Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chargé in the Dominican Republic (Burrows)1
Figueroa2 said that he had had a conversation with the Foreign Minister two or three days ago lasting two hours, in the course of which the Minister had handed him a note or memorandum indicating that the Dominican Government intends to appeal to some Pan American Committee or Commission for the investigation of Dominican charges and claims against Cuba arising from the Cayo Confites attempt. The claim, as Figueroa understands it, is for five million dollars cash. Figueroa understands further that Ambassadors Despradel and Ortega Frier together with Minister Rodriguez are leaving for Washington immediately to press this matter. He also is under the definite impression that Ortega Frier is the moving spirit in the entire matter and that it is on the basis of his studies and recommendations that the attempt is to be made to present the claim through an inter-American Commission of some kind, presumably the “Committee of Five”.
Figueroa said that he had endeavored to convince the Foreign Minister that he should delay the departure of these three representatives for at least a few days and attempt during that time to arrange some bilateral discussion or investigation of the present Dominican claims [Page 175]against Cuba. He told the Secretary that he feels sure his own Foreign Minister or even President would be quite happy to discuss this matter with a Dominican emissary or if the Dominicans prefer, a Cuban Committee of three or four could be named to meet with a similar Dominican Committee of three or four for discussion and possible negotiation. Figueroa said the Secretary agreed that that would undoubtedly be a good idea but Figueroa has not the slightest hope of anything like that developing; as a matter of fact he is under the impression that the three Dominicans have already left for Washington. (Figueroa apparently has the same idea that I have with regard to the Secretary’s good will but unfortunate ineffectualness; he even said that during the course of his two hour audience the Secretary stated that the President does not trust him). Figueroa is convinced that any such move as the Dominicans are presently planning will not improve matters but instead will probably lead only to more embittered feeling as far as Cuba is concerned. He said that fifteen days ago he felt his country was more inclined to an improvement of relations with the Dominican Republic than it had been for many months; he is certain that if the Dominican Republic brings “an accusation” such as this before some inter-American organization the result as far as Cuba is concerned will be only resentment and anger. He said that up until now his country has not “officially” (so far as the Cuban populace is concerned) sympathized with the Dominican revolutionists; after a public accusation of this kind, however, he feels that most of his compatriots will be quite happy to support openly the Dominican revolutionists or even to engage in open warfare with the Dominican Republic.
I suggested that it might be better to air all of the claims and counter-claims in this entire affair and that in the process of doing so a lot of passion might be expended and tempers improved. Figueroa disagreed completely, saying that the Dominican Republic expects only to discuss the matter of Cayo Confites and none of the more recent rumors and charges that have been going around the Caribbean. I said that the Dominican Republic might have difficulty in restricting any discussion to the subject of Cayo Confites and that once the “Forum” is open there may be a thorough discussion of certain other charges both for and against the Dominican Republic. Figueroa agreed that this was undoubtedly true and said he feels very sure as soon as discussion of Cayo Confites is begun, Venezuela, Guatemala, Costa Rica and other countries are going to insist on speaking their part. I was not able, however, entirely to convince him that such open discussion would serve any constructive purpose.
Figueroa said that he is convinced that the three Dominican Representatives will endeavor immediately to replace the Cuban on the “Committee of Five” saying that the Committee should not include [Page 176]a representative of either of the interested parties in the conflict. He is convinced that they will endeavor to replace Guillermo Belt, the Cuban member, by a Brazilian, Argentine, Uruguayan or Peruvian. He pointed out that Despradel has just recently spent several months visiting those four countries and he is satisfied now that the reason for this visit was to line up those four governments on the side of the Dominican Republic and against Cuba.