Category: History

Why the Communists are Winning as of 1976...
by William D. Pawley & Richard R. Tryon

This is an important chapter in that it reveals Castro as a communist five years before his campaign in Cuba took him to the top spot in Havana.

Americans were duped.

Chapter Eleven


General Marshall decided that the United States must act promptly to reassure President Ospina Perez of its support of the “Rock of Gibraltar” stance against the Communist insurrection. On the tenth, sitting with Walter Donnelly and me, he asked Walter if would mind delivering a message to the President of Colombia. Marshall emphasized the danger of the mission, but Walter agreed without hesitation.
In an ordinary car with no Marine or other escort, and displaying a white towel as a improvised flag of truce which he had borrowed from Norman Armour’s house, Donnelly managed to escape sporadic sniper fire en route to the Palace to deliver Marshall’s message. It asked that Ospina Perez meet our delegation next day.
Our formal American delegation braved sniper fire en route to the Palace on the next morning. We passed the wreckage of streetcar rails, overturned trams and cars that had been set afire. As Dr. Eduardo Zuleta Angel, presiding officer over the conference, recalls it.
“On April 11th in the morning, I was informed that the American Delegation was at the corner of Seventh Street and Eight Avenue, exposed to sniping, and that they were requesting an interview. I ordered that they be admitted and I received them at the entrance on Eighth Avenue. They were really risking their lives because the shooting at that point was heavy and they had no protection other than a white flag. The President received them immediately.”
Our delegation lunched with President Ospina Perez. Dr. Zuleta Angel called the fare “beans and corn cake, the only staples available at the Palace,” and “frugal.” Seated at the Cabinet conference table, where telephones, aides and secretaries were instantly available, we exchanged views frankly. Zuleta Angel seized the occasion to sound out Harriman on U.S. reactions if Colombia should sever diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, because of the Soviet diplomatic mission’s deep and culpable implication in the revolutionary attempt.
“That would be splendid,” Harriman replied, “provided you have the support of your Cabinet.”
We learned at the meeting that on the previous evening Ospina Perez had stood fast against a virtual ultimatum from the leaders of the Liberal Party that he turn the government over to them to avoid further bloodshed. He replied that to do so would reward rebellion and nullify the results of the recent elections.
“Under present conditions,” he told the Liberals, “a dead President is worth more to Colombian democracy than a fugitive President.”
After an all-night argument, the Liberals agreed to support the legitimate government. Ospina Perez, in turn, agreed to broaden his cabinet by appointments from the opposition.
We Americans offered, as first priority, the help of the American Red Cross, and then a loan of ten million dollars with which to begin the reconstruction of Bogota.
Our chief message was that the United States would support Colombia to the hilt in her struggle against subversion. In addition to immediate funds for rebuilding the capital, we would help in rehabilitation of the rest of the battered nation, once peace was restored. Later that day, President Ospina Perez broadcast this message to the nation, helping to restore stability in the troubled land.
The major “policy issue” before the Conference now became whether to defy the snipers who continued to harass us to run for safety. Truman wired Marshall to return home because of the continuing threats on his life. But after reviewing the matter with General Matthew Ridgeway, in charge of all military aspects of the American participation, and the Secret Service, Marshall characteristically elected to stick it out. He convinced the President that this was the wisest policy. To him, it was unthinkable that we back down now on pledges of support for the courageous Colombian president, appease the Reds and withdraw our moral support from the anti-Communists who had risked their lives in the face of the armed rabble.
The delegates met on the morning of April 13th at the quarters of the head of the Honduran delegation to decide this crucial question. Half of the members were absent, unwilling to risk the sniper fire still prevalent. The meeting started off on a note of defeatism.
Juan Atilio Bramuglia, Foreign Minister of Argentina, a Socialist turned Peronist, urged an immediate pull-out and offered to provide air transportation for all hands to Buenos Aires. There, the Conference could attempt a fresh beginning. Adding to the cacophony, Guillermo Belt, the diplomat from Cuba would soon assist Castro and his friends in a safe exit from Colombia, delivered a gloomy prediction that some delegates might be killed - perhaps even a Foreign Minister or a Minister of Finance. That, he said, would constitute a needless tragedy for the Americas. He proposed either an immediate exodus to another county or an adjournment sine diet.
