837.61351/2986: Telegram

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

245. My telegram No. 244, April 25, 9 p.m.87 It is obviously going to be difficult to induce the Cuban Government to agree to extensive use of Habana for sugar shipments on any basis except “war necessity” (not “convenience”).

It was not until the immediate problem had been placed before the Minister of State,89 and Saladrigas90 in the strongest possible way that authorization for the two ships to be loaded here was granted. During a meeting this afternoon with the latter, Mañas and the [Page 322] Secretary of Labor,93 likewise present, the reluctance of the Government was based on allegedly inevitable labor difficulties. The Prime Minister stated that while the large crop is benefiting hacendados, colonos and sugar laborers, relatively light exports to date have meant that port workers have not yet shared in those benefits. Furthermore the Government is promoting a full scale labor rally in the capital on May 1, and according to Saladrigas it is so fearful that if word of any plan to bring sugar regularly and in large amounts to Habana becomes current, agitation and disturbances will occur, that he has told the Institute to load the two arriving vessels with sugar already here or in the vicinity (even though earmarked and in hold for other purposes) rather than bringing it by rail from more distant ports. (While I do not fully share the Government’s apprehensions, I get the same story from López Castro also, and as the Department is aware he is very close to the President. Moreover Batista’s views towards labor are well known.)

I told the Prime Minister that while I sincerely appreciated the Government’s prompt consideration of the problem placed before it by the Institute (my telegram no. 234, April 24, 10 a.m.94) and especially the instructions given the Institute to get the two ships loaded here without delay, I did not regard the problem as settled thereby. I said that the Cuban Government should now squarely face the possibility that unless a much greater use of Habana can be agreed to and supported by the Cuban Government a substantial amount of sugar may have to be left in Cuba, with all that implies. I went on to say that a third ship (Department’s telegram No. 20194) will be coming shortly after May 1, and that according to the information given me by the Naval Attaché95 that vessel also will probably have to come to Habana.

I emphasized that two considerations are involved in Habana loading: safety as dictated by the American Navy, and the quickest and most efficient utilization of the limited tonnage available—both objectives of the highest importance to the successful prosecution of the war and of equal interest to the United States—and all the United Nations. I said that the American Government is by no means unsympathetic to Cuban labor, as demonstrated on many occasions, but that I doubted very much indeed whether my Government no matter how favorably the matter might be presented would understand opposition to much less agitation against measures dictated by the war situation. I concluded by expressing confidence that the Cuban Government [Page 323] would place the matter frankly before local labor leaders in that light, and that Cuban labor would respond favorably thereto.

(Privately I am not so sure.) Such incidents as sending away in ballast without explanation the vessel mentioned in my telegram no. 232, April 23, 5 p.m.,96 with 8 million gallons of molasses now in Habana port terminal, do little to bolster our case. A rumor has already been started that the proposed use of Habana is designed to benefit American terminal owners (Ward Line and United Fruit) at the expense of Cuban interests, elsewhere. Finally the present administration here has shown itself from the start somewhat less than anxious to take a strong stand on a matter involving labor.

  1. Not printed.
  2. José Manuel Cortina.
  3. Carlos Saladrigas, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
  4. Oscar Gans.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Not printed.
  7. Maj. Hayne D. Boyden.
  8. Not printed.