Macmillan called Castro 'the devil'
By Chris Gray
Harold Macmillan described the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro
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
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
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
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
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
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
[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.