CUBA: The End of Patience

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Before he left for Moscow to sign further deals with the Reds (Castro already has barter agreements with seven Soviet-bloc nations), Guevara went on TV and rendered a treasurer's report written in double red ink. He acknowledged that foreign exchange reserves had fallen from $214 million to $170 million and would probably fall to $100 million by year's end. He warned that "we shall have to look for substitutes" but promised Cubans that the Communist bloc's "perfect planning" would see them through. "Che" might well bring back more big machinery from the East, but he could not deliver the washing machines, refrigerators and air conditioners that Cubans have learned to regard as necessities. Last week Castro propagandists put on a show of defiance, crying: "War to the death against the Yankee imperialists!" But it would take more than propaganda to erase Cuban memories of the good life.

The week produced other thrusts between the U.S. and Cuba. In Washington, Cuba withdrew from the null Bank. At the U.N., Foreign Minister Raúl Roa asked for immediate consideration of an alleged plot by the "Pentagon and U.S. monopolies" to launch a "large-scale invasion" of Cuba "within the next few days." Roa cited an alleged arms drop on Sept. 29 at 2 a.m. on the slopes of the guerrilla-speckled Escambray hills "by a four-motored aircraft of U.S. registry coming from the U.S. and piloted by U.S. airmen."

Painted Incident. Amidst the break down, U.S. Ambassador Philip W. Bonsal, who for 21 months tried unsuccessfully to practice his expert brand of patient, quiet diplomacy, was recalled to Washington for "an extended period of consultation," leaving U.S. affairs in the hands of Chargé Daniel Braddock. Chances are that Bonsai will not return. With Cuba's Washington embassy also headed by a charge, diplomacy between the two nations will become as difficult as commerce.

What would be Castro's next move? He could 1) make a formal demand, perhaps through the World Court, that the U.S. evacuate the Guantanamo Naval Base (which last week beefed up its Marine contingent); 2) confiscate the remaining $250 million in U.S. businesses, including branches of Sears, Roebuck and Woolworth, Westinghouse and General Electric; 3) break off diplomatic relations entirely; 4) stage an "incident" to prove U.S. aggression. At week's end the U.S. sent a curt note to Havana protesting that five Castro airforce planes were being painted over with U.S. insignia at San Antonio de los Banos airbase near Havana. With the blue-and-white U.S. star on wings and fuselage, the planes could easily create the incident Castro wants.


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