800.8836/738: Telegram

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

100. My telegram No. 95, February 28, noon.34 The Minister of State35 has expressed great concern over the maritime transportation problem. During a lengthy conversation this morning he made the following points:

That reports from Concheso are “altogether discouraging” notwithstanding sympathy with which the Ambassador has been [Page 348] received and the good faith of our Government which Cortina emphasized he did not for a moment question.
Because of Cuba’s nearness to the United States and the traditional relationship between the two countries special consideration of Cuba’s minimum requirements ought not [sic] to be accorded. Cuba has virtually no merchant marine and has always confidently depended on the United States.
The Cuban people cannot understand why if vessels can be sent for our requirements (sugars and scrap for example) Cuba’s requirements should receive less attention.
Cuba has cooperated to the fullest extent possible as witness the delivery to us of the former Finnish vessel Kou “which is now not even being used in Cuban-American trade”.
Unless Cuba’s vegetable crop (peak this month) can be moved, hundreds of small Cuban producers will suffer disastrous losses.
Public opinion is becoming very difficult to control and our enemies are capitalizing the situation (in conjunction with the general military situation) and saying that if the United States is unable even to provide adequate transportation between Cuba and the United States this proves our inability in other directions, et cetera.

I, of course, endeavored to pacify the Minister but it is obvious that he feels very strongly on the subject and not improbable that López Castro36 has been instructed to express these views during his forthcoming visit to Washington.

While the situation from the point of view of Cuba is far from satisfactory, I doubt whether any substantial losses have yet occurred through failure to move Cuban products (such losses will however become inevitable this month unless relief is afforded). The passenger situation is extremely difficult, present facilities being confined to Pan American Airways. Inadequacy of southbound freight service has thus far caused inconvenience rather than loss. I do not believe, however, that the Minister exaggerated the extent of public feeling or the capital which our enemies here are attempting to make of the situation. The Habana newspapers are clamouring daily for more shipping.

If it is possible to do so, I think it would be helpful if a statement could be made to Concheso or López Castro in sympathetic terms outlining what we may be in a position to do in the immediate future and in particular making some assurance with regard to moving the March vegetable crop.

  1. Not printed; in this telegram the Chargé reported that the Ward Line had no vessels for the southbound trade and suggested that the sugar ships bring cargo on their return trips to Cuba (800.8836/737).
  2. José Manuel Cortina.
  3. Cuban Secretary of the Presidency.