Havana, April 1, 1958 - 5 p.m.
629. Today I conveyed to Guell full content of Department telegram 536. We had lengthy and cordial exchange of views. GOC believes guarantees were restored too soon. "Because of the violent activities of the rebels," Guell said, "we were forced to again suspend guarantees. Our responsibility is to preserve law and order. This includes protection of US lives and property." "At the request of the opposition," Guell continued, "we advanced date of elections because opposition wished to make certain changes in electoral code. We have postponed date of elections in accordance with opposition's request. The opposition is completely divided and each one asks for different points. GOC is attempting to harmonize and comply with requests as much as possible." Guell added, "The rebels are not amenable to any solution. If we isolate them (Department telegram 536) they are always there. Our soldiers are on the defensive. It is necessary for us to reinforce our position and then negotiate. Either we must go there or they will come here. It would be a mistake for us to negotiate from a weak position." I expressed to Guell our hopes of a peaceful solution and I was hopeful that church would be able to attain this. Guell said, "GOC will welcome truce after GOC's position is reinforced. GOC believes that the rebels would not keep a truce. They would continue with acts of sabotage and violence and then accuse GOC of violating truce." According to Guell, the rebels do not want a truce; they want to become the GOC. Guell pointed out the fact that many of the leading rebels, even after killing Cubans, had been and were still being released by GOC, i.e., Castro, Agramonte, Varona, Pazos, Chibas, et al.
Guell continued, "It is true and unfortunate that police at times are over-zealous - I am against any sort of violence - I am against dictatorship - I believe in democracy. Batista would like a democratic policy. If Castro succeeds, Cuba will have a real dictatorship. With Castro's Communistic projected program, situation in Cuba will be worse than in any other Latin American country-and that includes Guatemala".
Guell continued, "No matter who is elected in the coming elections, Castro will continue to fight. We must weaken Castro to make him play ball. Castro will not accept military junta or any government that is not 'stained' for him. All you have to do is read Castro's platform (22 points) and his letter to junta in Florida and then draw your own conclusions. Batista wants to leave power on February 24, 1959, and leave a government headed by a president elected by the people, whether the candidate be from the government party or the opposition party. Batista wants to guarantee a normal and democratic development of the country."
I suggested to Guell that Batista make this statement publicly. I said, "It is one thing to tell me this and yet another to convince the people of Cuba." Guell said he would take the matter up with Batista. He believed Batista would comply. Procedure will be to have four government coalition parties make statement. Batista will then back it up publicly.
Guell added, "GOC knew the US 1950 rifles were on docks and ready for shipment. However, GOC had given me advance notice of their intention to suspend guarantees and did not wait for such arms to leave the port before announcing their intention."
I made it clear to Guell that there was no change in friendly US policy toward GOC. I further reiterated embarrassing position of Department due to criticism of press and Congress and pointed out that I expected Department would shortly again be called before Congress to explain shipment of arms. I feel sure that Guell now understands US position fully. Guell assured me GOC will do everything in its power to restore normal conditions and to create a favorable atmosphere for elections. However, GOC thinks it is necessary for it to reinforce its position before negotiating with rebels.
My comments to Department follow:
The objective and hope of the Embassy is for a peaceful solution, which I believe the majority of the people of Cuba also want. There is no gainsaying the fact that it is relatively easy to change dictators but very hard to get rid of dictatorship. It is the people of Cuba who are "riding the tiger." Exchanging tigers is no solution.
1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/4-158. Confidential; Priority.
3. See Document 32.
4. Dated December 14, 1957. For text, see Bonachea and Valdes, Selected Works of Fidel Castro, vol. I, pp. 351-363.