present term and to state categorically that he has no intention to serve in the capacity of Chief of the New General Staff of the Armed Forces. Also, we would encourage those in the opposition who sought our opinion on such meetings to participate in them.
This phase would only be initiated if the militant opposition remained intransigent subsequent to steps taken by the Government towards creating a climate favorable to elections. Should the opposition refuse to participate in the elections, we would express on every occasion in our discussions with its members our view that the Government provided sufficient incentives which were not availed of and their failure to do so left us with no alternative but to provide full and open support for the present regime. This would include the continued supply of arms and continued measures to discourage Cuban exile activities in this country. At the same time we would encourage the holding of fair elections within the narrow confines now envisioned and the naming of a competent and able candidate by the Government coalition parties. If a sizeable vote could be polled and a respectable man elected to the Presidency by the Government, there would remain the possibility that he might provide a transition towards a more democratic form of Government.
This phase would be considered only if Batista were to exhibit complete unwillingness to take the steps outlined in Phase I or other constructive measures in sufficient degree to create a climate suitable for elections. It would consist of taking action short of intervention designed to hasten the ultimate fall of the Batista regime while at the same time encouraging those responsible elements within the opposition to adopt a program which would provide adequate assurances for the protection of American lives, property and investments in Cuba once a provisional Government was in power. Specific action short of intervention which we could take to quicken the downfall of the regime would be to make a public announcement of cessation of arms shipments to Cuba and withdrawal of our military missions from Cuba on the grounds of usage of MAP equipment without our prior authorization.
 Source: Department of State, Rubottom Files: Lot 59 D 573, Cuba. Secret. Drafted by Wieland and Leonhardy, this memorandum was forwarded to Rubottom under cover of a memorandum of December 23. Stewart stated that the policy recommendation of December 19, had been seen by Acting Director of the Office of Inter-American Regional Political Affairs Dreier, Hoyt, and Curtis, and that a copy had been sent to the Embassy in Habana with a request for comments. Stewart also stated that Wieland felt this memorandum represented the thinking of Ambassador Smith, but noted that the Embassy's comments in despatch 463, supra, in response to an earlier memorandum on this subject were restrained. Finally, Stewart wrote that if the Embassy concurred, the December 19 memorandum would "represent MID's thinking on the Cuban situation at this time."
 Reference is to the Cuban revolutionary leader, essayist, and poet, who lived from 1853 to 1895.
 In a letter to Stewart, December 3, Wieland reported from Habana that he had talked with many people there. He wrote: "All these, except for ourselves, appear agreed that there is no solution to the problem while Batista remains in office. We on the other hand feel that however small the odds may be, we would be unjustified in failing to make substantial effort, by using all available persuasion and means short of intervention, to try to bring about a peaceful and constitutional solution without going over the line into intervention. In so doing, we can expect that Batista has strong support in the CTC [Confederation of Cuban Workers], and elsewhere as you know." Wieland further stated he was confident that the Ambassador felt "that we in the Department and he and his people here are thinking along identical lines and are back-stopping each other." (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/12-357)
Reference is to Document 18.