Belt’s fear-filled appeal for desertion of our host county in its hour of peril was right in line with the aims of Romulo Betancourt, heading the Venezuelan delegation.
Marshall, who had arranged with Walter Donnelly and me to set up the meeting, listened with growing concern until the Dominican ambassador came through with a rousing plea for staying where we were, rather than following the cowardly course of playing into the hands of the enemy. Finally Marshall settled the matter in succinct, emphatic words:
“I came to Bogota planning to stay only three days,” he told them. “Pressing problems such as the European Recovery Program demand my full attention. However, I still have reliable enough communications to keep in close touch with Washington on vital matters. I am going to stay to the end - terrorists or no terrorists. I am not going to pressure any delegate to remain against his will. In fact, the United States will be happy to provide transportation for any delegate who decides that the danger here is too great.”
No one accepted Marshall’s offer.
The Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations then asked whether it would be possible to move our meeting place to the northern part of the city, where most of the delegates were living.
“Two blocks from here,” Zuleta Angel answered, “We have the magnificent Gimnasio Moderno, which I am pleased to place at your disposal.”
His offer was accepted. Working all night, the Conference staff moved furniture, files, telephone and telegraph facilities into the gimnasio, a high school.

Our Conference was able to assemble in safety and begin its work. It turned out to be one of the most constructive Conferences in the history of Pan Americanism.
Out of the historic meeting arose the Charter of the Organization of American States, known since as the OAS. The Organization provided a sturdy framework for permanent Western Hemispheric cooperation.
It was further decided that Inter-American conferences, meeting at five year intervals, would serve as the supreme body of the Organization. Meetings of the various foreign ministers would be called during emergencies, particularly those involving aggression against any member state. Meanwhile, the Council of the OAS, headquartered in Washington, would conduct the daily affairs of the body.
The Pact of Bogota further committed the signatory nations to strive for the peaceful settlement of international disputes and recognized the authority of the International Court of Justice. A similar pact in the economic sphere established general principles of international cooperation to raise the productivity and living standards of underdeveloped nations and endorse long-term inter-governmental development lending.
On resolution of the Conference which I found particularly gratifying, entitled “Preservation and Defense of Democracy in America,” forthrightly condemned Communism as a threat to the freedom and human right of the Americas, branding it a “totalitarian doctrine” alien to American tradition.
It was my privilege on April 30th to be one of the five men to sign these fundamental instruments on behalf of the United States. The others were Walter Donnelly, Norman Armour, Willard L. Beaulac and Paul C. Daniels.
The document we signed promised much. I am frank to say that the Organization of American States has not always lived up to our expectations - as I shall detail in later discussions.
Besides accomplishing our mission to establishing greater Pan American unity, the Bogota Conference taught us several valuable lessons:
First, we learned that it is possible to brave the threats, the violence and the destruction of Communist agitators, and strengthen the cooperation of the peoples of the Free World against the evil, totalitarian forces bent upon destroying and “burying” them.
Provided, however, and this is of vital importance:That the spokesmen and leaders of the Free World stand fearless and vigorous for the unalienable rights of the people, in any part of the world.
At Bogota, President Ospina Perez and Secretary of State George C. Marshall, along with several other leaders attending the Conference, stood fearless and undaunted in the face of imminent danger.
The revolutionaries held such ace cards as the radio stations, cooperation and arms from the police, and the destruction of planned targets such as key buildings, including the Conference site. How, then, did they miss in their aim to overthrow the Colombian government: What had been unforeseen?
Foremost, the Reds underestimated President Ospina Perez. They expected him to flee, paving the way for accomplishing the primary objective of capturing the Palace. In any case, it was anticipated that he would be killed, either in flight or in the Palace. His statement that he would die at his post of duty rather than surrender to the Reds is a lesson for all leaders who will have to face the violence of the world-wide Communist conspiracy sure to erupt in the future. Angola in late 1975 is a good example.
