837.51 Cooperation Program/206a

The Under Secretary of State (Welles) to the Chairman of the War Production Board (Nelson)

My Dear Mr. Nelson: I refer to my letter of December 12 and your letter of December 21, 1942,4 both addressed to the President, regarding materials for certain projects requested by President Batista of Cuba at the time of his visit to Washington. At that time you indicated that we could take up two of these projects, the water supply and sewage disposal system at Santiago, and the water supply system at Guantánamo, in February or March.

I have held off discussing these projects further with you pending completion of a number of other economic arrangements with Cuba. President Batista has now sent me a message that he is most anxious to begin at once to carry out his personal commitments to the cities of his home province that the long overdue sanitary improvements would be resumed during his tenure of office. The health conditions in Guantánamo, adjacent to our Naval Station, are deplorable and constitute a menace not only to the health of the Cuban residents, but of our naval personnel. The water supply of Santiago, the second city of Cuba, and a very important port for sugar and for transshipment to other islands, is also extremely bad. Moreover, the inability of the United States to provide shipping for the transportation of Cuban export products, notably sugar, is occasioning a severe measure of economic depression, and this is particularly acute in the east end of the island, where these cities are located. The carrying out of these works projects would thus afford a measure of relief to the local unemployed.

As you know, the total material requirements of these projects are very small, and President Batista has indicated his willingness to deduct the iron and steel from the usual small allocations which the War Production Board has been making available for Cuba. In addition, he is prepared to have engineers of this Government go carefully through the projects eliminating all but the most essential critical materials, so that the net strain will be very small indeed. Moreover, although the employment aspect of the projects is important to him, the political aspect is so important that he is prepared if necessary [Page 247] to see them proceed very slowly, thus spreading any use of critical materials very thinly over a considerable period of time.

Only with great difficulty has the President of Cuba been able to explain to his people the inevitability of war sacrifices and the difficulties with which the United States is faced in cooperating with Cuba to mitigate the dislocations which have arisen from the shortage of critical materials and of shipping. Furthermore, in military as well as economic fields we have unfortunately been able to carry out only in part the programs to which we had obligated ourselves previously. The President and the people of Cuba have collaborated wholeheartedly with us right down the line of military and economic matters, but the President fears difficulties in continuing to carry out his broad policy of cooperation if the political and social problems arising in Cuba, especially in the eastern end of the island, are not at least partially alleviated. He believes that the carrying out of his personal pledges to complete the two projects which I have mentioned will do most, with but a small cost in materials, to take care of the situation.

After the most careful survey of the Cuban situation, I am forced to concur with President Batista’s analysis of his situation and wish to emphasize to you the political importance of these small projects as contrasted with the small expenditure of materials contemplated. I request, therefore, that you approve the assignment of materials to permit these projects to go forward.

Sincerely yours,

Sumner Welles
  1. Neither found In Department files.