United States-Cuban perspectives, 1975


Material Information

United States-Cuban perspectives, 1975 conversations on major issues with Cuban officials : report of a study visit to Cuba, September 18-October 15, 1975
Physical Description:
vii, 16 p. : ; 24 cm.
Sklar, Barry
United States -- Congress. -- House. -- Committee on International Relations
U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
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Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Foreign relations -- United States -- Cuba   ( lcsh )
Foreign relations -- Cuba -- United States   ( lcsh )
Politics and government -- Cuba   ( lcsh )
federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


General Note:
At head of title: 94th Congress, 2d session. Committee print.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Barry Sklar.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 025827699
oclc - 02271555
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Letter of transmittal
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page 1
    The setting
        Page 2
        Page 3
    Cuban thought on relations with the United States--An appraisal
        Page 4
        Page 5
    The embargo
        Page 6
    Cuban revolutionary principles and the issue of relations with the United States: A conceptual dilemma?
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Other major issues
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
    Appendix. Itinerary
        Page 15
        Page 16
Full Text

94th Congress } COMTTEE INT
2d Session J oE KN


Con Major Issues With

CuhAN Officials


SHTxBFR 18-OcToBFPZi 15, 1975

MAY 4, 1976



e J$

Prlnted for the use of the Committee on International Relations

8"14 WASHINGTON : 1976



THOMAS E. MORGAN, Pennsylvania, Chirman

L. H. FOUNTAIN, North Carolina
CHARLES C. DIGS, JR., Michigan
ROBERT N. C. NIX, Pennsylvania
GUS YATRON, Pennsylvania
ROY A. TAYLOR, North Carolina
LEO J. RYAN, California
DON BONKER, Washington
GERRY E. STUDDS, Massachusetts

PIERRE S. Du PONT, Delaware
EDWARD G. BIESTER, JR., Pennsylvania


DANTE B. FASCELL,.Fidrida, Chairman

ROY A. TAYLOR, North Carolina

..JOHN H. BUCHANAN, JR., Alabama

R. MICHAEL FINLEY, St1bcOnmittee Staff Conmltant
JoN D. HOLSTINE, Minority Suboommittee Staff Consultant
CAROL ANx BARRY, Staff Aesfsta t


Washington, D.C., May 4,1976.
This report was prepared by the Congressional Research Service
of the Library of Congress in response to a request by Hon. Dante
B. Fascell, Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Political
and Military Affairs, and has been submitted to the Committee on
International Relations.
The report, which summarizes the author's detailed discussions with
Cuban officials of Cuban foreign policy, the U.S. trade embargo, Cuba's
revolutionary ideology, relations with the Soviet Union and other
major issues during a visit to Cuba from September 18 to October 15,
1975, may be of benefit to members of the committee in evaluating U.S.
foreign policy with respect to Cuba. The report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the membership of the Committee on International
THoxAs E. MORGAN, Chairman.


Washington, D.C., May 4,1976.
Chai mnan, Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of
Representatives, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. CHAIRNIAN: Recent statements by President Ford and the
Secretary of State indicate that Cuba's recent extensive military in-
volvement in Africa has ended for the present any prospects for a
significant improvement in relations between the United States and
Last year the possibility of improved relations was widely discussed
in Congress and a review of our longstanding policy toward Cuba was
urged by many both in and out of Congress. While I have supported,
and continue to support, our longstanding policy toward Cuba, origi-
nally formulated during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administra-
tions, I welcomed the opportunity for a thoughtful review of this
aspect of U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean.
For a policy review of United States-Cuba relations to be as com-
prehensive as possible, it was necessary to know as much as possible
about the rationale behind Cuban foreign policy. I was thus pleased
to learn that the Congressional Research Service's Specialist in Latin
American Affairs, Barry Sklar, had been invited last year to visit
Cuba to gain firsthand impressions of Cuban policy. In behalf of
the subcommittee I expressed to Mr. Sklar our interest in receiving
a report on his conversations on major issues with Cuban officials. A
copy of the report has now been submitted to the subcommittee and
is enclosed for your attention.
Because of the continuing interest in Congress in Cuban policy and
because this report contains an excellent summary of the perspectives
of Cuban officials which are still of importance despite the recent
sharpening of differences between the United States and Cuba, I be-
lieve that this report would be of interest and value to both members
of the committee and the whole Congress.
The report does not necessarily reflect the views of the membership
of the subcommittee.
Chairman, Subcommittee on International
Political and Military Affairs.

Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2013

http://archive.org/details/unescuba00u nit


Foreword .......... In
Letter of transmittal --------------------------------------------- v
Prologue ----------------------- ------------------------ 1
The setting -----------------------------------------------------2
Introduction ---------------------------------------------------- 3
Cuban thought on relations with the United States-An appraisal- ------- 4
The embargo ----------------------------------------------------6
Cuban revolutionary principles and the issue of relations with the United
States: A conceptual dilemma? -----------------------------------7
Trade ---------------------------------------------------------9
Other major issues ----------------------------------------------11
Cuba's relationship to the Soviet Union ---------------------------11
Guantanamo ------------------------------------------------12
Claims and compensation ------------ ------------------ 12
Political prisoners ------------------------------------------- 13
Postscript -----------------------------------------------------13
Appendix: Itinerary ---------------------------------------------15