George Marshall was at his best at Bogota. His courageous stand made a deep impression upon everyone at the Conference. In my opinion, his decisive actions helped to explain why FDR had passed over him to select General Eisenhower for role of Supreme Commander in Europe in World War II: He simply could not spare Marshall as his strong right arm at the decision making center in Washington. He knew Marshall’s gift for getting along with all kinds of people, including member of Congress. He knew that Marshall’s absolute integrity, his ability to inspire loyalty in subordinates, and his innate dignity and decency, made him indispensable to the Commander-in-Chief.
In the aftermath of the failure of the revolutionaries to gain power on the crucial first day, the terrorists were rounded up, mobs dispersed, and fires extinguished. The citizens were able to breathe freely once more.
Now they contemplated the ruins of their once beautiful city. About 135 buildings, worth an estimated $21 million, had been destroyed in the capital alone. Historic churches were gutted, rendering difficult the celebration of Mass in a devoutly Catholic country. As many as 2500 persons, by conservative estimates, may have perished.
We learned in Bogota what many other cities and whole countries have seen demonstrated time and time again:
There is a pattern which Communist terrorists follow in their tactics of violet insurrection.
As they adapted these tactics to Bogota, they can and they certainly will adapt them to any area of situation - such as their planned seizure of the Panama Canal, unless they are prevented by a resolute U.S. government.
We were witnesses in Colombia, not to a spontaneous explosion of mob violence, but of a cleverly planned military-revolutionary operation. Consider these related item: Elaborate preparations on the technical level for armed uprising: an inflammatory catalyst - the murder of a popular idol; and the timing.
The Communist “D-Day” could not have been postponed much beyond April 9th, when most of the Colombian Army of 10,000 troops, loyal to the government, would be on training maneuvers away from the city and unavailable for duty. In his book, Career Ambassador, Beaulac wrote:
“Gaitan’s death had been diabolically timed to coincide with the lowest point in strength and efficiency that the Colombia Army had reached in many years. Furthermore, of the 2000 soldiers that should have been in the Bogota area that day, 1400 were outside the area engaged in military exercises.”
The destruction of the city had been plotted in a cold blooded, methodical manner. The concrete buildings of its center were impervious to ordinary incendiarism. Yet they were demolished.
“It would not have been easy to throw to the ground to a short time whole buildings of reinforced concrete, unless large quantities of gasoline and tools of tremendous destructive power had been used,” Azula Barrera wrote in his report of the Bogota destruction. “The strongest and most secure locks of the houses and warehouses were torn to pieces in minutes by a secret process of terrible efficiency. Ruthless individuals, leading isolated groups, took it upon themselves to open everything quickly in the way, even to the most carefully sealed off buildings. They then left them to the action of the crowd. When the sacking was completed, they threw incendiary bombs into the devastated places, which produced a long flame of a pale blue color. The walls, sprayed with gasoline, burned in a matter of seconds.”
Enrique Santos, the brother of ex-President Eduardo Santos and Colombia’s most influential political writer, declared that the looting and sacking which occurred could have been spontaneous mob action, but that only Communists would have destroyed the house - a national shrine - in which Simon Bolivar passed his last days in Bogota.
“To spread terror, to create panic, are fundamentals of the Communist offensive strategy,” this liberal journalist wrote. He added: “Looting, stealing things that night be useful, can be understood. But why destroy the Palace of San Carlos? Why throw workers and most employees out of work? Because all of this enters into the Communists plan:the creation of panic, of desperation, of disorientation; the spreading of hunger among workers.”
“On the radio, we heard them urging on the incendiarists. And we saw them at the head of the mobs which set the torch to the government palace, which was just the beginning of the barbarism. Then came another Communist tactic: The jails were thrown open, bringing six thousand more criminals into the wild melee.”
“Is it possible to doubt the Communist direction of the uprising? Whoever listened to the radio would have been sufficiently convinced. They had everything ready and were prepared. They called over the radio to cities and towns, to specific individuals in those places to whom they gave specific orders and directions.” 2
The anti-clerical nature of the outbreaks was also a clue. In Barranquilla, priests were hauled from the altars, dragged by the heels in the streets, and beaten and stoned to death by the rioters. “Churches, convents, ecclesiastical colleges, schools and institutions were burned, and the clergy were seized, killed, and in some cases horribly mutilated.”3 The organizers accused the Archbishop Primate of Bogota of directing the counter offensive of the Government and incited the rabble to sack the Archbishop’s palace and destroy art works of great historical value.
