WASHINGTON -- A few weeks after Fidel Castro's rise to power in 1959, CIA chief Allen Dulles told the Senate in a secret briefing the Cuban leader did not have 'any communist leanings,' according to a report released Saturday.
'He (Castro) has certainly shown great courage,' Dulles told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 26, 1959. The committee Saturday released a 900-page declassified report on hearings held in 1959.
'We do not think that Castro himself has any communist leanings,' Dulles told the panel exactly 25 days after Castro overthrew dictator Fulgencio Bastista. 'We do not believe Castro is in the pay of or working for the communists.'
'We believe, however, that this is a situation on which the communists could capitalize if there is not a move to get control of the situation more fully than Castro has control of it now.'
But Dulles, who still headed the intelligence agency two years later during the failed CIA-directed Bay of Pigs invasion, made clear he opposed any U.S. intervention in Cuba -- before or after Castro's rise to power.
'American intervention there at this time, or even before, would have had a disastrous effect throughout the whole hemisphere and I see no alternative -- that is a matter of policy,' he told the committee.
Dulles was less generous about Castro's brother Raul, now Cuba's defense minister, and about Argentina-born revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, the head of Castro's agrarian reform program who was killed in Bolivia in 1967.
'His brother is more irresponsible,' Dulles said. 'This fellow 'Che' Guevara, the Argentinian who has been fighting with him, we are rather suspicious about him.' Dulles also was less than complimentary about Batista, who fled Havana for Miami on Jan. 1, 1959. 'We felt that Bastista was on the losing end of the stick weeks before it came to an end,' Dulles said.
'In fact, an effort was made through extra-diplomatic means, quietly, to see whether he would not depart, and an effort was made to see if one could put in an interim government that would at least permit negotiations with Castro.'
'He (Batista) stayed on too long, so that was impossible and Castro came in,' Dulles said, in talking of a development replayed 20 years later when Nicaragua's Anastasio Somoza did not leave Managua until it was too late.
Dulles was asked why he thought Castro and his followers were executing so many people shortly after they took power. 'They are going through a little 'French Revolution,'' he replied.
'Well, why were so many people killed in the French Revolution? When you have a revolution, you kill your enemies. There were many instances of cruelty and oppression by the Cuban army and they (the Castroites) certainly have the goods on some of these people.'
A reference to the Cuban revolution also was contained in March 3 testimony by Roy Rubottom, the assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs.
'There is potential greatness in this revolution in Cuba and everybody hopes that it will be able to achieve this potential,' Rubottom said. 'Cuba has been plagued for 60 years by graft and dishonesty.'
But Rubottom also acknowleged that 'it is still too early to make any sweeping generalizations about the situation in Cuba.' Adv 6 p.m.