Chapter 18 - Taking on Soviet-Cuban Imperialism in Latin America and Africa


[Other] Republicans recognize the special importance of Puerto Rico . . . [and] the fundamental importance of Mexico and restoration of good working relations with that country [including] . . . high-level, comprehensive negotiations, seeking solutions to common problems . . . Republicans pledge to reestablish close and cooperative relations with the nations of Central and South America and repair the diplomatic damage done by the Carter Administration . . . We pledge to ensure that the Panama Canal remains open, secure and free of hostile control.1

Early NSC Meetings—February to March 1981. The importance of Reagan’s concern about Communist inroads in Latin America is reflected in the fact that five of Reagan’s first six National Security Council (NSC) meetings whose official notes have been declassified at this writing include Latin American topics. NSC 1—Caribbean Basin, Poland . . . , on February 6, 1981 reviews Soviet/Cuban threats and U.S. response options. President Reagan states that “We can’t afford a defeat. El Salvador is the place for a victory” and CIA Director William Casey notes that “The most effective way to put pressure on Cuba would be through Angola.”2NSC 2—Nicaragua, Central America, Cuba’ . . . , on February 11, 1981, discusses Sandinista ground and air support for the recent offensive by the El Salvador guerrillas focused on Nicaragua and El Salvador and noting heavy Cuban involvement. Reagan notes that “We must not let Central America become another Cuba on the mainland. It cannot happen.”3NSC 3—Poland, Caribbean Basin . . . , on February 18, 1981, provides a summary of five small scale U.S. actions of support for El Salvador, pending results of a comprehensive interagency review. NSC 4—Poland, Caribbean Basin . . . , February 27, 1981, summarizes policy decisions including sending U.S. Military Training Teams (MTTs) to El Salvador, and a survey team to Honduras to determine requirements, funding at $20 million, consulting with Congress, and determining the range of economic assistance. NSC 6—Poland, Nicaragua, Central America, South Africa . . . , March 26, 1981 focused mainly on Poland but also considered the Nicaraguan Sandinista threat to Americans in Nicaraguans and on countering Soviet/Cuban actions in Africa, especially on the Angola/Namibia issue.

An Early Public Diplomacy Report—February 1981. An early “must-read” Administration public diplomacy report on Communist Interference in El Salvador was issued on February 23, 1981 by the Department of State and presents detailed facts, photos, and chronologies that provide:

definitive evidence of the clandestine military support given by the Soviet Union, Cuba, and their Communist allies to Marxist-Leninist guerrillas now fighting to overthrow the established Government of El Salvador . . . beginning in 1979 . . . and to impose in its place a Communist regime with no popular support.4

 The report’s sections include “A Case of Communist Military Involvement in the Third World; Communist Military Intervention—a Chronology; the Government: The Search for Order and Democracy; and Some Conclusions.” In presenting this compelling evidence, the report broached existing U.S. policy taboos in exposing the Soviet and Cuban role in Latin America, but could not be denied by the Soviet denunciations of the report that followed.

National Security Policy Group (NSPG) Meetings—March to May 1981. The topics of the first three White House meetings of Reagan’s senior-level special NSPG are declassified as NSPG 02—Central America of March 9, 1981, Central America, NSPG 03—Nicaragua of March 24, 1981, and NSPG 11—Caribbean Basin Initiative on May 15, 1981. [At this writing, the notes for these meetings have not been declassified.] The first full National Security Council meeting was NSPG 09—U.S.-USSR Standing Consultative Commission and US Policy for the Caribbean Basin on May 22, 1981. It focused almost exclusively on arms control issues, but its redacted last page reviews a process by which a Department of State draft on the Caribbean Basin Initiative would be critiqued by other agencies.

Allen Statement on Radio Marti—September 1981. A public White House statement made on behalf of the President by National Security Advisor Richard Allen on Radio Marti on September 23, 1981 pointed to Cuba’s Marxist-Leninist dictatorship and Soviet troublemaking. It announced a major U.S. public diplomacy campaign in Latin America to tell the truth through newly established “Radio Marti” broadcasts. Thus:

For more than 20 years, the Cuban people have been controlled and manipulated by a totalitarian Marxist-Leninist dictatorship dedicated to promoting armed violence and undermining the interests of the Free World. . . . Cuba’s extensive international troublemaking is made possible by, and is all the more dangerous because of, its alliance with and dependence on the Soviet Union, which provides Cuba with massive economic and military support in exchange for Cuban promotion of Soviet interests. Cuba’s Communist leaders have kept 

[Book pg. 425]