837.61351/2830: Telegram

The Chargé in Cuba (Briggs) to the Secretary of State

54. The Cuban Government is faced with a difficult situation because of the shortage of low grade alcohol for local consumption and the press is filled with allegations that the Government in selling the sugar crop to us failed to protect the interests of the Cuban people; alcohol being “the poor man’s fuel”.

As the Department is aware 34,000,000 gallons of high test are reserved in crop contract for domestic use and while the 9,000,000 gallons of blackstrap also reserved would be approximately sufficient to produce all Cuba’s 1942 alcohol requirements, the Cuban Government is reluctant to reduce domestic blackstrap prices to a figure which would permit sale of alcohol at around heretofore prevailing prices as it fears that any reduction in molasses prices below the official sales price might cause an unfavorable reaction in the United States. The 9,000,000 gallon blackstrap volume is moreover reportedly not sufficient to permit profitable operation of local distilleries.

I have been told therefore to place the following suggestion urgently before our Government: Cuba is prepared to convert its 34,000,000 gallons of high test into approximately 20,000,000 gallons of [Page 316] 190 proof industrial alcohol (presumably at prevailing market prices and with a waiver of existing United States duties). Local capacity is 1½ to 2 million gallons of such alcohol per month and capacity could be reached in approximately 30 days.

While I am not unaware of the possible connection between this project and previous efforts on the part of Cuban distillers to [apparent omission] alcohol in the United States Mañas78 informs me that by processing the 34,000,000 gallons of high test plus the 9,000,000 gallons of blackstrap economical operation of local distilleries would permit production of fuel and other alcohol for domestic use at prices low enough to solve existing acute fuel alcohol problem. Mañas states that even on above basis plants would operate at only 50% of capacity.

A telegraphic reply would be appreciated.

  1. Arturo Manuel Mañas, representative of the sugar mill owners.