Conversations on Major Issues With
Cuban Offi ials
(By Barry Sklar, Specialist in Latin American Affairs, Congressional Research
Service, Library of Congress, Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division)
I was invited to Cuba by the Ministry of Foreign Relations
(MINREX), through the Cuban Mission to the United Nations, in my
capacity as Specialist in Latin American Affairs for the Congressional
Research Service of the Library of Congress. I viewed the prospect of
a study visit to Cuba as an opportunity to informally talk to the
Cubans about the issues which most concern Members of Congress
regarding the normalization of relations with Cuba. Congressional
aides, with whom I consulted, agreed that conversations with Cuban
officials could serve to place the issues into better perspective for me as
an analyst as well as for the Members of Congress whom I assist on the
Cuban question. My conversations with the Cubans were very in-
formal and, of course, unofficial. The Cubans understood that I repre-
sented only myself and not the U.S. Congress nor the U.S. Govern-
What follows in these pages are my observations, perceptions, and
reflections on the give and take sessions with the Cubans over the basic
issues confronting the consideration of relations between the United
States and Cuba. Painstaking effort has been made to accurately and
objectively convey the substance of my conversations as well as relate
Cuban thinking on the issues and their reactions and responses to my
representation'of the issues from the various points of view of the
Congress. I believe that this report will prove helpful to Members of
Congress because it illustrates that the points of contention involve
much more than consideration of factual data. Understanding of Cuban
thinking and developments within the context of the socialist system,
under which Cuba has been functioning these many years, should aid
future congressional consideration of the normalization of relations

JMy trip to Cuba was undertaken in a, context completely at variance
with the one which exists today between the United States and Cuba.
Politically potent words such as Angola. the M -PLA, Agostinho Neto,
Zionism, CIA/Mafia/assassination, and the Florida primary, were not
part of the United States-Cuba lexicon prior to September 1975. Today,
these matters are an intricate part of the relationship between the two
countries and have served to halt the process toward the normalization
of relations and threaten to set the process back several years, if not
destroy it altogether.



The public awareness of extensive Cuban military involvement in
Angola and the Cuban activity on behalf of the resolution in the
United Nations General Assembly equating Zionism with racism were
not part of the setting from mid-September to mid-October 1975, the
time frame of my visit, and therefore were not subjects of conversation.
Nor was the public evidence that the CIA and the Mafia collaborated
in bizarre assassination plots against Fidel Castro, and the positions
of Presidential candidates in state primaries, factors in United States-
Cuba relations at the time of my meetings with Cuban officials.
At this date, it is too early to assess the impact of the Cuban military
intervention in Angola. and the reaction it has stimulated, on the long-
term future of tbe consideration of the normalization of relations ques-
tion. Much would seem to depend on what the Cubans do in the next
several months with regard to the use of their forces in Africa as well
as on the Ford a(ministration's assessment of Cuban motivation for
its involvement, and Cuban desire for relations with the United
States. Analysis of this problem notwithstanding, the basic issues,
long c~silered( obstacles to relations, still remain, an(l are the sub-
jects of this report.

The movement toward the reconciliation of differences between the
United States and Cuba had been gathering momentum when I visited
Cuba in September-October 1975. Since the beginning of the year,
both nations had taken significant steps, which, along with statements
made by Presdent Ford, Secretary of State Kissinger, and Premier
Castro, signaled a desire to end the 14 years of antagonistic, sometimes
bitter, opposition. The major active negative issue between the two
nations at this time was Cuba's intensification of its support, in the
international arena, for Puerto Rican independence.
Several times during the first 9 months of the year, the U.S.
Government announced the relaxation of certain provisions of the
trade embargo on Cuba, the Department of State liberalized travel
restrictions on Cuban diplomats at the United Nations, and the United
States, in July, voted along with 15 Latin American nations to end
the 11-year-old OAS diplomatic and economic sanctions against Cuba.
In August, after a series of communications between Senator John
Sarkman ail Premier Castro, the Cuban Government returned to
Southern Airwayvs nearly $2 million in ransom money taken from
hijackers of a plane in 1972. Earlier in the year, the Caban Government
returned three accused hijackers to the United States. Congressional
interest t' in the relationship between the United States and Cuba was
reflected by the visits to Cuba of Senator George McGovern, Senator
J"ames AbMOrezk, Representative Charles Whalen, and Representative
Steph en Solarz.
The implied change of attitude of both governments toward each
other was reenforced by the leadership of both countries. In a speech
in iloustoni in March, Secretary Kissinger said, "... we are pre pared
to move ill a new directionn if (uba will." In May, Premier Castro
t~teiI that lhe hped for \iN0d11 i) witli the United States ald said,
"()Ie way or the other, we owe it to ourselves to live in peace." The
following (lay, speaking for the Ford administration, White House

Press Secretary Ron Nessen said that the United States "sees no ad-
vantage in perpetual antagonism" with the Cuban Government.