Incidentally, we learned that one bit of luck favored us in the Bogota insurrection. During the looting that accompanied the destruction, mobs of men took over the liquor stores and did their best to drink them dry. As a result, the Red leaders were no longer able to control them, and the tide turned against the rioters. Betancourt, actively directing the rioting throughout, observed this development with cold fury. Zuleta Angel heard him lecturing a group of the rabble at the Hotel Granada.
“You stupid, drunken Colombians have lost the revolution because of stolen champagne!” he scolded.
In their office reports, President Ospina Perez and his cabinet assigned blame for the disaster to the international Communist apparatus generally and to Romulo Betancourt’s Democratic Action Party especially. They referred to the presence of Fidel Castro and his fellow Cuban agitators, to the assembly of top foreign Communist leaders in Bogota just before the insurrection, and to the lynching of Roa Sierra, the supposed assassin, before he could talk. The cited the fact that Betancourt’s people sent armed detachments across the border into Colombia as soon as the rioting began.
Betancourt, incidentally, was able under diplomatic immunity to leave openly the country whose hospitality he had so flagrantly abused. At the airport, Zuleta Angel observed him in earnest conversation with three men, just prior to his departure; Antonio Garcia and Gerardo Molina, the two Colombian Red organizers, and Jorge Lalamea, a top Moscow radio propagandist who had beamed poison propaganda to Latin America.
At Bogota, in that spring of 1948, we learned that Fidel Castro, the young radical leader from Cuba, definitely was a Communist.
Evidence of that fact piled up before our eyes and ears during the insurrection. I personally heard the broadcast in which Castro identified himself by name, and as a Cuban. Security Chief Nino referred to “the known Communists, Fidel Castro and Rafael del Pino.” And this was eleven years before the bearded scoundrel’s takeover in Cuba. Fandino Silva, in his book the Bogotazo (Penetracion Sovietica, 33) named Castro, not only as a Communist, but as one of the principal leaders of the uprising.
On April 13, the officer designated by the Colombian police as Detective No. 6 was ordered to proceed to Hotel Claridge and arrest Fidel and Rafael. He learned from the hotel manager that the pair had paid their bills and left the Cuban Embassy that morning. He added that they had arrived at the hotel the night of the 9th “armed with rifles or shotguns and revolvers and with a good haul of loot which they were hardly able to cram into their valises.”
That same hotel manager reported that as the fighting, burning, looting, and murder began to die down, Castro became so nervous and fearful that he begged the hotel staff to hide him. This fact clearly implies that Castro was a physical coward, an opinion often asserted by Cubans who know him well, but vehemently denied, of course, by his admirers.
Another pertinent piece of evidence was contained in a UP dispatch, April 19, 1948, by Lacides Orozco, a newsman who had been brought in from Cartagena to help report the InterAmerican Conference. He stayed at the same hotel as Castro and del Pino and became a good enough friend to introduce them at the United Press offices. Orozco reported that when the two detectives came to the Hotel Claridge to arrest Castro and del Pino, they seized the Cubans’ correspondence “which they opened in my presence, and said that they were in possession of reliable information to the effect that Castro and del Pino had been leading the looting on the 9th. Of April.” The correspondence showed that both Cubans belonged to the Cuban Communist Party, and the letters, which are dated Havana 9th April, mention the Bogota riots.”
Realizing that they were only a jump ahead of arrest for their part in the uprising, Castro requested asylum for himself and del Pino in the Cuban Embassy from Guillermo Belt, head of Cuba’s delegation. He also requested air transportation back to Cuba. Belt was reluctant to connive in the escape of these two characters, so he says, but knuckled under to categorical orders from Dr. Grau San Martin, President of Cuba.
Had the American State Department officials directly concerned with our Latin American policies made any diligent and objective study of the role of Castro in Bogota, they could not have escaped the conclusion that he was both an inveterate enemy of the United States and a rising leader of the international Communist movement. This failure to draw self-evident conclusions from clear evidence resulted in foisting dictatorship, terror and suffering on the Cuban people. It opened the doors for communization to large sections of Latin America and undermined the vital strategic defense position of our country.
