The Consul General at Habana ( Cameron ) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 12.]
Sir: I have the honor to state that in accordance with intimations previously communicated to the Department, a conference was held on August 4 with Dr. Gabriel Landa, Secretary of the Treasury, for the purpose of enlisting his cooperation in suppressing smuggling operations between ports of Cuba and the United States.
In compliance with the Department’s instruction of June 14, 1934 (File No. 811.114 Cuba/574),5 Dr. Landa was informed that it is the view of the Government of the United States that the bond of 60 centavos per liter on export shipments of alcohol and liquor carried by vessels not having a regular itinerary or fixed route, originally established to protect the Cuban Treasury, also contributed substantially to discouraging illicit liquor traffic between Cuba and the United States, and that the reduction to 20 centavos per liter, made in January, 1933, largely removed this factor of discouragement.
This opportunity also was taken to bring to the Secretary’s attention the recent press release by the Treasury Department at Washington, concerning the marked increase in smuggling activities on the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico, which release was enclosed with the Department’s instruction of July 23, 1934.5
Reference also was made to the Secretary’s instruction of July 30, 1934,5 to Collectors of Customs in Cuba (copy transmitted with despatch No. 117 of August 7, 1934),5 which embodies an instruction issued by the former Secretary of the Treasury on May 26, 1934, containing the following provision:
“The amount of the bond should be sufficient to compensate in case of failure to pay duties to the United States Government.”
The desirability was suggested of stipulating the amount of the bond deemed to be “sufficient” within the meaning of that provision and that past experience would indicate that a rate of 60 cents per liter for the production of a landing certificate would contribute substantially to discouraging illicit traffic. It also was suggested that such bonds be required before granting permission to withdraw alcohol or liquor from the distillery warehouse.[Page 394]
In accordance with the Department’s instruction of June 14, 1934, (File No. 811.114 Cuba/574), occasion was taken to request that the Cuban Government deny to the British vessel H. S. Albert II, under that name or any other name, the right for a period of five years to enter or clear from any Cuban port with alcohol or liquor, in accordance with the provisions of Section II of the Convention to Suppress Smuggling, and that similar action be taken with respect to the British vessel Semiramis.
Secretary Landa stated that these matters would receive attention, designating Dr. Roberto Netto of the Treasury Department to initiate any additional regulations that might be necessary. Dr. Netto later called at the Consulate General for a conference on the subject.
Secretary Landa briefly reviewed the events that led to the seizure of the Reo II at Mariel, as reported in despatch No. 118 of this date.6 He stated that he felt personally that Cuba was under moral obligations to carry out the provisions of the Convention with the United States and that it was his desire to fulfill those obligations. …
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As evidence of his earnest desire to suppress the illegal trade in liquor, Dr. Landa stated that on July 30 he had issued an order forbidding, without his personal approval, the issuance of permits to withdraw from Habana distilleries alcohol and liquor for export at other ports. He stated that he would not approve the issuance of such permits.
Dr. Netto has proposed a plan to apply similar provisions throughout the Island, for the purpose of preventing alcohol from being transported for export from the town where it is manufactured, to another port in the same district. He admitted, however, that the efficiency of such a plan depends, as do present rules and regulations, upon the honesty and cooperation of the officials in charge.
It is suggested that the Department might desire the Consulate General to convey, through Secretary Landa, to the Cuban Government an expression of thanks for the efforts and steps that have recently been taken by the latter to suppress smuggling. It is probable that such an expression would strengthen the moral position of those officials endeavoring to carry out the Cuban Government’s obligations under the Convention in the face of considerable opposition from some newspapers and a certain element of the population.