This report is based on conversations with officials of the Cuban
Government held during my visit to Cuba from September 18 to
October 15, 1975. As I was assured, the conversations were marked by
openness and frankness, and I was given the opportunity to probe the
Cubans regarding their views on these particular issues. At the same
time, the Cubans welcomed my reflection of the differing views held in
the Congress on the normalization issue.
Substantive meetings were held with Isabel Hernandez Tapanes,
Chief of the North American and Caribbean Section of the Ministry
of Foreign Relations; Evelio Lastra Ramos, Chief of the North Amer-
ican Department of the Directorate for Western Europe and North
America of the Ministry of Foreign Trade; Dr. Mario Ugidos, Justice
of the Popular Tribunal (Cuba's Supreme Court) ; Alberto Betan-
court, President of the Chamber of Commerce; Ramon Castro Ruz,
older brother of Premier Fidel Castro, who is chief administrator of
Las Valles de Picadura experimental farm; Mariano de ]a Red, mem-
ber of the Executive Committee and Director for Foreign Affairs of the
Poder Popular (Popular Power) 1 in Matanzas Province; the Director
of Information for the Ministry of Education; Esteban Morales, dean
of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Havana; and mem-
bers of the study group on the United States at the University.
Perspectives on the Cuban political, economic, and social system, as
well as important exchanges of philosophical views on the policies of
the Governments of Cuba and the United States, were provided by
and held with Mary Gentile and Pedro Llopis, from MINREX, who
were my escorts throughout my stay. Ms. Gentile and Mr. Llopis were
indefatigable in their efforts to ensure the success of my trip by help-
ing me to keep up with the constantly changing and ambitious sched-
ule, and were instrumental in enabling me to gain insights into certain
aspects of Cuban life. Invaluable assistance was provided by Jose
Delegado who served as a backup to my escorts and by Blaise Schenk,
charge d'affaires of the Embassy of Switzerland.
During periods when I was on my own, as well as when I was accom-
panied by my escorts, I had the opportunity to see the Cuba of the city
of Havana and the Provinces of Havana and Matanzas. I saw the im-
ressive low-cost Alamar housing project, just east of Havana, and the
eterioration taking place in Old Havana; I saw the vibrant and
bustling port of Havana, and the agng, once elegant homes of Mira-
mar; I spoke to young enthusiastic dedicated government officials as
well as ordinary citizens who praised the virtues of the system under
which they live and work, and I spoke to some who found fault with
the austere and politically restrictive ambience of Cuba today.
This brief but significant glimpse of present day Cuba provided me
with the necessary backdrop for "isetssing the many issues involved
in the question of normalization of relations between the two coun-
tries. Political scientists write of the linkage between internal develop-
I Poder Popular is a system of popular representation which was tried on an experi-
mental basis in Matanzas Province and now will be extended to all provinces in Cuba.

ments in a country and that country's foreign policy and Cuba cer-
tainly is a case in point. It is not only necessary to see the material
accomplislineits of the Cuban Government. i.e., the new housing pro-
jects, the pioliferation of schools and hospitals. and the thriving fish-
ing port. It is also necessary to hear the people talk about themselves
and reveal their perceptions on life in Cuba as well as their views of the
world beyond Cuba. It was especially important to hear the Govern-
ment officials' assessments of internal and external developments.
These factors in the aggregate, illustrated a Cuban philosophy and
attitude that was articulated in my conversations with officials on the
substantive issues. It provided me with an insight into Cuban thinking
with regard to relations with the United States which I hope to con-
vey in this report.
This report, based on my interpretation of conversations with Cuban
offieals. will be limited to those major issues in United States-Cuban
relations which were discussed. An assessment of life and internal
developments in Cuba cannot be made on the basis of a month-long
trp (especially when 12 of those days were spent in a hospital in
Matan:as due to an automobile accident), and that was not the pur-
pose of my visit. However, the trip to Cuba has enabled a clearer
perception of the intricacies of the relations issues which I will at-
tempt to convey in this report and in further work for Congres on
this important foreign policy question.

From conversations held during my month's stay in Cuba, I con-
chi1de that the Cuban Government Jdefinitely is interested in relations
withUted Stptes, but the rio}'1rnali7tion question is not the
major corcern, flor arc' re!ntiis 'c:O0d(r vin asoluite necessity. It
was repeated to me many times, and explicitly stated by Fidel Castro
in his speech commemorttng the 15th anniversary of the Committees
for the Defense of the Revolution, flat Cuba will not sacrifice its
revol uti ona ry prnnciples -for r tions with the United States.
The Cubans seem to speak with a certain sense of self-assuredness
when discussing the issu- of normalizing relations with the United
States. Fourteen years of doing without the United States has qiven
te Cubilns confidence that the), can continue to do without it in tle
fture if necessnrv. They seem to feel secure behind their relationship
with t1e Soviet Union, the le itimacv that comes with being recoz-
nized bv almost 100 nations of the world, including 11 from Latin
Ameriea. the confidence which results from carrying on vigorous trade
with the mnior industrial rntions of the world, both 'East a-rd West.
and the n-ride they have in their accomplishments on the domestic level
iI #be flds of halth, eduntion, and housing.
The issue was hroii(ht dowii (norhans more appropht'elv rniqed lp)
to the h,mnn leel by TRamon Castro2 dirinrn- q on' informel disc-s-
aion at V:,lles de Pic dnr. when he fsnoke of the in7nqtuialneqas of the
pltefnet1nzntVa of twxvo e(if, Plri, roorinnhicallv 1r e!ose, riot denlin with
Meeting nt Va11esi de Pleadura. Havana Province, Oct. 12, 1975.

