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Digital Archive International History Declassified

November 27, 1962

LETTER FROM BLAS ROCA IN REGARDS TO POST-MISSILE CRISIS CUBA

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    Letter from Blas Roca and Note Translated from President Osvaldo Dorticos. Among other things, he discusses American foreign policy in Cuba, including Guantanamo Bay and the U.S. invasions, and the significance of Marxism.
    "Letter from Blas Roca in Regards to Post-Missile Crisis Cuba," November 27, 1962, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Cuban documents released for the International Conference, "La Crisis de Octubre," October 2002. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110772
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    https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110772

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Havana, November 27, 1962

“YEAR OF PLANNING”

To Capt. Emilio Aragones

I send to you, enclosed, a copy of the letter sent by Comrade Blas Roca for your knowledge.

Fraternally, HOMELAND OR DEATH

WE WILL WIN

Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado

[Letter from Blas Roca[1]:]

In Copenhagen, I did not state in my speech, nor in any declaration, that peace could have been saved. I don’t know how this version was given or who might have thought it. A French journalist from Le Monde asked me for an interview, but I did not grant one. I did a television interview, but all the questions were insinuating and the main interest seemed to be David Salvador.[2] I said a few words to another local journalist in Copenhagen before the meeting began, but at no time did I use a phrasing that would reflect my thoughts to even a minimal degree.

Despite the fact that since I left Cuba I have not had information or even received the HOY newspaper or any other, my principal interpretations of the crisis have aligned fully with those of the National Leadership. My opinions and words, up to and including in many details, coincided with what I have seen since in the newspapers and Fidel [Castro]’s speeches. I am in complete agreement with what I have learned of the interpretations and points of view of the National Leadership, and also with the attitude that leadership has adopted in the face of the crisis.

I agree entirely with the opposition to any kind of UN commission, or that of any other organization, inspecting Cuba. Cuba does not need to be inspected. The United States, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua should be inspected, and other countries that violate rules and principles of international law and the UN Charter itself – they have been organizing, arming and conducting mercenary invasions from their territories against Cuba and today they train mercenaries, arm pirate ships, infiltrate saboteurs and assassins, etc. Cuba has not violated any principle, rule, or international law. It had the right to arm itself and did so. It had the right to install atomic weapons, and installed them.

I agree completely with the FIVE POINTS presented by Fidel [on 28 October 1962]. Only if they are fulfilled by the United States, those Five Points will create relative security if that nation disarms the apparatus of the military invasion of Cuba. Achieving these Five Points would give us a decided advantage in the entire situation. The most important – and what I consider among the greatest probability of success – is the withdrawal of the [US] naval base at Guantánamo. The incongruence of the existence of the base in the current status of relations between Cuba and the United States has been made quite obvious.

This base today lacks its value for defense of the Panama Canal. Its only value is as 1) a point of support for aggression toward Cuba and center of hostility to our country, 2) a point of departure for primitive and interventionist actions against Venezuela, Colombia, the Guyanas, Brazil, and the Caribbean islands. 3) A calm sea for training and teaching. The existence of the base is a point of friction more dangerous to the United States’ troops than for us. It is inconceivable that troops would now leave from that base to intervene in Venezuela or whatever Caribbean nation. The American leaders understand very well that this base, surrounded by well-armed enemy troops, is ineffective and dangerous for its occupants. Can you imagine what we would have to do in this situation?

The other points, save that concerning the economic freeze [i.e., embargo—ed.], ask the United States to stop committing crimes and inadmissible acts under international law, and actions contrary to explicit laws of the United States itself. The economic freeze, or, better put, the suspension of all import and export trade with Cuba, in spite of its absolute lack of morality, has a certain foundation in the fact that each country is free to trade or not trade with another, to have diplomatic relations or not. To maintain the suspension of import and export trade with Cuba is to maintain economic aggression. To keep economic aggression is to keep the door open to military aggression.

Even so, I see no possibility that this kind of aggression might cease, unless the leaders[hip] of the United States does a U-turn and tries to establish similar relations with Cuba as they have with Yugoslavia and with the same ends, if they have some hope for a similar arrangement.

