The Ambassador in Cuba ( Norweb ) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 8.]
Sir: I have the honor to refer to this Embassy’s telegram, No. 850, December 30, 1946, 9 p.m.,17 concerning the presentation to President Grau of copies of two notes delivered by the Department to Ambassador Belt on December 30, concerning the possible payment of longstanding debts owed by the Cuban Government to American citizens and organizations, and likewise to the possible settlement of a debt of $103,488.94 representing the balance due for peanut seed that was supplied to the Cuban Government in 1943 by our Government. As reported in my telegram No. 850, President Grau appeared to be surprised that the debt for peanut seed should have been brought up at the same time as the large number of debts or claims of American citizens and organizations. I enclose a copy of a memorandum prepared by the Counselor of Embassy for Economic Affairs18 which may give a clue to the reason for the President’s expressing this surprise.
The information reported in the enclosed memorandum was obtained confidentially by Mr. Nufer from a subordinate official of the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture. This information indicates that President Grau has opposed payment of this entirely legitimate debt each time that the matter has been mentioned in Cabinet meetings, and that the reason for his objection to payment is that the debt was incurred by the Batista Administration. This Embassy has no reason to doubt the accuracy of this information concerning President Grau’s attitude, since other high-ranking officers of the Cuban Government have indicated [Page 772] in the past that this is a customary attitude with respect to governmental obligations. Ambassador Guillermo Belt, on one of his visits to Habana, mentioned to me with some pride that during his incumbency as Mayor of Habana, he had been successful in avoiding the payment of any debt incurred by his predecessor. The information obtained by Mr. Nufer leads naturally to the expectation President Grau will be equally opposed to any settlement of the long-standing debts and claims of American citizens and organizations, after he has given any real thought to this problem.
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