one another. Fidel's older brother said that he viewed relations with
the United States, not as nation to nation, but as people to people. He
said that people need each other and should be available to help each
other, for this is the primary reason why there should be relationships.
Speaking from the perspective of a "simple farmer," as Ramon de-
scrilbs himself, he listed three criteria for relations with the United
States: lifting of the embargo, return of the U.S. naval base at Guan-
tanamo to Cuba, and mutual respect.
Ramon Castro may have been the only one to actually use the term
mutual respect, but it certainly was implied, inferred, and conveyed
by many. Cuban thought with regard to the United States goes back
much earlier than the break in relations in 1961 or the success of the
Revolution in 1959. It has its origins in the "Manifest Destiny" era of
U.S. history of the mid-19th century and includes the memory of what
many Cubans feel was U.S. interference in their struggles for inde-
pendence from Spain, and the Platt amendment, which placed Cuba
under virtual protectorate status of the United States.
The thinking of the "average" Cuban with respect to the United
States presented a very interesting phenomenon. Cubans of all ages
and at all levels of the social system can recite chapter and verse, the
Si st of Cuban grievances against the United States. The effectiveness of
the concentrated politicization of the Cuban masses, through the am-
bitious educational system, political billboards, the maSs organizations
such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and the
Union of Communist Youth, and the communications media, comes
through very clearly in conversations. This combination of teaching
in which the United States is cast in an unfavorable light, and the dis-
semination of information reenforcing the precept that the socialist
system is far superior to the degenerate capitalist system now deteri-
orating in the United States, led me to expect that the Cubans would
be very cool to me as a citizen of the United States as well as to the
idea of relations with the United States and its people.
The phenomenon I witnessed, however, was one by which the Cubans
very effectively were able to make a clear and separate distinction be-
tween the Government of the United States and its people. In my
month of conversations, I heard no negative comment regarding the
prospects of relations with the United States although there were com-
ments made regarding what effect relations might have on Cuba by
bringing in commercialism and other undesirable aspects of tourism.
I did expect warm and cordial treatment from my official hosts but
I did not necessarily expect the same from the unofficiall" Cubans with
whom I would come in contact-those who did not view me as an "offi-
cial" visitor. From elevator operators in the hotel to waiters in the
restaurants, school students and young soldiers, there was simply no
sign of animosity or negative attitude toward me or toward the United
States in general. Even the regular 2 a.m. "political fests" with po-
litically keen Dr. Roberto Porto, my doctor and chief of orthopedics
in the hospital in Matanzas, were held in an atmosphere of geniality
and many times ended with the mutual jocular criticism of the others
government and policies.
On the oficial level, the Cubns look for a new relationship with
the United States. A relationship between e(uals who respect the

other's political and social system, who accept that they are ideologi-
cally different, who stand by their guiding principles. The Cubans
feel that the United States will have to accept the fact that it is deal-
ing with a revolutionary socialist government or forego the thought of
relations with Cuba. In sum, the Cubans believe that relations with
the United States is not worth sacrificing the ideals and principles
established by the Revolution. Given this set of factors, it would seem
that much would depend on Cuban articulation and interpretation,
and U.S. assessment of these revolutionary principles, at the time of
serious discussion and negotiation with the United States.

From the Cuban perspective, the fact that the U.S. em-
bargo on trade with Cuba is the most serious and dominant in the
long list of issues with the United States was most certainly rein-
forced by the Cubans with whom I spoke. It is clear that the embargo
(referred to by the Cubans as "el Bloqueo"-the Blockade), has had a
deep psychological as well as political and economic impact on Cuba
and its people.
It was one of the first subjects of conversation upon my arrival as
Mary Gentile apologized for the drabness of the hotel room, the ex-
posed electrical outlets, and the poor telephone service. Pedro Llopis,
in many conversations, spoke of the hardships endured by the Cubans,
especially in the early years before massive assistance from the Soviet
Union. Blame was placed on the embargo by Roberto Beoto, one of
my doctors in the hospital in Matanzas who was so angry that an im-
portant international journal of orthopaedic medicine, published in
the United States, took 6 months to reach Cuba because of a circuitous
mail route, that he woke me up at 3 a.m. one morning to get it off
his chest. On the lighter side, was Dr. Beoto's response to me one niait
when I asked him why a large room, such as the one I was in with three
other patients, had only a very dim light (it seemed to be about a 60-
watt bulb). Beoto answered, "el Bloqueo" with a shrug of his shoul-
ders, a gesture with his hands, and a slight smile. Of course, the em-
bargo is blamed for many things beyond its sphere but its impact on
('tiiha's attitude and policy toward the United States is clear.
On the official level, the issue of the embargo was elevated to the
dominant place superseding and affecting conversation on all other
issues. It led the list of criteria discussed by Ramon Castro who said
that the Cubans cannot sit around a negotiating table with the United
states with their llanlds tied, as he folded his arms close to his chest
for emphasis.
A brief discourse on the (levastatil effects of the embargo and its
irplications for present and future relations with the ITnited States
was presented lby Eveio Lastra Ramos3 Chief of the North American
Department of the l)irectorale for Western Europe and North
America, of the Ministry of Foreig Tirade, as an introduction to our
very substantive conversation on the future prospects of United States-
Cuba trade. The impact of the embargo on Cuban thinking toward
S Substantive conversations were held with Evello Lastra Ramos at tbe Miistry of
Foreign Trade, Sept. 24, 1975.

