The Minister in Cuba ( Long ) to the Secretary of State

No. 393


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As reported in previous despatches of the Legation, the President categorically promised to put into effect the decree which was agreed upon on August 17th. General Agramonte was not in favor of this, and threatened to resign if it were effected. The President, nevertheless, stated his determination to publish the decree as agreed upon even if it should result in General Agramonte’s resignation.

Doctor Montoro wished to save General Agramonte, and proposed that the matter should be settled by means of an inter-departmental order which would not be published in the official gazette, and in a quieter way would bring about the same result as the decree, but would spare General Agramonte from any implication of having received a bribe offered to him as reported in the Legation’s despatch No. 362 of August 27th.81

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The order was published yesterday and was not in the form of an inter-departmental order to spare General Agramonte’s feelings as originally stated, but as a proclamation, and the sense of it has been very materially changed. A copy of it taken from El Mundo of the 8th instant, and the English translation of it published in the Havana Post of the same date, are enclosed herewith.

It will be noticed that the wording of this proclamation differs considerably from the original text transmitted to the Department in the Legation’s despatch No. 312 of August 3rd.81 Articles 2, 3, 5 and 6, are materially different as they throw the entire burden of clearing the docks on the American Rice Exporters.

The American rice exporters cannot assume the responsibility of clearing this rice off the docks, as they would thereby admit the validity of the Cuban consignees refused [refusal] to accept it. And by Article 6, if the rice is not removed from the docks within the time specified, the decree will be cancelled.

In view of these divergencies there would appear to be no alternative except to insist with the President that he publish the original decree, even though it might cause the resignation of General Agramonte. [Page 76] The present substitute appears to have been drawn up by the Secretary of the Treasury, Doctor Cancio, with a view to render nugatory the original decree the stipulations of which are circumvented.

The first article also stipulates that the decree will be in effect only until January 1st. This is not sufficient time to induce the Cuban consignees to accept the merchandise sent to them, and they have thus far shown no more readiness to meet their obligations than they showed three months ago. Doctor Montoro stated on September 4th, that the time limit of the decree could not be made longer because the authorization under which it is issued is based on certain war powers given to the President, and that these expire six months after the exchange of ratifications of the Peace Treaty. He explained that this time limit did not extend beyond January 1st.

Mr. White pointed out to him that the exchange of ratifications was effected with Germany on March 8th, and, therefore, if it were based only on that the time would expire in four days; but that the President had informed him that he was calculating from the exchange of ratifications of the Austrian treaty, and that although this treaty has been signed and ratified by Cuba and the copies sent to Paris, the exchange of ratifications, nevertheless, has not yet taken place, and that there is still a six months period in which the decree can run. Doctor Montoro then promised to change this date when the order should be issued. When the proclamation was issued the old date was left in. Doctor Montoro then stated that this was done on account of the adverse comments which would be made by the sugar interests, as rice is the staple article of food of the laborers and the zafra is about to begin.

Doctor Montoro promised that the decree would be prolonged for the requisite time. Mr. White pointed out to him that it would be much better to have it done once for all rather than to make two decrees of it. Mr. White added that the proclamation was very unsatisfactory and the Legation would be obliged to protest against it as soon as the full report on it should be received from the attorney of the American rice exporters.

This matter will be taken up with the President, and a demand be made that some practical solution be given immediately.

I have [etc.]

Boaz W. Long

Executive Decree of September 6, 1920, Regulating Importations of Rice 83

Whereas, the Secretary of State has informed this presidency of his desire that a formula be found that would quickly and satisfactorily [Page 77] bring a settlement of the conflict over the rice imported into Cuba, by virtue of sales made by American exporters to local merchants and others throughout the territory of the island, and on which conflict the government of the United States has already acted through its diplomatic representation in this island: and,

Whereas, the Cuban minister to Washington, in a cable dated August 24, confirmed by letter of August 26, which cable and letter were turned over to the Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor, informed the Department of State that he had expressly been called by the State Department of the United States of America to discuss the rice question, and had been informed of the desire of that Government to see a quick and satisfactory settlement reached between the merchants interested: and that measures be adopted by the Cuban Government that would settle the controversy, which could by no means be neglected; and further urged that a prompt answer be given, as said Government thought it necessary to insist that measures should be taken to secure the desired settlement agreed upon, or that another be suggested that would protect the interests of the American exporters involved in the affair; and,

Whereas, the cable of August 24 from the Cuban minister at Washington stated that the American Department of State had informed him in the interview that it did not want to impose an unreasonable price on the Cuban consumer, but that owing to the special circumstances of the case, a settlement of the affair was urged, and that measures be taken by the Cuban government to that effect; and,

Whereas, in a document approved by Dr. Lavedan, consulting attorney for the American rice interests, it stated that there is a rice stock at different ports of the island, and especially Havana, that far exceeds the current needs of the population, and that could not be consumed in any less than eight months, the stock being over one million bags, and one of the causes of the harbor and waterfront congestion;

Therefore, it is advisable to state that the Cuban government has had no part in bringing about the situation, which is owing to the fact that unsettled market conditions caused by the European war, and the appearance of the first peace crops brought about an excess of speculation between local importers and exporters at different markets that has created such conflicts as that of rice in other branches of the trade; and,

Whereas, the economical objections pointed out against this resolution by the Secretary of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor do not meet the circumstances of the unsettled market conditions that we are still suffering from on account of the European war:

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Therefore, by virtue of the above considerations, it is incumbent on the President of the Republic to act in order to bring a settlement of the controversy; and, acting under the authority granted me by Article 2 of the Subsistence Law,

I resolve

  • First: That from this day our Consuls and Consular Agents will not vise documents in connection with rice shipments to Cuba unless so authorized by cable from the Cuban government, until January 1, 1921.
  • Second: Record of rice consignments imported into Cuba to date will be kept at the Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor, so as to avoid profiteering in a food article extensively consumed in Cuba, and that all such rice consignments at present in stock at docks and bonded warehouses of Havana, and ports throughout the island, shall be removed by importers without any delay, once all due custom obligations have been complied with.
  • Third: That at said warehouses and others that may be bonded under the responsibility of customs collectors, there shall always be sufficient space to receive and store from 150,000 to 200,000 bags of rice upon presentation of the importation license until the date mentioned above, January 1, 1921.
  • Fourth: That import licenses will be issued by the Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor on the report of the corresponding Collector of Customs that there is sufficient bonded warehouse space to store the amount of rice in question, either public or retained by the importer.
  • Fifth: In the case of failure to remove rice consignments within the 30 days specified from the docks or bonded warehouses, storage charges for the following ten days will be double, with an additional charge of 25 per cent for every following week of seven days of such delay.
  • Sixth: Failure to remove rice consignments from docks and warehouses within the time specified will lead to cancellation of the measures of restriction upon importation.
  • Seventh: Licenses will be reported to the Secretaries of State and Finance.

The Secretary of State will forward a copy of this resolution to Consuls and Consular Agents, and the Secretary of Finance will see that the measure is observed at Customs Departments.

M. G. Menocal

E. Sanchez Agramonte
Secretary of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Published in the Habana Post, Sept. 8, 1920.