837.154/169: Airgram

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

A–1221. Amadeo López Castro has called on me with a representative of the consulting engineer9 to say that the Cuban Government is now in a position to award on short notice contracts for the reconstruction of the Central Highway. Before doing so however the Cuban Government seeks assurances from us that certain materials and supplies (mentioned below) will be available in the minimum amounts required and over the necessary periods. López Castro states that informal assurances in the premises were given to him in Washington, adding that obviously there would be no purpose in the American Government’s offering to underwrite the project and to provide machinery unless we are also prepared to furnish fuel, et cetera.

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The Comisión de Fomento, in collaboration with the consulting engineer, has prepared the following statement of requirements:

500,000 gallons of gasoline for use of 300 trucks. This amount will suffice for the entire reconstruction job, and would be consumed at the rate of approximately 35,000 gallons per month on the average. The possibility was discussed of substituting carburante from locally produced alcohol and this requirement is under urgent study between the Embassy and ORPA.10 We shall be in a position shortly to submit recommendations in the premises.
1,000 tires to be delivered at the rate of one-third every three months, beginning as soon as possible after the award of the contracts. (López Castro spoke of “within one month of the award”.) This is also under study with ORPA and the Agenda de Importación y Exportación, on the basis of supplying these tires from the estimates of supply for the third and subsequent quarters, and having in mind the possibility of supplying at least a part of the tire requirements by the local factory. Maximum conservation of tires could be secured using a procedure such as that developed by the Metals Reserve Company at Santiago de Cuba.
Asphalt. López Castro states that he was assured in Washington several months ago, at the time the asphalt-spreading machinery was under discussion, that the necessary supply would be made available. He states that local asphalt cannot be used for this purpose, and the Embassy’s information confirms this. Because of the difficulty of handling asphalt by tanker (according to the consulting engineer this was tried and proved to be impracticable at the Guantánamo Naval Station) and the difficulty if not impossibility of shipping liquid asphalt by tank car via Seatrain, López Castro desires to import heavy petroleum to be processed by the Standard Oil Refinery at Habana, the gasoline and gas oil by-product (only very small relative amounts of which would be obtainable) to be deducted from the regular Cuban quota, as was done with the by-product of asphalt production by that company for our Army airport at San Julián.

López Castro believes that the gasoline, tires, and asphalt should be separate from, and if necessary in addition to Cuba’s regular quota—that is, that they shall be on a war essential basis.

As indicated above, I shall submit detailed reports on the three requirement schedules at a very early date. In view of the urgency of the matter and the fact that the Cuban Government is understandably anxious to get to work on this project as quickly as possible (having in mind also the dead-season and its utility in providing employment) I should appreciate it if the Department would give preferred attention to the problem and if possible indicate, in advance of the receipt of the detailed studies, its general attitude toward 1) the possibility of treating the requirements on an urgent basis, and 2) the proposition that these supplies should be ex-quota.

  1. Frederick Snare Corporation.
  2. Oficina de Regulación de Precios y Abastecimientos.