But as I see things, this is not likely. With the exception of the cardinal difference between our leadership and the Yugoslavian one, of course, here I have only thought of the ideas that might move [US President John F.] Kennedy. The United States must try to defeat the Cuban Revolution so that no doubt remains among Latin American nations that the path of Cuba cannot be taken. The US cannot renounce the fight against the Cuban Revolution in the same way that we cannot give up the struggle against capitalism. The problem is that of the forms of conflict. Effectively, the US turning to invasion can be avoided. There are many reasons for this:

FIRST: Invasion leads to world war, which would mean risking everything for Cuba.

SECOND: The socialist camp is stronger and its strength is a significant factor – precisely against invasion, when faced with the prospect of war.

THIRD: Invasion of Cuba is costly in terms of life for the Yankees because Cuba is well armed and prepared to defend itself with the spirit of Homeland or Death.

FOURTH: It is not possible at this stage to carry out an invasion that would quickly triumph. No matter how much the invasion drags out, its results would be uncertain and problematic, even in the case that it did not lead – as it would [certainly] lead – to world war.

FIFTH: The invasion of Cuba, as soon as it unfolds, would unleash a series of anti-American actions in Latin American countries as well as others in the world. This crisis, despite its brevity, led to the destruction of American property, businesses, and institutions in various Latin American countries. If it had taken even one week longer, what happened in Venezuela would have been equaled or surpassed in many countries.

These factors can weigh decisively in the intentions of the Yankee leaders to obligate them to accept and respect the promise of non-invasion of Cuba.

But what they cannot seriously promise is not to seek many other ways of fighting against the Cuban Revolution, in hopes of diverting, corrupting, or crushing it.

I am in complete agreement with the way that comrade Fidel set out the matter of our relations and discrepancies [i.e., divergences—ed.] with the Soviet Union. We have much to be grateful for from the USSR and we are thankful. We know of the respect that they have shown for our sovereignty and the rights of our State. We are identified with them in the ideal of socialism and communism and the theory of Marxism-Leninism. We trust in their Government, in their Party and in their people. We are brothers, bosom friends. But even between brothers and friends, differences arise. As we have done, we wish to overcome these differences within the framework of fraternal discussion, direct and private, or semi-private, since the differences are very obvious and the points of view of all concerned are well enough known.

Frank, brotherly discussion of differences should lead us to strengthen our relations, to make them better, and to make unity stronger. This is how I have viewed and interpreted Fidel’s statements. Cuba, in the socialist camp, means a great deal. It is the beginning of the Revolution in Latin America. It is the first hedge against the United States, the center of great influence over still-undecided governments of Asia and Africa. At the same time, the socialist camp means a great deal to Cuba. It means weapons, breaking the economic blockade, facilitating the construction of socialism to the maximum extent. It means, in a word, the guarantee of economic and social victory in the shortest time possible and with the fewest possible sacrifices. That is why Fidel’s position, which I share from the heart, is so wise and fair, and so Marxist-Leninist.

I share the point of view that we have no reason to trust in Kennedy’s statements. I have previously stated the reasons I believe a non-invasion pledge to be possible. These reasons make the promise possible, but it also could be that no such promise is made.

I share the justified feeling of affront at the fact that the Cuban government was not previously informed [by Khrushchev] of the step that would be taken. Even more seriously, the necessity of relying upon the Cuban government was not stated in the document. I consider even worse the fact that the Soviet document would accept in principle inspection within Cuba, despite Cuba’s categorical rejection of the same for solid and sensible reasons. Apparently, there is no solution for this besides accepting what would satisfy the Soviet government, guaranteeing us in the future that it would not happen under any circumstances, and fighting together for the FIVE POINTS of guarantee against direct military aggression by the United States against Cuba. Of course, I believe that, with firmness and good sense, resolute opposition to inspection must be maintained, whether in Cuban territory or Cuban waters.

My primary reaction to the problem of the provocative Yankee flights is to shoot down the planes. The brazen Yankees exploit the USSR’s eagerness for peace and Cuba’s good sense to commit these unspeakable acts of abuse. The only thing that goes against my first reaction is that previously, we have tolerated these flights and starting to shoot down planes now could appear to be a desire to provoke a situation that would make agreement impossible. And we must be very careful not to give that impression. Our policy does not make difficult—or impossible—any valid and worthy accord in favor of Peace. Our opposition to inspection defends Peace, because if Cuba gives up its sovereignty and declares itself defeated by the United States, there cannot be peace in the world. Some impatient people say: “Inspection is not important.” “You all decide what countries would [make up the inspection authority]”… “That will make an agreement easier…”

We say: No. This will not make an agreement easier; it will only make countless new, humiliating petitions presented by the United States easier. Inspection is important because if we accede to it, the United States will present themselves [i.e., itself] as victorious and omnipotent. It will not facilitate an agreement because inspection is not necessary to prove that the bases were dismantled and missiles withdrawn. We would not choose the countries or the personnel. We would have to accept countries that the United States finds acceptable; the United States would, in reality, choose the personnel. In the inspection debate, something similar happens to that concerning control and disarmament. The United States backs control, and the USSR opts for disarmament.