the future trade relationship with the United States was demon-
strated when we discussed the types of products and commodities the
Cubans would be most interested in importing from the United
States. Lastra Ramos felt the Cubans would not want to import
machinery which would be dependent on replacement parts from the
United States, because they do not want to again find themselves in
a difficult situation as a result of possible adverse actions by the United
States. According to Lastra, they do not want to place themselves in
a situation like the first few years of the embargo, when their economy
suffered greatly because they could not get replacement parts for U.S.
machinery. Replacement of the machinery with equipment from
Eastern Europe was necessary.
Perhaps sensing that after nearly a month in Cuba, I had heard
enough about the embargo, Isabel Hernandez Tapanes,4 Chief of the
North American and Caribbean Section of the Ministry of Foreign
Relations, refrained from initiating discussion on the issue. She
responded, however, to my question on the role the embargo played
in Cuban thought toward relations with the United States. She
revealed that the Cuban Government position on "no negotiation until
the embargo was totally lifted" did not preclude substantive "con-
versation" and "discussion." She put forth the position that the Cubans
would receive a "visitor" for "conversation" but not for "negotiation."
It was very clear that the Cuban Government holds the U.S. embargo
as an obstacle to official negotiation but not to informal discussion.
The Cubans emphatically defend what is regarded as one of the
major tenets of the Cuban Revolution-support of liberation move-
ments throughout the world. Isabel Hernandez spoke of this in the
context of what she perceived as Cuba's role in the new international
system. She expressed the opinion that the world is changing and that
the United States and Cuba have to recognize that change. Cuba's
response to these developments, in the view of Ms. Hernandez, is to
continue to support oppressed peoples and revolutionary movements.
As if anticipating my next question, Ms. Hernandez glided into a
discussion of Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Isabel Hernandez explained that Cuban interest in independence
for Puerto Rico goes back 100 years. She stated that Puerto Ricans
aided Cuba in its fight for independence and Cubans fought in Puerto
Rico's struggle against Spain. She emphasized that Puerto Rico and
Cuba have been closely associated over the years. The present Cuban
Government's efforts on the part of Puerto Rican independence, ac-
cording to Ms. Hernandez and other officials with whom I spoke,
is an extension of its traditional interest in Puerto Rico and its imple-
mentation of a major revolutionary principle.
I, of course, spoke of Cuban involvement in the Puerto Rican inde-
pendence movement in the context of relations between Cuba and the
United States. I expressed my feeling that there are so many com-
Substantive conversations were held with Isabel Hernandez Tapanes at the Hotel
Naclonal, Oct. 13 and 14, 1975.

plex issues with which to deal that the Puerto Rican issue certainly
complicates matters. Although expressing my understanding of Cuba's
traditional ties to Puerto Rico, and its support for revolutionary move-
ments, I said that Cuba's intensification of support for Puerto Rican
independence, at this particular time. through a major move in the
United Nations, and through a much publicized international meet-
ing in Havana in September, was negatively affecting what seemed to
be the development of a warming trend in both the United States and
Cuba toward the idea of relations. I told her that many Members of
Congress were concerned about this particular issue and read her the
statement of Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs
William Rogers who just a few days earlier, expressed consternation
over Cuba's Puerto Rican involvement at this particular time.
Ms. Hernandez' reaction to my comments revealed an important
element which I believe has and will continue to have a significant
bearing on relations between the United States and Cuba. She very
clearly reflected the Cuban Government's position that Cuba's support
of revolutionary movements, in this particular instance, independence
for Puerto Rico, has nothing to do with relations with the United
States. She reiterated that Cuba's interest in Puerto Rico was merely
an implementation of its revolutionary principles and was in no way
related to relations with the United States. She stated, to further ex-
plain this position, that Cuba supports the liberation of peoples living
under colonialism in the French and British territories in the Carib-
bean but has close and cordial relations with France and Great Britain.
Subsequent discussion on this issue with members of the Cuban Mis-
sion to the UItet Nations a fter mN- visit to Cuba, reenforced this po-
sition on revolutionary principles vis-a-vis relations with the United
States. I discussed congressional reaction to the Puerto Rican issue, to
the then recently revealed Cuban military involvement in Angola, and
to the Cuban leadership on the anti-Zionist resolution in the United
Nations General Assembly. The Cuban diplomats, on Puerto Rico,
spoke in terms very similar to those used by Isabel Hernandez, and de-
fended Cuban involvement in all three issues as fulfillment of Cuban
revolutionary principles. They did not believe that these issues should
play a role in the discussion of normalization of relations with the
United States.
Fromn tlese conversations one ciht conclude that a major diffi-
culty in the United States anld Clha cOcif1g to terms with one another.
liS in what may be a conceptual variance which has developed over
the past i6 years. The Cuban C(vevnnwnt and the S, Government
seem to be perceiving these problems on two distinct and separate
levels. Many Members of Congress a(nd policymakers in the Depart-
inent of State clearly viw (1ub.',i invo>xvemei in Puerto Rico, Angola,
and what many interpret as avti-Uviited Staites stanes~ in the United
INtions and oier Il rational bodies, a matters whiI I directly
affect the 0,11-l.ion 11f future eaf io: ll '-The C1-bans, on
the other hand. express (consternat ion :it thi in terpretation helievingr
that these issues have nothing to do with the issue of bilateral relations
with the miteld States. 1he Cubans feel strongly 1 tat the United
ates is It dNe 1) v 2-ro nize that it is sle ni,,g wih a revotD-
SDiscussidons held Nov. 25. 1975. \\ashington. ID.(

tionary socialist government that will not change for the sake of
relations. Whether or not the Cuban position as stated above is merely
an official starting bargaining position, subject to later modification,
a misreading of U.S. attitudes, or simply an ingenuous approach, the
reconciliation of this conceptual dilemma could prove to be the most
important issue in any future United States-Cuba dialogue.

