Around one o'clock on January the first, 1959, the engines of several DC-3, DC-4, and C-46 aircrafts thundered at the civilian sector of the Columbia military airport, West of Havana, where 'Q’ Airways were.
The scheduled flights from this airline linking Havana with the Isle of Pines, Veracruz, and various points in Florida. 1
However, on that first morning of 1959, the planes that warmed their engines at the airstrip broke the routine. Some would head for Jacksonville, Florida, and the rest would be diverted towards Dominican Republic.2
According to the memoirs of General Fulgencio Batista, the reason for those irregular flights was his hasty departure from Cuba with his family and his closest aides given the seriousness of the political and military circumstances.3
Minutes before the aircraft engines started, Batista had resigned from his position as de facto president of the Republic of Cuba. Before leaving, he handed over the power to a military junta headed by General Eulogio Cantillo, Chief of Joint Staff of the Cuban Army.2
The dispatcher of this unique flight wasn’t a ’Q’ Airways employee, as usual, but precisely the very General Cantillo.
A week earlier, on Christmas Eve 1958, Cantillo, had flown in a helicopter to the sugar factory named “Cuba” in the east of the Island to meet his "arch" enemy, Fidel Castro, the then leader of the guerrillas who dominated a large area of the Sierra Maestra in eastern Cuba. This was the second time both enemy commanders met. The first was in September of that year when the already shaky regime of General Batista had no other choice but to recognize the belligerent group.2
The Christmas Eve meeting was the final one.
In March 1958, the U.S. had stopped all political and logistical support to Batista.
The army was demoralized and the rebels took the military and political initiative.
Castro and Cantillo negotiated a peaceful transition.
According to Castro, Cantillo promised to deliver him the government along with Batista and his highest military officers and government officials in order to bring them to the revolutionary justice. This, indeed, seems rather doubtful, given the involvement of Cantillo in all the alleged crimes of Batista’s government.
But seven days later, on the morning of Jan. 1959, Cantillo was on Columbia’s airstrip, organizing the escape of key government officers and officials of General Fulgencio Batista's government.
In the hands of Cantillo was a blacklist of those representatives of the Batista government who had been denied the entry into the United States. Those had been appointed for flights to Ciudad Trujillo. The rest would travel to Jacksonville, Florida.2
To Dominican Republic should fly the already Cuban ex-president Fulgencio Batista, part of his family, and several of his closest aides as police chief, General Pedraza, etc.
On the flight list to Jacksonville, Florida, was the eldest son of Batista, who had to board the plane under protest, separated from his family, along with the army chief, General Tabernilla, and other government officials and minions of his father " authorized "to enter to the U.S.2
Year and a half after Batista escaped from Cuba, in August 1960, in the U.S. Senate, there still were questioning who the author of the Cantillo's black list was.
On August 27, 1960, in Washington began the sessions of the Sub-Committee to investigate the administration of the internal security of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate. Its president was Mississippi Senator James O. Eastland.4
The subcommittee's purpose was to determine if a remedial legislation was needed to fill the cracks in the internal security legislation.
One of the most difficult issues faced by the subcommittee was that of the security clearances in order to work in federal institutions as sensitive as the State Department.
The most disconcerting situation which the subcommittee faced was the case of William Arthur Wieland.
The so called Wieland’s case will be investigated recurrently and extensively from 1960 to 1982, and was used as example in subsequent Senate investigations because of its tremendous implications for the internal security of the State Department and the U.S. government in general.6
Wieland joined the State Department in 1941, and in 1957, he had reached the high position of Director of the Bureau for Mexico and the Caribbean of the Undersecretary of State for Latin America.7
The problem was that Wieland's long career in the State Department apparently had begun and had developed without the required security clearances. In addition, Wieland had never even managed to present the necessary identity documents to begin work on the Department.8
Nobody knew for sure what his real name was because he sometimes appeared as William Arthur Wieland, others as Arturo Montenegro and others as William Montenegro.
This led to questioning sensitive foreign policy decisions in which Wieland was involved.
Wieland was regarded not only as the main responsible of the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, but as also the central player of the rise and consolidation of Fidel Castro in power.
