34. Telegram From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State[1]

Havana, March 14, 1958 - 2 p.m.

536. Had meeting with Batista March 13. He said it was too bad national harmony commission had made grave mistakes, because he was ready to cooperate with the commission and all groups in order to discuss best possible methods to have free and open elections. He was prepared accede to all reasonable requests, not [only] from harmony commission but also from political opposition, business organizations, doctors, church, et cetera. It was his understanding that after agreement was reached between himself and these groups, committee would then appeal to revolutionaries. Unfortunately they contacted Castro too soon. The result was rejection by Castro and dissolution of committee. Batista is keenly disappointed with actions of harmony committee and attributes seriousness of present situation to their mistakes. As a result, increases in sabotage, terrorism, and general tenseness created conditions which forced him again to suspend constitutional guarantees.

Batista said he was confident he could control situation and was increasing size of army in order to give proper protection to people of Cuba and also to American lives and property. Increases in armed services would require additional arms and he inquired whether he could expect delivery of arms already negotiated for with the US. I said I knew of no change of policy in this regard except what was stipulated in note to Campo March 3. [2]

I told Batista police brutalities were doing GOC much harm and inquired as to whether he intended to take appropriate action against offenders. He said he would and that he was grieved and shocked to hear the allegations against Captain Sosa regarding certain alleged brutalities. He said that if they were true they were the actions of a "monster" and that he instructed police chief to make investigation. If investigation substantiated charges he would most certainly take action.

According to Batista communism is spreading and gaining in the surrounding countries-Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, et cetera and that GOC is absolutely certain that Communists are aiding and abetting attempted overthrow of Cuban Government.

Batista said that in accordance with request of opposition, elections will be postponed. Date must be determined by electoral tribunal and acted upon according to due process of law. When dates of new elections have been set by electoral tribunal he made [will make] a public pledge that elections will be completely honest. He stated that he will accede to all reasonable requests of the opposition such as

(A) Asking world press to witness elections.

(B) Asking US or UN or OAS to send observers.

He is also prepared to grant general amnesty in the coming elections so that revolutionaries will go to polls. However, they must pledge to leave their guns behind. He said, "we want their votes but not their guns at voting booths". I suggested for his consideration.

(A) Invite leaders of responsible civic groups (medical, legal, educational), labor, church, press, and political opposition to discuss best possible means of creating favorable atmosphere for elections.

(B) Give full publicity to provisions of election laws and statement that GOC will abide by these laws.

He was receptive to the suggestions and repeated he will accede to all reasonable requests to guarantee that coming elections are honest.

I mentioned to Batista that had elections been held on June 1 he probably could have elected his candidate in free and open elections because of division and lack of interest of opposition. However I stated that with postponement of elections, and if he convinced people of Cuba elections were to be honest, he could very likely lose coming elections. He said he was prepared for this and was willing to turn over GOC to successor government in honest elections.

"If I were to step down now from office, as many people want, my country would be torn apart in bloodshed. The solution is honest elections, and I give my word we will have honest elections. I gave Cuba honest elections in 1944 and Cuba will have honest elections again in 1958."

Batista feels strongly GOC must remain in office until February 24, 1959, when his term expires. This will give new president time to set up his administration to carry on. It is GOC responsibility to preserve law and order to prevent possible retaliations against his government between election day and February 59.

Although he says he does not want to upset the many families who live in Oriente through mass movement, he feels the time has now come when it is necessary to take such action to eliminate Castro.

I told Batista I was gratified and impressed by his sincerity, his desire to be fair, and his willingness to cooperate and that I would so report to my government.

It is my reaction that Batista would welcome an honorable retirement. This he may have through honest elections. Such elections would also receive the support of the political opposition. On the other hand, the revolutionaries do not want elections under any conditions and will violently oppose any action that will give Batista an aura of respectability.



1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737,00/3-1458. Secret; Niact.

2. See footnote 2, Document 27.