Substantive conversations on the prospects of trade between the
United States and Cuba were held with Evelio Lastra Ramos at the
Ministry of Foreign Trade, but only after a brief discourse on "el
Bloqueo." The themes expressed by Lastra Ramos were similar to
those conveyed by Isabel Hernandez and other Cuban officials to whom
I spoke on the theme of relations with the United States. The foreign
trade official said that Cuba would like to trade with the United
States but at this point in time it was not an economic necessity. He
contended that various commitments and trade relationships had de-
veloped over the past 16 years with the major trading nations of the
world; they have done without the United States for this long. He
said that if and when relations are resumed, the trade relationship
between the two countries would develop very slowlv because of these
established economic and trade relationships that Cuba now exercises.
Cuban needs are being fulfilled by other countries. Lastra R'tmos
pointed out that 40 percent of Cuba's trade is with non-Communist
countries, listing Japan, 1Vestern European countries, and Canada
as major trading partners. That 40 percent, according to Lastra, is
larger than the total foreign trade picture before the Revolution. He
said he realized that there were advantages to be gained by Cuban
trade with the United States, mainly by virtue of geography. He
agreed that the cost of rice, for example, would be much less if it
could be imported from Louisiana, only a few hundred miles away,
rather than from China and Australia, a journey of thousands of
miles. Indeed, from our discussions, I feel that transportation savings
would be a major factor in Cuban attitudes toward commerce with
the United States.
I related to Lastra Ramos that I noticed in the Cuban press, the day
before, that Vice Prime Minister Carlos Rafael Rodriguez was taki g
a delegation to Canada to discuss Canadian trade prospects in relation
to the drafting of Cuba's 5-year economic plan. Noting that there was
much discussion in the United States of trade with Cuba in the future
I asked if possible trade with the United States was also being factored
into the 5-year plan. Lastra Ramos answered that it was not, but that
he felt adjustments in the plan would be made if trade relations devel-
oped with the United States.
In relation to future trade between the United States and Cuba. I
asked Lastra Ramos about the current availability of sugar to the
U.S. market, realizing that most of the present sugar production is
committed to the Soviet Union and the socialist countries of Eastern
Europe. Lastra replied that the commitment to Japan is the largest to
the capitalist countries and indicated that any sugar to the United
States would principally come from the approximately 2.8 million
tons now going to the capitalist nations. Ile said that the Cubans are


trying to increase the production of sugar, but that it would not be
increased by that much.6 He said, however, that the Cubans most
likely would be willing to go to their major customers to free some of
tile committed sugar for the U.S. market if it developed. Lastra said
that perhaps as much as 2.6 to 3 million tons might be made available
for the U.S. market. However, there are other factors that come into
play in Cuban injterets in the U.S. sugar market, as demonstrated by
Lastra's positive reaction to an assessment culled from various U.S.
sources. He generally agreed that the sugar trade would be dependent
on Cuban incentives to regain some of the former U.S. market, the
relationship between the present world price and the price the Cubans
might receive through bilateral arrangement with U.S. companies,
transportation savings, and premiums U.S. companies might be will-
ing to pay for the Cuban sugar.
We then discussed the possibilities of Cuban nickel for the U.S.
market. Lastra commented that they are not interested in the United
States as a market for Cuban nickel because of commitments to the
Soviet Union and private companies in Europe. He said that 40,00
tons of nickel were produced per year and that by 1978-79, production
would be doubled, so that 80,000 tons would be exported for sale with-
out any problems. Cuba has commitments for its nickel production for
at least 3 years, and Lastra Ramos felt that there would be no supply
of nickel, in a major way, for the U.S. market for the next 5, 6, or 7
years. le also said that there would be a problem with the United
States because of the nickel coming out of plants that were expropri-
ated from U.S. firms.
With regard to those commodities the Cubans most wanted from
the United States, Lastra Ramos placed agricultural products at the
top of the priority list because they now pay great premiums for agri-
cultural products shipped over long distances. In answer to my ques-
tions, he said that they were not interested in transportation equip-
ment per se; they have enough cars and trucks for the economy as it
stands today. Hie also said they are not interested in heavy construction
equipment since they are doing very well with what they now have. At
this time, they are not interested in computers, although he has read
that U.S. computer companies are interested in coming in to Cuba.
He said that they were, however, interested in sugar processing
The Cubans, as reflected by Lastra Ramos, are very well aware of
the renewed interest in Cuba by the U.S. business community. Hlow-
ever, the Cubans do not seem to be as excited by the prospect as are
some of the U.S. companies, as reported in the U.S. business press,
which is read regularly by the Ministry officials. For example, Lastra
told me that they are not doing anything in particular to ready for
the day when U.S. business might come in to Cuba. Contrary to some
reports in the U.S. press, Cuba is not preparing market information
or other aids of this type to be given to U.S. companies, according to
Lastra Ramos.
Lastra expressed reservations about U.S. business' mentality with
regard to Cuba. ie felt that the companies still do not realize that
they would be dealing Nith a socialist Cuba, not the Cuba of 1956 and
Fidel Castro in Derember 1975. In his speech to the First Party Congress. announced
that the Cubans would attempt to Increase sugar production to 8 million tons in 1976.

