Any troublesome ministers or priests he could not drive out of the country, he simply arrested and expelled. Last week, in one of his most far-reaching and irrational purges of the clergy to date, Castro jailed 40 Baptist ministers and 13 Baptist laymen, including two Americans: the Rev. Herbert Caudill, 61, a missionary in Cuba for 35 years and head of the 9,000-member Baptist Convention of Western Cuba, and Caudill's son-in-law, the Rev. James David Fite, who has been in Cuba since 1960. They joined seven other Baptist ministers — none of them Americans —jailed in recent weeks.
To hear Radio Havana tell it, the Bautistas are nothing but Bible-packing CIA men. "Caudill," intoned Castro broadcasts, "gathered much military in formation, also information of an economic and political nature, which was turned over to espionage agencies in the U.S. At the same time, he received instructions and support from the U.S., issued propaganda against the revolution, helped and concealed counter-revolutionaries and trafficked in foreign exchange."
The U.S. State Department dismissed the charges as "absurd." But Washington was plainly concerned about the safety of the 60 Baptists. The arrests came only a few days after Castro executed a customs official accused of giving Cuban export figures to the U.S.—a far less serious offense than the crimes imputed to the Baptists.