Independent (United Kingdom)
31 October 2002

Macmillan called Castro 'the devil'

                       By Chris Gray

                       Harold Macmillan described the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro as "the
                       devil" when sympathising with the efforts of President Dwight D Eisenhower to
                       respond to the new adversary on America's doorstep.

                       The Prime Minister told Eisenhower in one of several letters in 1960 that Castro
                       threatened America's place in the world just as Egypt's President Nasser had
                       threatened Britain over the Suez Canal.

                       Despite assuring Eisenhower of British support Macmillan showed irritation that
                       America was not being open on its intentions for Castro, and he later called off
                       the correspondence. In July 1960 Macmillan wrote to the US President saying:
                       "Castro is really the very devil. He is your Nasser, and of course with Cuba
                       sitting right on your doorstep the strategic implications are even more important
                       than the economic."

                       Offering British assistance, he said: "I fully understand and share your
                       apprehensions. Do let me know if there is any particular point where we are in a
                       position to help ... I feel sure Castro has to be got rid of but it is a tricky operation
                       for you to continue and I only hope you will succeed."

                       Eisenhower asked Britain to help to ensure that no Western tankers ferried oil
                       from Russia to Cuba, believing that Britain would be happy to help because a
                       Shell refinery on the island had recently been taken over by the Castro regime.

                       Macmillan replied that Britain had no power to compel tanker owners not to carry
                       Russian oil and added: "It would ... make it easier for us to help if we had a rather
                       clearer understanding of your actual intentions. I know, and fully sympathise
                       with, your purpose the unseating of Castro and his replacement by a more
                       suitable regime but I am not very clear how you really mean to achieve this."

                       After a detailed letter from Eisenhower explaining his view of events in Cuba in
                       which he ensured Macmillan that he realised toppling Castro was "fraught with
                       difficulties" the British Prime Minister appeared to grow tired of the exchanges,
                       which had been conducted through the Foreign Office.

                       He added a note to Eisenhower's letter, saying: "This doesn't amount to much. FO
                       [the Foreign Office] must consider whether or not this correspondence should be
                       continued." In terms that mirror present concerns over President George Bush's
                       policy towards Iraq, the Foreign Office sent a telegram to Washington saying
                       nobody knew who would replace Castro, what the impact on American relations
                       with Latin America would be, and what the effect on Cuba would be.