For immediate release,
15 May 2002
For further information contact:
Peter Kornbluh
202 / 994-7116

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National Security Archive Posts 1977 Presidential Order to
Reestablish Diplomatic Ties with Castro Government

Carter Directive Recalls Acts of U.S.-Based Terrorism Against Cuba

Washington, D.C., May 15 – The National Security Archive at George Washington University today posted on the Web a declassified Presidential Directive, signed by Jimmy Carter, which stated: “I have concluded that we should attempt to achieve normalization of our relations with Cuba.”  The directive, dated March 15, 1977, shortly after Carter took office, is believed to represent the only time a President has ordered normalization of U.S. relations with Castro’s Cuba to be an explicit foreign policy goal of the United States.

On May 12, 2002, Carter became the first U.S. President, current or former, to visit Cuba since Castro’s revolution in 1959.  His five-day visit unofficially continues a dialogue that was officially started with the distribution of this two-page document, Presidential Directive/NSC-6, in 1977.  Carter’s effort to “set in motion a process which will lead to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba” eventually was aborted over Cold War issues such as Cuba’s involvement in Africa.

While the Carter administration’s attempts to improve relations with Cuba are well known, U.S. government documentation recording that effort remains largely classified, noted Peter Kornbluh who directs the Archive’s Cuba Project.  Kornbluh called the presidential directive “a pivotal piece of documentation in the hidden history of U.S. efforts to seek a rapprochement with Cuba.” 

In the context of today's war on terrorism, it is interesting to note the Carter directive's assumption that U.S.-based exile groups were conducting terror attacks against Cuba.  “The Attorney General should take all necessary steps permitted by law to prevent terrorist or any illegal actions launched from within the United States against Cuba,” the directive concluded.

The document is posted below. Other declassified documents relating to secret efforts to improve relations with Cuba, dating from the Kennedy era, can also be found on this website under the news, Electronic Briefing Books, and Publications sections.

Presidential Directive / NSC-6, Subject: Cuba, March 15, 1977, Secret, 2 pp.