Memorandum by Mr. Howard H. Wilson of the Division of Caribbean and Central American Affairs 19

Attached letter of April 22 from Navy20 requests representations to the Cuban Government for the extension, for another year beginning June 4, 1946, of the temporary authority of the United States to operate a pumping plant which supplies water to the Base at Guantánamo.21

The background of the question is as follows:

In 1938 the Henri Schueg Chassin Company, of Cuba, constructed a pumping plant on its land near the base and concluded a twenty-year water supply contract with the Base. As the capacity of the plant proved inadequate, and as the Company apparently did not wish to finance a new or larger plant, the Navy had a second pumping plant constructed on the Company’s land, with the idea of having the Company operate this one also. Since no agreement was reached on the terms of operation, the Navy proceeded to operate the second plant itself, and continues to do so.

The Cuban Government has consented to this arrangement for the second plant, only on a year-to-year basis, and with the qualification that permanent arrangements must in any case be reached six months after the end of the war. It has been that Government’s contention, that under Article V of the Agreement for Military and Naval Cooperation of September 7, 1942, the United States is obliged to turn over the pumping plant to the Cuban Government six months after the end of the war (Des. 3303, June 1, 1943, from Habana, file 811.34537/57322). This contention was refuted in an unanswered memorandum of May 14, 1943, presented by Ambassador Braden to President Batista (ibid., enclosure no. 4).

Although it is possible that when authorization is requested again to operate the second plant for another year, Cuba may, in line with her airbase tactics,23 now counter with a request that we turn over the [Page 708] second pumping plant to her entirely, the Cuban Government might be reluctant to do this without first satisfying the Company, which is quite influential, that the latter would not be adversely affected with respect to its own plant and its existing water supply contract with the Base.

In any event it appears that since negotiations to fix the future status of the plant have not progressed, although they have now been in progress for nearly five years, we have no alternative but to request such authorization on the same basis as before.24 The Embassy has already been requested for its recommendations for further action; and their recommendations will undoubtedly cover the subject of the Navy Department’s letter.

  1. Addressed to CCA—Mr. Walker and Mr. Barber.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For texts of agreements of 1903 by which the United States leased from Cuba the land and water areas comprising the Guantánamo Naval Base, see Foreign Relations, 1903, pp. 350353; for text of the agreement which continued the terms of this lease, see article III of the treaty of relations, ibid., 1934, vol. v, p. 184.
  4. Not printed.
  5. See note from the Secretary of State to the Cuban Ambassador, February 13, p. 702.
  6. Ambassador Norweb reported in despatch 1591, May 16, 1946, that a note dated April 27 had been received from the Cuban Minister of State in which authority was granted for United States Navy personnel to operate the water supply system supplying the base at Guantánamo Bay for a further period of one year from June 4, 1946, in order that a definitive arrangement for the disposal of the United States Government-owned water supply system might be concluded (811.34537/5-1646).