Memorandum by the Agricultural Attaché in Cuba (Minneman) to the Ambassador in Cuba (Braden)5

Mr. Ambassador: The Attached memorandum regarding the planned projects under the $25,000,000 loan is particularly interesting when compared with the original Cuban report and the recommendations made by the United States commission just two years ago. The following shows the amounts originally recommended for the various projects as compared with Fomento’s present plan:

Original Request Present Proposal
Project ($1,000) ($1,000)
Water, sewers, paving:
Santiago 900 3,000
Guantánamo 200* 3,000
Central Highway 1,500 6,000
Secondary roads and repair 4,000 6,000
Country roads 5,000 2,000
Irrigation 2,350 2,000
Farm machinery 1,230 500
Refrigerated warehouses—6 520 1,500
Warehouses (regular) 100 0
Reforestation 730 0
Rehabilitation 3,000 0
Agricultural research 600 0

The original recommendation was to the effect that the major portion of the loan should be used for agricultural projects and roads. The present plan greatly reduces the agricultural share and omits entirely several items such as research, reforestation and rehabilitation.

Roads: Note that the estimate for the Central Highway repair has been increased from $1,500,000 to $6,000,000 due, no doubt, in part to the use of structural steel and in part to the fact that the Highway has deteriorated considerably since the first report was made. The original detailed Cuban estimate of $1,500,000 was submitted about October 1940; of this $660,000 was allocated for resurfacing. [Page 249] Secondary roads, originally $4,000,000, now increased to $6,000,000. Country roads originally $5,000,000, now reduced to $2,000,000. This last item our commission felt to be very important in order that Cuba might have some all season access to agricultural areas over solid roads, even though not hard-surfaced. This construction of country roads would require very little imported material but would provide much employment.

Irrigation: There has been very little change; the original appropriation was $2,350,000 and is now $2,000,000. However, progress is still very slow. Mr. Vetter,6 the United States engineer who has been employed by the Export-Import Bank and by Fomento to supervise these projects, has not as yet obtained adequate assistance for carrying out his work.

Refrigerators: The six were originally estimated to cost $500,000, but have now been increased to $1,500,000. This is a very high cost and a large increase, considering that present plans are for only 14 percent more space than the original project. These refrigerated warehouses were to be used primarily for storing black beans (to prevent insect infestation) and for potatoes and onions. We have always maintained that refrigeration for dry beans is not necessary, economical or adequate. However, some refrigerated space in outlying areas is needed for potatoes and onions and some could possibly also be used for dairy products.

Farm Equipment: Originally recommended $1,200,000 but now $500,000. Under war conditions, it is obviously correct to reduce sharply. Almost any specified quantity of machinery, if used in the United States, would contribute more to the war effort than if used in poorly organized Cuban production. Furthermore, it would be cheaper for the United States, and more effective, if we paid higher prices immediately for the products we want from Cuba than it would be to supply machinery to Cuba.

The following projects originally recommended are now not included at all:

Research: Originally $600,000 was recommended for agricultural research, about ⅚ of which was for the 5 year operation of general, democratic, research foundation to which all major industries would be made to contribute. About ⅙was recommended for banana research. Although all of this is not immediately requisite to winning the war, I believe it is probably more important than some of the other projects. Something must be done in the field of agricultural research.

Reforestation: Originally $730,000 was strongly recommended to provide employment and to get started on vital and permanent reforestation. [Page 250] Plans have been prepared by the Cuban forestry people, but Fomento has left them cold. Meanwhile, charcoal and lumber prices rise and Cuba has to import more lumber than it exports.

Warehouses: Not refrigerated. Originally $100,000, intended for storing corn and such products in rural areas.

Rural Rehabilitation: Originally $3,000,000. Recommended with the proviso that the work would be started slowly under trained technicians from the United States. Obviously this may well be delayed during the war, although a beginning should be made on a small scale.

P[aul] G. M[inneman]
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Cuba in his despatch No. 2894 of April 26; received April 30.
  2. Water only. [Footnote in the original.]
  3. Carl P. Vetter.