Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Duncan A. Mackay of the Division of Caribbean Affairs

Participants: Señor Guillermo Belt, Ambassador of Cuba
Mr. Norman Armour, Assistant Secretary of State
Mr. James Wright, Department of State (ARA)
Mr. William W. Walker, Department of State (CRB)
Mr. Duncan Mackay, Department of State (CRB)

Ambassador Belt called this afternoon at his own request to discuss his government’s protest of June 24, 1947 over the inclusion in the proposed sugar legislation of Section 202(e) (which gives to the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to withhold from any foreign country that denies fair and equitable treatment to United States interests any increase in the sugar quota) and to inquire whether the State Department could exercise its influence to have it deleted. The Ambassador observed that the House Conference Report indicated that it was at the instigation of the Department that this clause was included. He referred to the provision as a violation of the Drago doctrine, and said that his government would consider the inclusion of this clause as an unfriendly act. He foresaw the possibility that Cuba [Page 618] might (1) not be present at the Rio or Bogotá conferences27 and (2) refer the matter to the governing board of the Pan-American Union, should this clause be included in the legislation.

The Ambassador was informed that a reply to his note was awaiting the Secretary’s signature. Mr. Armour brought to the Ambassador’s attention the fact that the bill had already cleared the House earlier in the day and that it was presumably even now on the Senate calendar, since it had already passed the Senate Finance Committee. He indicated, therefore, that it was highly improbable at this juncture that such an amendment would be made. Mr. Armour expressed surprise that this clause should be regarded as discriminatory to Cuba since it has often been included in previous tariff acts, and since it was not expected that Cuba would willfully render itself subject to the conditions of this clause. Information from the Embassy at Habana had indicated, furthermore, that only the Communist newspaper Hoy has so far objected to the proposed bill. Mr. Armour stressed the fact that the Executive Committee which considered the bill had actually felt that the wording was not strong enough and that Mr. Walker had testified at the final hearing against stronger wording of the clause. Mr. Armour told the Ambassador that it would be regrettable if Cuba should not be present at the Rio and Bogotá conferences. The Ambassador was further informed that since this particular legislation was a domestic matter, referring it to the Pan-American Union or other international body would be an infringement of the sovereign rights of this country. Mr. Wright remarked that on numerous occasions the Ambassador had been acquainted with the dissatisfaction of the Congress over the failure of the Cuban Government to settle the pecuniary claims of American interests in Cuba. Lack of positive action on the part of the Cuban Government was probably responsible, in part, for the inclusion of this clause in the legislation. The Ambassador would not admit that the Tribunal de Cuentas still lacked the authority to settle all American claims. Mr. Wright then made reference to the unsatisfactory practice of including American claims in the “floating debt”. The Ambassador felt that pressure was being brought to bear on Cuba which might mar the historically good relations between the two nations. He was reminded of the efforts of this Government to negotiate a mutually satisfactory treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation.

[Page 619]

The Ambassador then brought up the desire of the Cuban Government to purchase four coastal cargo ships from the Maritime Commission. He was informed that our reply of May 28, 1947 to the Cuban note of April 16, 194728 in this regard still stood, since no satisfactory written agreement has been effected which would guarantee protection to U.S. shipping against some of the discriminatory regulations recently promulgated by the Cuban Government.

  1. Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security, Quitandinha, Brazil, August 15–September 2, 1947; for documentation on this Conference, see pp. 1 ff; and Ninth International Conference of American States, scheduled to be held at Bogotá., March 30–May 2, 1948; for documentation on preparations in 1947 for this Conference, see bracketed note p. 94.
  2. Neither printed.