Many believe that the USSR should have agreed to control measures sought by the United States because it would not[3] “guarantee an immediate agreement on disarmament.” It is not so. Accepting control as the United States wishes is to make disarmament more difficult and accelerate preparations for war. Going along with inspection is to speed up the march to a situation advantageous to the imperialists that also would bring us closer to war. In [East] Germany, I visited the Soviet ambassador [Mikhail] Pervukhin to sort out matters concerning the trip to Moscow, before receiving any indication that it should not be done.

In the conversation, the crisis became the main topic. I said:

It has been very dire that the USSR did not previously warn Cuba about its determination [to remove the missiles] and that the message [from Khrushchev to Kennedy] did not take the government of Cuba into account. More serious yet is that the message discusses inspection, when it is known that Cuba will not accept this in any way. I believe the crisis could have gone another way that would have given us advantages and guarantees for the peace and integrity of Cuba. The solution reached is no victory: it is a compromise and we should see it as such.

In Prague, I talked with Caderca (in the same airport), with Hendrix [Hendrych], with the leaders of the International Journal, Soboliev and Rumiantsev.[4] In these conversations I stated the same thing, with a heavier emphasis on one matter or another, according to the conflict most pertinent to the argument. With Caderca, for example, the subject was that we could not consider it a victory, but rather a compromise. With Hendrix, it was that I thought bringing Soviet cruise ships to the Caribbean and having merchant vessels cross under their protection would not provoke war. Hendrix was laconic in his expressions and told me that the Czech government supported the FIVE POINTS of Fidel. The [East] Germans, in a not very explicit way, led me to understand the same. They believed that the course that the crisis had taken delayed the solution to the Berlin crisis. They also showed a great deal of interest in the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba.[5]

In conclusion, here I have done as much as I could in the middle of a complex situation in which I, unfortunately, lacked reports, sometimes of the most basic kind, since the lack of language hindered me from seeing information in the press directly and in its entirety.

With regards and an embrace, Blas.

[1] Ed. note: Roca made an extensive trip to Europe in October-November 1962, including stops in Denmark; East Germany (where he attended annual commemorations of the founding of the German Democratic Republic and spoke at a “Hands off Cuba!” rally in East Berlin on October 26); Czechoslovakia; Bulgaria (where he attended the Bulgarian Communist Party Congress in Sofia on 8-14 November); and Hungary (where attended the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party Congress in Budapest on 20-25 November). According to a report from Hungary’s ambassador in Havana, Roca had been scheduled to represent Cuba at the annual commemorations of the Bolshevik Revolution in Moscow, but his instructions were changed and he was instead directed to fly from Prague to Sofia.  See the 30 November 1962 report on signs of Soviet-Cuba strains from the Hungarian Embassy in Cuba.

[2] Ed. note: David Salvador was a Cuban trade union leader, ex-communist, and member of the “26 of July” movement who had been arrested for alleged counter-revolutionary activities in 1960 and sentenced to 30 years in prison in August 1962.  See Hugh Thomas, The Cuban Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1971, 1977, paperback edition), esp. pp. 86, 570.

[3] Trans. note: Given the context, I feel this must be an error, since the author seems to wish to make the opposite point. But “no” – that is, “not” -- is indeed in the original Spanish text.

[4] Ed. note: For the Czechoslovak record of Roca’s conversation with senior Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPCz) figure Jiri Hendrych, dated 3 November 1962.  

[5] Ed. note: Relations between the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and Cuba were normalized on 11 January 1963, prompting the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) to sever relations with Havana under the so-called Hallstein Doctrine in which the FRG broke or reduced relations with countries recognizing the GDR (with the prominent exceptions of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia).  See translated West and East German documents in the Digital Archive, in particular a January 1963 conversation between Blas Roca and an East German communist official.

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