1957. He felt that the companies have not grasped or ( not realize
what Cuba is today. That Cuba is no longer a consumer-oriented so-
ciety: that in their socialist system, there would not be a great market
for many of the goods the U.S. companies think they can sell to Cuba.
He said that Cuba, in the event of relations with the United States,
would be prepared to deal with U.S. business as it now deals with
b siness from capitalist countries. They now have what we would term
joint ventures in participation and promotion. He made a special point
to say there would be no ownership of land or ownership of other
property by the businesses that operate in Cuba. Foreign companies
would not operate independently within Cuba and there would be
much participation by the Government; the Cuban Government con-
siers itself a partner in any such investment venture. Under these
terms, he was not sure how much interest there would be in Cuba by
U.S. enterprise.
With preface that he felt that our talk was important in considering
the future relationship between the United States and Cuba, Lastra
offered a summary of his views on the prospects of trade between the
two countries as a parting note. He reiterated that Cuba is interested
in trade with the United States but is not desperate for it, since it has
done these many years without it by trading with all the major nations
of the world. Again expressing his reservations regarding the attitudes
of U.S. business toward Cuba, he stressed that when and if the day
comes when our two countries resume relations, trade would begin
very slowly and would take a number of years to develop into a sig-
nificant economic relationship.
Speaking in terms of future trade prospects, Lastra Ramos said
that by necessity, Cuba would need MFN status if it would carry on
a trade relationship with the United States. He said that the attain-
ment of MFN status would be another issue but that he did not see it
hindering or stopping the trade process dead in its tracks.
The Foreign Trade Ministry officials were quite knowledgeable
about economic conditions in the United States and gave indications
that their understanding of these conditions played an important role
in their thinking toward the prospects of trade with the United States.

In my conversations with Isabel Hernandez, I attempted to cover
other issues which are important to congressional consideration of the
question of normalization of relations with Cuba. The following is a
summation of our conversations with regard to them.
I noted that it was recognized in the United States that Cuba was
dependent on the Soviet Union, economically and militarily, and there-
fore posed a question regarding the diminishlment of Soviet influence
in the event of renewed relations with the United States. Ms. Hernan-
dez said that a lessening of Soviet influence was not likely because the
two countries are closely related through a series of agreements and
commitments, which continue for years in the future. She said that
the U.S. relationship with Cuba would be pait of the new economic
and political picture and would be considered in the general frame-

work of relations with all countries. Isabel Hernandez' answer, con-
sidered along with Lastra Ramos' comments on the slow development
of United States-Cuba trade, leads to the conclusion that there really
would not be much of a diminishment of Soviet economic influence in
Cuba, especially in the first few years of relationship with the United
Militarilv, Isabel Hernandez said that Soviet presence has been low-
ered already. She said that for a time earlier in the history of the
Revolution, around the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Mis-
sile Crisis, the Cubans feared attack from the United States and re-
ceived protection from the Soviet military. Now, she said, the interna-
tional climate is more stable and there no longer is the need for
extensive Soviet support, and therefore, the Soviet military presence
has been reduced.
She contended that the naval facility at Cienfuegos Bay was not a
Russian naval base, as reported by some U.S. sources, but was an in-
dustrial complex and a large sugar terminal. There are naval facilities
with docking and refueling capabilities but she said there are no Rus-
sians in the area and that her comments on the Cienfuegos Bay area
were based on a visit she made there in April 1975, as she hosted an
African prime minister through Cuba.

Isabel Hernandez' low-key comments on the U.S. naval base at
Guantanamo indicated that while the issue is very important to the
Cubans it is not viewed as an insurmountable obstacle to relations as
is, for instance, the embargo. She, however, never wavered on the point,.
which has always been part of Cuban thought since the Revolution,
that Guantanamo is part of Cuban national territory and that the Cu-
)nrs ar, not- wili. to discuss, "conditions' with regard to the area.
The "conditions" to which she referred were in reaction to a scenario
whicl I played for her in which the United States gives up Guan-
tanamo for a reduced Soviet military presence, especially naval forces
in the Cienfuegos Bay area. Aside from her statement on "conditions"
she reiterated that the Soviet military presence already had been re-
dued and that Cienfuegos is not a Russian naval facility.
Ms. Hernandez spoke as if there was no question that the end result
of discussions with the United States over the Guantanamo area would
result in its reversion back to Cuba. She felt that a very logical result
of discussions with the United States would see the facilities at Guan-
tanamo, as well as those in Cienfuegos, be made available for repair
and refueling of ships from the United States as well as other nations.
On the claims and compensation issue, T asked Ms. Hernandez about
the validity of reports i the U.S. press that Cuba was preparinga
"o unterclalm" to the U.S. hlain of apprOximately $1.8 billion (now
estimated to be $,3.4 billion to offset infl.ton), in 17..-owned property
confiscated bY ti Cuban Government. One source said that Cuba was
expocled to deinand payment of damages caused bv the embargo and
other adverse.acts amounting to four times the U.S. claim, Which could
mean a Cuban counterclaim of $13.6 billion. Without indicating di-


rectly whether a counterclaim was being prepared by the Government,
Ms. Hernandez said that it was very difficult to put in dollar terms
what the Cubans feel is owed by th; United States. She said Cuban
grievances involved many intangibles and proceeded to list some of
them beginning with U.S. intervention in the Cuban fight against
Spain for independence and ending with the cost of human life at the
Bay of Pigs. I deduce from our discussion that the Cubans are thinking
about a counterclaim but that the specifics are not yet formulated.