The members of the subcommittee and several State Department officials who testified before the subcommittee were suspicious about Wieland as the main instigator of the suspension of arms shipments to General Batista’s government.9
As Director of Mexican and the Caribbean affairs, Wieland was able to recommend policies toward any country of the region and influence his boss, Roy Rubottom, head of the Undersecretary of State for Latin America in the sense of its implementation. 10
In addition, Wieland, was pointed out as the mastermind of the international media manipulation that misshapen the image of Fidel Castro, who was only an unknown guerrilla leader in the Cuban mountains, in a modern day Robin Hood in the eyes of American public opinion and the world’s as well.
Apparently, Wieland had much to do with the interview of Herbert Matthews, the star reporter of the New York Times, to Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra and the CBS television documentary on Castro guerrillas in the mountains of eastern Cuba.11
Wieland had also managed to replace Arthur Gardner, the American ambassador who was sympathetic to the Batista government, with Earl E. T. Smith, who will play an important role in the fall of the regime.4
Wieland also violated the most basic rules of the State Department, instructing Smith -who had no diplomatic experience nor any knowledge on Cuban affairs- to be briefed in the subject by Herbert Matthews, who was a great fan and literally the bard of Fidel Castro, rather than a specialist in the Department of State, as expected in these cases.11
Worse, it was also very suspicious that Wieland and Rubbotom were in Colombia in 1948, at the time when Fidel Castro stood out as one of the promoters of social disorder later baptized as the "bogotazo".12
Some have even suggested that Wieland was acquainted with Castro since his stays in Cuba during the decade of the 40 and had certain links with Fabio Grobart, a Soviet Comintern agent.
One of the issues in which the subcommittee spent a great deal of its time was in trying to identify the author of the blacklist on which were inscribed the officials of the regime of Batista to which they were prohibited from entering the territory of the United States in that early morning of January 1959.
When the issue of the "Black List" came up, Mr. J.G. Sourwine -who has been for many years chief counsel to a Senate subcommittee that sought to uncover subversion and communism- asked Wieland: "...And you say there was a list. Where did the list come from? Who made it up, who initiated it?" Hesitating, Wieland answered in an evasive way: "The list, I believe, was prepared by the Embassy in Havana and sent to the Department,” Mr. Sourwine asked more directly: "You had nothing to do with initiating it?" As many times before, Wieland's answer was indefinite: "I can't be precise, but I don't think so." Mr. Sourwine tried to be more precise: "You didn't ask the Embassy for a list of prominent Batistianos who might seek entry into the United States?" Mr. Wieland's answer was all but precise: "I think we did, yes, sir." Chairman Eastland repeated upset. "Do you think 'we' did?" And Wieland, with ingenuity said: "The Department, yes, sir." Mr. Sourwlne insists: "Do you recall that you were instructed to do this?" And, Wieland sidestepped: "I recall that I worked on that list, I received that list, but I don't know whether I initiated it or someone else did." Senator Dodd exploded: "I don't understand this "we" business. Some human beings do those things?" And, with greater ingenuity, Wieland replied just: "Yes." Really angry, Senator Dodd addressed Wieland: "Can't you help us a little more than saying "we," you are not sure, and so on? What did you do with respect to the list? Who gave you the list, who did you give it back to? Those seem to me to be simple matters." But Wieland stopped him with a bitter answer: “The list comes in from the Embassy and is received by the Department. It passed through various hands. I am not trying to dodge the issue here at all."14
For hours, the senators and the subcommittee counsel interrogated Wieland without getting the slightest clue. It was impossible to know the name of the one who ordered or suggested to make a blacklist.
Wieland hided himself behind the supposed intricate bureaucratic labyrinth of the State Department, making it impossible to know who ordered the list, who wrote it and who took the final decision.
Wieland's responses to the questions of the subcommittee only indicated that the list Cantillo was holding in the early hours of January 1959 had materialized from nowhere. This appeared to have been absorbed by the intricate bureaucracy of the Department of State, which set to work mechanically, regardless of any policy, strategy or tactics of the U.S. government's foreign relations.
In the end, no one could definitely known how the dam list, after allegedly leaving the American Embassy in Havana, arriving in Washington, circulate through all the intricacies of the bureaucracy of the State Department, was in time in the hands of General Cantillo so can he organize the stampede of the Batista regime officials, and distribute the passengers among the aircrafts that would lead them to their destination on that first morning of 1959.
What links existed between the Fidel Castro and Cantillo meetings, Wieland, and the State Department black list?
