837.51 Public Works Debt/214

The Ambassador in Cuba (Wright) to the Secretary of State

No. 1880

Sir: In continuation of previous correspondence concerning the settlement of the Public Works Debt, I have the honor to enclose here-with [Page 526]a memorandum of my conversation with the President of the Republic on the 17th instant in further relation thereto—from which it will appear that the President is now of the opinion that the legislation as originally drafted will soon be passed by the Cuban Congress.

Respectfully yours,

J. Butler Wright
[Enclosure]

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Cuba (Wright)

The recent memoranda, transmitted by despatches, have explained the kaleidoscopic changes which have taken place in the matter of the settlement of the Public Works Debt. The most recent development appears to be encouraging:

When I called upon the President of the Republic yesterday in order to deliver to him the expression of President Roosevelt’s appreciation of his prompt and satisfactory reply with regard to the messages sent by President Roosevelt to Chancellor Hitler and Premier Mussolini,13 I had it in mind to inquire of the President when I might discuss with him the matter of the claims of Warren Brothers Incorporated and Purdy and Henderson Company—for it will be recalled from my despatch No. 1871 of April 14, 1939,14 that I had communicated the relevant portions of Mr. Welles’ letter to me, of March 25th,15 to Colonel Batista, but not to the President.

The President, however, most unexpectedly, broached this subject himself by saying: “I think the matter of the ‘obligaciones’ is now satisfactorily adjusted and I am glad to tell you so. Of course, every one knows that there has been a slight cloud in connection with the claim of Purdy and Henderson Company but, in view of existing circumstances, it seems much wiser to pass that over.”

As I felt that I could not allow this repeated aspersion upon Purdy and Henderson Company to pass entirely unnoticed, I replied that neither my Government nor I was prepared to admit that there had been any irregularity in connection with this claim and I emphasized the fact that it had been examined and passed upon by two Commissions and no less than three Secretaries of the Treasury: I added that I had received assurances from the present Secretary of the Treasury that the examination which he and Señor Montoulieu16 had conducted [Page 527]had satisfied the Secretary as to the justice of the claim and that he saw no reason for again bringing up the contentious question of the percentage of remuneration, which had already been accepted on behalf of the Government. The President made no reply to this observation which I wished to place on record with him as well as with Colonel Batista.

In order to make the record especially clear, I improved the opportunity to explain to him that while I had discussed the matter with Colonel Batista and with the Secretary of the Treasury pursuant to instructions, I had not assumed the initiative in discussing it with members of the legislative body—and had only done so when such legislators broached the subject to me: the President stated that he was aware of my attitude, and he was good enough to say that he appreciated it and commended it. I then said that I was in receipt of a letter from Mr. Welles which authorized me to speak in his name both to the President and to Colonel Batista with regard to this matter (I refer to Mr. Welles’ letter dated March 25th) and that I had conveyed this message orally to Colonel Batista some days ago—at which time he had informed me that he would communicate it to the President: the President replied that Colonel Batista had done so. I then said that I trusted that he (the President) would immediately recognize the fact that I had deferred my representations to him pending the result of my conversation with Batista although, as I had said, I had intended to request of him that day the opportunity for the communication of that message: the President replied that he was so aware.

I then said to him that our position could be concisely stated as follows: we were still ready and willing to extend to Cuba the advantages which had been recited and discussed in the formulation of the so-called Ten Points agreed upon during Colonel Batista’s visit to Washington;17 that the continued procrastination in the matter of this Public Works indebtedness had assumed such forms that I had been reluctantly constrained to inform all appropriate officials of the Cuban Government who had discussed the matter with me, that no credits could be expected unless or until these recognized obligations had been met; and that the present apparent reluctance of Congress to do so was jeopardizing the Supplemental Trade Agreement—to say nothing of the other matters enumerated in the aforementioned Ten Points. I added that when the legislators had spoken to me I had observed that if the delay and non-fulfillment were due to a recalcitrant opposition, it seemed to me that the responsibility should be placed squarely upon [Page 528]the shoulders of such opposition and that the public should be aware of the fact that those parties were the ones who were to blame: I added, however, that this was all predicated upon the assumption that the Government of Cuba desired to receive these advantages and that, while my Government was still desirous of according them upon a reciprocal basis, it was for the Government of Cuba to determine whether it desired to receive them or not.

I closed by saying that these observations might perhaps appear inopportune in view of what he had just told me, but that I wished to place on record with him, as I had done with Colonel Batista, the attitude of our Government in the simplest terms. The President expressed acquiescence and added to his previous assurances the fact that he had spoken to, and was continuing that day to speak with, various members of Congress.

J. B[utler] W[right]
  1. April 14, vol. I, pp. 130 133. For reply of President Laredo Bru, on April 15, see Department of State, Press Releases, April 22, 1939, p. 326.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not found in Department files.
  4. Edouardo I. Montoulieu, official of the Cuban Treasury Department.
  5. Colonel Batista attended the Armistice Day ceremonies in November 1938 and at that time discussed U. S. relations with Cuba at the Department of State. No memoranda of these conversations have been found in Department files.