Isabel Hernandez recognized that the political prisoner issue would
be an important one for discussion but did not feel that it would be
that great a problem to resolve. In our discussion, I emphasized the im-
portance of this issue to many Members of Congress, making the point
that this particular issue, unlike some of the others, transcended politi-
cal and ideological lines and was seriously considered by liberals and
conservatives alike.
I discussed the political prisoner issue in more depth with Dr. Mario
Ugidos,7 a justice of the Popular Tribunal, Cuba's Supreme Court.
The Cubans seem to have a very good feel for the significance of the
political prisoner issue to the United States, although Dr. Ugidos
qualified his remarks by saying that the subject matter per se was out
of his jurisdiction since he sits on- the crime sector of the court. .How-
ever, he was familiar enough with the situation to provide some com-
ment and insight into Cuban official thinking on the matter. Without
getting specific as to numbers, he thought that the estimate of 20,000
to 50,000 political prisoners (the "moderate" count given in U.S.
sources) was greatly exaggerated. Dr. Ugidos felt that most of those
who are termed political prisoners have been rehabilitated and have
returned to Cuban society. Those remaining in prison, according to
Dr. Ugidos are "hard line Batistianos" who are buoyed up by reports
they receive from their exile supporters that the Castro Government
is in trouble and one day will be toppled. Ugidos felt that this hope
has given this group of prisoners the strength to resist rehabilitation
programs and eventual freedom.
In answer to my question as to why the Cubans would not allow
international inspection of their prisons and meetings with political
prisoners, Pedro Llopis answered that the Cuban Government would
never lower itself to the level of the anti-Cuban propaganda regarding
the political prisoner issue. He said the same principle is working
in this situation as was working after the missile crisis when Fidel
Castro refused to allow inspection of Cuba for missiles that might be
This report, necessarily limited, because of the original scope of the
study visit and the unscheduled automobile accident, merely skims
the surface of the issues considered. The congressional role in the
possible change of U.S. policy toward Cuba will be substantial because
of the gTeat body of legislation which deals with relations between the
two nations.
7Dinner meeting at Hotel Nacional. Oct. 10, 1975.



September 18:
September 19:

September 20:

8 a.m -----------
2 a.m--------
9 a.m-----

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8:30 p.m -------------

1:30 p.m

4 21:- -p.m_-

12 noon ..........
7 p.m .--------------
9 p.M -... ...........

8:30 a.m ------------
3 p.m-_-

10 a.m ---------------

2:30 p.m----------

3:30 p.m -----------

3 p.m ....

2 p.m
3 p.m ......
3 p.m

2 p.m

9 a.m
2 p.m .....
8:30 p.m----------


September 21:
September 22:

September 23:

September 24:

September 24-
October 6:
September 26:

October 6:
October 7:
October 8:

October 9:

October 10:

October 11:

Depart Washington National Airport.
Arrive Havana, Jose Marti Airport.
Meeting with Blaise Schenk, Charg6
d'Affairs, Embassy of Switzerland.
Arrive Hotel Nacional de Cuba, meetT
ing with Mary. Gentile and Pedro
Llopis, MINREX.
Dinner with Mary Gentile and Pedro
Free time.
Meeting with Esteban Morales, Dean of
Humanities, University of Havana.
Lunch with Esteban Morales and Mary
Free time.
Veradero Beach, Matanzas Province.
Havana, free time.
Dinner with Mary Gentile.
Meeting with University Group on the
United States, University of Havana.
Visit to Alamar Housing Project.
Meeting with Director, Office of Infor-
mation, Ministry of Education.
Free time.
Meeting with Evelio Lastra Ramos,
Chief of the North American Depart-
ment, Directorate for Western Eu-
rope and North America, Ministry
of Foreign Trade.
Accident on road to Matanzas at
Canaci (en route to meeting with
representatives of Poder Popular).
Admitted to Hospital Provincial de
Hospitalized in Matanzas.

Meeting with Mariano de la Red, mem-
ber Executive Committee and Di-
rector of Foreign Relations, Poder
Popular, in Hospital.
Return to Hotel Nacional, Havana.
Meeting with Blaise Schenk in Hotel.
Meeting with Members of University
Study Group in Hotel.
Film showing at the Cuban Institute of
the Motion Picture Arts and In-
dustry (ICAIC).
Tour of Havana.
Meeting with Blaise Schenk.
Dinner meeting with Dr. Mario Ugidos,
Justice, Popular Tribunal.
Tour of Havana Province (Alamar,



ITI NERARY-Continued

October 12:

October 13 :

October 14:

October 15:

8:30 a.m .....

Evening -

10 a.m ......

1:30 p.m -------------

9 a .m ---------------
12 noon- -

? p.m ........
9 p.B ----------------
7:30 a.m -------------
7 p.m --------.. -.

Tour of Las Valles de Picadur
meeting with Ramon Castro I
Dinner at residence of Mr. at
Blaise Schenk.
Meeting with Isabel Hernaudi
anes, Director of North At
and Caribbean Section, MINI
Luncheon meeting with Albertc
court, President, Chamber o
Visit to Fishing Port, Havana.
Luncheon meeting with 1Mb
nandez Tapanes.
Meeting with Middle
from MINREX.
Dinner meeting with Esteban I
Depart Havana.
Arrive Washington National A