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

No. 2816

Sir: Referring to the Department’s telegram No. 313, October 21, 7 p.m., and my despatch No. 2802 of October 23,58 I have the honor to report that I handed to Dr. Cortina yesterday afternoon the confidential memorandum (text accompanying despatch No. 2802) indicating our Government’s interest in purchasing the entire 1942 sugar crop.

This information did not of course come altogether as a surprise to Dr. Cortina, since there has been a good deal of speculation by the local press in recent weeks concerning possible crop purchase proposals on the part of our Government. The Minister said that he could not give me any immediate official indication of the attitude of his Government, but that he would at once inform the President and other interested Cuban officials, and that he would let me have their preliminary views as soon as possible.

With reference to the question of sending a Cuban representative to Washington, Dr. Cortina inquired whether the purpose of the trip should be held as confidential or whether it would be proper for his Government to let our proposal be known. (Although it was left that the matter would be held in confidence pending word from me, I anticipate that the proposal will almost inevitably become known at an early date.)

Emphasizing that he was speaking in a personal rather than official vein, Dr. Cortina then said that he doubted whether it would be [Page 239] desirable for his Government to sell the entire crop at a fixed price. He explained that “since sugar is money in Cuba, we have to use the dollars received for our sugar to buy all our essential commodities—the majority of which are obtainable at present only from the United States.” The Minister pointed out that more than 90% of Cuba’s imports now come from the United States and that, while Cuba wished to cooperate with us very closely in this matter as in all others, he did not feel it would be fair for us to ask Cuba to sell its 1942 zafra at a fixed price, unless the prices of Cuban imports could also be fixed, and on the same relative level.

Although I made no comment to the Minister, I am strongly impressed by the reasonableness of this point of view. It is quite true that at the present time Cuba must buy practically everything from the United States, and I do not believe it would either be equitable or in the long run be advantageous to us to create a situation in which, having sold her crop, Cuba would have no means of meeting rising prices for the American products required by this country. In my opinion one solution would be for the crop to be sold on some formula basis, rather than on a fixed-price basis.

I made the informal suggestion to Dr. Cortina that while we should welcome whatever representative his Government wished to send to Washington, I thought it would be helpful for Dr. Mañas59 to take part in the discussions, not only because of his ability and his intimate knowledge of the Cuban sugar situation but also because of his understanding of our own Government. I added that I thought it essential that an English-speaking representative be sent. (I of course assume that Dr. Albertini60 will also be available to assist the Cuban representative.)

Respectfully yours,

George S. Messersmith
  1. Latter not printed.
  2. Arturo Manuel Mañas, representative of the Cuban sugar mill owners.
  3. Oscar Diaz Albertini, representative of the Cuban Sugar Stabilization Institute, a Government entity that supervised the production and export of sugar.