John F Kennedy History Archive
Washington, April 18, 1961
MR. CHAIRMAN: You are under a serious misapprehension in regard to events in Cuba. For months there has been evident and growing resistance to the Castro dictatorship. More than 100,000 refugees have recently fled from Cuba into neighboring countries[A]. Their urgent hope is naturally to assist their fellow Cubans in their struggle for freedom. Many of these refugees fought alongside Dr. Castro against the Batista dictatorship; among them are prominent leaders of his own original movement and government.
These are unmistakable signs that Cubans find intolerable the denial of democratic liberties and the subversion of the 26th of July Movement by an alien-dominated regime. It cannot be surprising that, as resistance within Cuba grows, refugees have been using whatever means are available to return and support their countrymen in the continuing struggle for freedom. Where people are denied the right of choice, recourse to such struggle is the only means of achieving their liberties.
I have previously stated, and I repeat now, that the United States intends no military intervention in Cuba. In the event of any military intervention by outside force we will immediately honor our obligations under the inter-American system to protect this hemisphere against external aggression. While refraining from military intervention in Cuba, the people of the United States do not conceal their admiration for Cuban patriots who wish to see a democratic system in an independent Cuba. The United States government can take no action to stifle the spirit of liberty.
I have taken careful note of your statement that the events in Cuba might affect peace in all parts of the world. I trust that this does not mean that the Soviet government, using the situation in Cuba as a pretext, is planning to inflame other areas of the world. I would like to think that your government has too great a sense of responsibility to embark upon any enterprise so dangerous to general peace. [B]
I agree with you as to the desirability of steps to improve the international atmosphere. I continue to hope that you will cooperate in opportunities now available to this end. A prompt cease-fire and peaceful settlement of the dangerous situation in Laos, cooperation with the United Nations in the Congo and a speedy conclusion of an acceptable treaty for the banning of nuclear tests would be constructive steps in this direction. The regime in Cuba could make a similar contribution by permitting the Cuban people freely to determine their own future by democratic processes and freely to cooperate with their Latin American neighbors.
I believe, Mr. Chairman, that you should recognize that free peoples in all parts of the world do not accept the claim of historical inevitability for Communist revolution. What your government believes is its own business; what it does in the world is the world's business. The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free.
John F. Kennedy
Khrushchev Responds: Of What Freedom Are You Speaking?
[A] The population of Cuba in 1959 was 6,901,000 people; in 1960 this had grown to 7,027,000, and in 1961 the population climbed to 7,134,000 people. So what does it mean when Kennedy quotes that 100,000 people have migrated from Cuba in the past two and a half years? Cuba experienced an annual migration of 0.4% of its population. It is not difficult to surmise who this 0.4% of Cuba's population was, and why they choose to leave Cuba.
[B] In fact, the U.S. invasion of Cuba gave way to Cuba's request for Soviet missiles to defend against future U.S. invasions.
Written: April 18, 1961
Source: Foreign Relations of the United States; Volume 11 (1961-63): Cuban Missile Crisis and Aftermath (No. 10)
Markup: Brian Baggins
Copyleft: Kennedy History Archive (marxists.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. No classification marking. The source text is a press release from the Office of the White House Press Secretary, which was marked for release at 6:45 p.m. April 18. Another copy of this message is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence. Also printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 286-287; American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 296-297; and Claflin, The President Wants To Know, pp. 59-60.