Who were these American termites who gnawed away the structure of our foreign policy toward Latin America?
Let it be remembered that the time of the Bogotazo and for a considerable time afterward, the first secretary of the American Embassy in Bogota was one Roy Richard Rubottom, Jr. The second secretary was William Arthur Wieland. I have already discussed these two subversives. I had been forced to get rid of Wieland when I inherited him as my press attache in Rio. Both of these men were eyewitnesses to the destruction of Bogota. Both of these men were eyewitnesses to the destruction of Bogota. Both had full information about Fidel Castro and his Communist activities.
In due course, Diplomat Rubottom was promoted to be assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs. He became a skillful apologist for Fidel Castro. As Rubottom advanced in the foreign service, his enigmatic shadow, Wieland, climbed the bureaucratic ladder a rung or two behind him.
I shall again throw the spotlight of exposure upon both these men when we survey the seizure of power in Cuba by Fidel Castro, and the betrayal of the Cuban Freedom Fighters at the disastrous Bay of Pigs.
Suffice it to add here that officials of the stripe of Rubottom and Wieland, along with such “liberal” media as The New York Times, learned nothing from the Bogota attempted revolution.
For Colombia, the Bogotazo bequeathed a tragic decade of civil war between Conservatives and Liberals, from which the Communists reaped rich harvests. Red guerrillas spawned from the belly of the unnecessary strife were eventually stifled with the aid of U.S. military advisers, but the legacy of violence continued to plague Colombia and threaten her future political stability.
While we were still in the Conference, troops continued moving up from the tropical lowlands to further reinforce President Ospina Paras’s authority. Concerned as always with the welfare of combat soldiers, Marshall noticed that the Colombian troops, newly arrived from the tropical lowlands to help quell the insurrection were shivering in the unaccustomed cold and rain of the Bogota 9,000 high plateau. He at once had General Ridgeway send a wire to Panama requesting an air shipment of 4,000 raincoats. The shipment came, and the soldiers, clad in light cotton uniforms were deeply grateful.
When Marshall sent the bill for about $16,000 to the Department of Defense for payment, it remained buried there under bureaucratic red tape. When he became secretary of Defense, he found the bill, still without authorization for payment. He hopefully routed it to the Red Cross. When he was named head of the Red Cross, he again found that unpaid bill.
“Hell, I guess we’ll just have to pay it,” he said.
The disruption of normal food supplies threatened our effort to resume sessions of the Conference. I was glad to share the stock of delicacies which Edna and I had brought from Rio, but much more food would be needed, since we might have continued under siege for another several days. Unless somebody did something fast, the Communists could still win by default. Delegates, after all, had to eat. Hunger might have driven them back prematurely to their own countries, thus disbanding the Conference.
Accordingly, I asked my flight crew if they would be willing to make a dash for the airport under Marine guard and fly my DC-3 to Panama for a full load of groceries. They jumped at the chance to help out, and made it safely through the snipers, with my personal check for $5,000. The crew proceeded to Panama where they loaded up with hams, cheese, bread, flour, canned goods of all descriptions, bacon, eggs, candy, cigars, cigarettes and more- using the entire amount.
We set up a jeep shuttle from the airport to the garage at my residence, where the supplies were divided up into rations for the twenty-one delegations. It made the difference, since several days did indeed elapse before normal food deliveries to the beleaguered city resumed. The Conference was thus enabled to continue, fully manned, and I had the warm satisfaction of knowing that the battle had not been lost for “want of a horse shoe nail.”
I applied to the State Department for reimbursement of the $5,000 I had expended, and made no charge for the use of my airplane. I was informed that no officer authorized to make disbursements had approved this expenditure, and therefore the Department could not reimburse me. On my next income tax returns I took the amount as a deduction. I was turned down by the Internal Revenue Service, on the grounds that no government agency was involved. Thus I learned, as did General Marshall and as will anyone who rushes in to do a necessary work without bureaucratic approval, that to the bureaucrats official regulations are more important than serving humanity.

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