Once Cantillo said good-bye to the ex-president and his entourage at Columbia airport, he appointed himself Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, demanded the resignation of the President of the Senate and proclaimed restored the 1940 Constitution. Following its precepts, Cantillo called Carlos M. Piedra, Supreme Court judge, to whom correspond the presidential succession.2
Fidel Castro was the head of the bulk of the guerrilla forces in the mountains and the underground movement in the cities precisely because, basically, Batista had led a coup de etat and repealed the 1940 Constitution. However, upon learning Cantillo's decisions, Castro declared him a traitor and unconstitutional the Provisional Government of Piedra in his first public address by radio from Santiago de Cuba. Nevertheless, it is astonishing the way in which Fidel Castro treated Cantillo later.15
When Castro managed to catch the vast majority of military commanders, police and other officials of the government of Fulgencio Batista, most of them were sentenced to the firing squad or to very long prison terms ranging between 25 and 30 years.
General Cantillo was not only at the top of chain of command of Batista's army, from which were given the orders that executed most of the military and police officers condemned by the "revolutionary justice". He was also accused of treason by Castro himself, allegedly for not having given directly to him the power along with Batista and his main collaborators.
However, Cantillo just got 15 years in prison and, without meeting even half of his sentence, he managed to leave Cuba to the U.S. with his family in the decade of the sixties.2
It seems that Cantillo knew what awaited him when he was detained by Jose Ramon "el Gallego" Fernandez, one of the nearest collaborators of Castro, following him to prison in quite a confident fashion.16
Concerning the Wieland Case, along more than 2 years, lots of dubious facts were accumulated about him and his actions within the Department of State. Some even accused him of being an agent provocateur from the International Communism.
It is then when, contrary to all procedures and compartmentalization of the American executive, the Secretary of State Dean Rusk (prominent member of the Council on Foreign Relations or CFR, in addition to a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation) and President JF Kennedy stepped in in defense of Wieland, who was declared as a completely reliable and loyal official of the State Department. 17
This will silence the long process against Wieland, although it will leave lots of difficult questions, floating in the imponderable.
NOTES:Photo: General Cantillo and judge Piedra http://baracuteycubano.blogspot.com/2010/09/entrevista-de-emilio-ichikawa-al-sr.html
- Entrevista con Fulgencio Rubén Batista y Godínez. http://www.eichikawa.com/entrevistas/Fulgencio_Batista.html
- Cuba Betrayed. Fulgencio Batista Page 136 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=54321978
- COMMUNIST THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES THROUGH THE CARIBBEAN HEARINGS http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/us-cuba/gardner-smith.htm
- STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY, THE CASE OF WILLIAM WIELAND, http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?view=plaintext;size=100;id=uc1.%24b643336;page=root;seq=5;num=i
- STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY, THE CASE OF WILLIAM WIELAND, page iii http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?view=plaintext;size=100;id=uc1.%24b643336;page=root;seq=5;num=i
- STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY, THE CASE OF WILLIAM WIELAND, Page 97 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?view=plaintext;size=100;id=uc1.%24b643336;page=root;seq=5;num=i
- STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY, THE CASE OF WILLIAM WIELAND, Page 92 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?view=plaintext;size=100;id=uc1.%24b643336;page=root;seq=5;num=i
- STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY, THE CASE OF WILLIAM WIELAND, Page 140 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?view=plaintext;size=100;id=uc1.%24b643336;page=root;seq=5;num=
- STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY, THE CASE OF WILLIAM WIELAND, Page 93 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?view=plaintext;size=100;id=uc1.%24b643336;page=root;seq=5;num=
- STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY, THE CASE OF WILLIAM WIELAND, Page 161 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?view=plaintext;size=100;id=uc1.%24b643336;page=root;seq=5;num=
- STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY, THE CASE OF WILLIAM WIELAND, Page 115 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?view=plaintext;size=100;id=uc1.%24b643336;page=root;seq=5;num=
- STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY, THE CASE OF WILLIAM WIELAND…page 163, http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?view=plaintext;size=100;id=uc1.%24b643336;page=root;seq=5;num=i
- DISCURSO DE FIDEL CASTRO RUZ EL 8 DE ENERO DE 1959 http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/discursos/1959/esp/f080159e.html
- Interview with José Ramón Fernández, July 15, 1985 page 45 http://merrick.library.miami.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/chc0189/id/1768/rec/31
- The President's News Conference October 9, 1963 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=9460#ixzz1qQdUBqOf