Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Armour)


The Ambassador34 called this morning by appointment made at his request by telephone from New York where he had been staying.

[Page 623]

I opened the conversation by asking him when he planned to leave for Rio. He said this would depend somewhat on how far we could go in reaching a satisfactory arrangement over the controversial clause in the Sugar Bill, which was the particular object of his visit. He said he wondered whether this could perhaps be accomplished by an exchange of notes. He understood the Bill would be signed by the President today.

I confirmed this and then showed him the letter from the Secretary to the President which it was planned to have released at the White House at the time the Bill was signed, probably about one o’clock. The Ambassador read the note and expressed himself as pleased with it, particularly the reference to arbitration in the last sentence. He said that this was exactly what he, himself, had at one time proposed and he felt sure the publication of the letter would go far to help things. In any event, he proposed to telephone to the President (Grau San Martin) at once and read the letter to him, a copy of which I furnished him.

The Ambassador then told me that he hoped after his return from Rio we could get together with a view to exploring the possibilities of concluding the long deferred treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation. He believed that these conversations would lead to a settlement of many of the outstanding questions and was convinced that the signing of such a treaty would go a long way to put our relations on the firm and friendly basis where they belonged.

I told the Ambassador that I felt the negotiation of such a treaty would be a constructive step forward. I then told him that I had frankly been disappointed by the attitude he had shown regarding Article 202e of the Sugar Bill. Admitting that he had objected to this clause, his action in taking his case to the American press, Members of Congress, and particularly his extensive remarks before the Pan American Union had, I felt, not only confused the issue, but had created an erroneous impression as to the meaning of the article itself. The issue had even reached Rio where the Brazilian Foreign Minister had consulted our Ambassador as to its significance.

I told the Ambassador I thought he would agree that the general situation in the Caribbean area, notably the Dominican Republic, and certain sections of Central and South America, was not a particularly happy one as the curtain-raiser to the Conference and I regretted that he had found it necessary to make such an open issue of this particular clause in the Sugar Bill, which had had the effect of adding one more confusing element to the general picture. For this reason, I hoped, if he felt the publication of the Secretary’s letter had clarified the situation, that he or his Government would make this clear. After Rio, as [Page 624] he had suggested, we could then proceed to consider the more fundamental problems.

The Ambassador after further attempt to explain his position, said that he would see to it that his Government’s approval of the action taken to clarify the issue was made officially known both in Cuba and the other American republics.

Ambassador Belt later telephoned to say that he had read the letter to President Grau San Martín and that the latter had expressed himself as entirely satisfied with it. The Ambassador said that they would have liked to have had the language a little more specific but assured me they were not disposed to question it and repeated that they were entirely satisfied.

Norman Armour
  1. The Cuban Ambassador, Guillermo Belt.