Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs (Nufer)


Subject: Cuban Reaction to Proposed Sugar Legislation

Participants: Ambassador Machado
Dr. Arturo Mañas,1 Dr. Oscar Diaz Albertini,2 Sr. Miquol and Sr. Ramirez
Mr. Mann, ARA
Mr. Cale, MID
Amb. Nufer, MID

Ambassador Machado and representatives of the Cuban sugar industry called at noon today to give us their reaction to the proposed sugar legislation of which a copy of the latest draft bill had been handed them earlier today by Secretary of Agriculture Brannan.3 The draft bill is the one containing the compromise formula for section 202(d) agreed upon in a meeting4 between Mr. Larry Meyers of the Department of Agriculture and Messrs. Cale and Nufer on June 13.

The Cubans brought with them copies of yesterday’s editions of the Habana newspapers El Mundo and Diario de la Marina which contained AP dispatches with a June 13 Washington dateline, summarizing the proposed sugar legislation fairly accurately. The Cubans expressed surprise that this information had become known to the press before it had been given to them. We were unable to explain how this information had leaked but assured the Cubans that it had not been obtained from anyone in the Department of State. The clippings from the two newspapers mentioned are attached.5

Ambassador Machado and Dr. Manas (who acted as spokesmen for the Cuban group) launched into a strong criticism of the draft bill. Although they repeatedly expressed their displeasure over the increases contemplated at Cuba’s expense in the quotas of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the full-duty countries, it was more or less apparent that they have come to accept these changes as inevitable. Their main attack was against the proposed wording of section 202 (d). They maintained that any impairment of the minimum guarantee provision in the 1948 Act was wholly unacceptable to Cuba, They said that they considered the retention of that provision as vital to Cuba, not only because of the immediate effect the proposed change would have in [Page 1346] Cuba economically and politically, but because it opened the door to further drains on Cuba’s share of the U.S. sugar market when the proposed Act expires in 1956.

Mr. Mann and Mr. Cale went to great lengths to explain the realities of the situation to the Cubans and to point out that while the proposed legislation was somewhat less favorable to Cuba than the 1948 Act, it was a very substantial improvement over the 1937 Act. Mr. Cale gave the Cubans statistical data which he had prepared showing what Cuba’s participation in the U.S. sugar market would be at given consumption levels under the 1948 Act and under the proposed legislation. He also gave them statistics showing how Cuba’s percentage participation in the U.S. sugar market had increased since 1937 over most of the other supplying areas. It was also pointed out to the Cubans that the Department considered the draft bill which they received from the Secretary of Agriculture an equitable solution of a difficult problem; that it had agreed to go along with the draft bill; and that a bill on sugar will doubtless be introduced at this session of Congress6 regardless of the Department’s agreement, and possibly in that event in a less acceptable form to Cuba.

While the Cubans agreed that the proposed legislation was substantially more favorable to Cuba than the 1937 Act, they appeared utterly unreconciled to the compromise formula proposed for section 202(d). The adverse reaction in Cuba would, they claimed, be far-reaching when it became known that Cuba had not only been forced to give up some 240,000 tons of its quota to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the full-duty countries,7 but had also suffered a substantial impairment of the 1948 minimum guarantee provision.

Ambassador Machado was especially acrimonious in his criticism of the proposed change and repeatedly said that he was unable to understand why the Department agreed to the proposed change after he had been assured by Mr. Cale and Mr. Nufer that it would fight for the maintenance of the minimum guarantee provision. He said that he failed to see how the Cuban Government could accept the proposed [Page 1347] legislation and he went so far as to say that if the bill were introduced in its present form he might be obliged to “stump the country” in order to present Cuba’s side of the case, although he said that he would not like to do this. (It seems hardly likely that the Ambassador would carry out this threat which he doubtless used merely to try to emphasize his point.) As usual, Ambassador Machado said that the proposed legislation might have adverse effects on our rice market in Cuba, thereby intimating that Cuba might be forced to take retaliatory measures directed against the U.S. rice industry.

Although the meeting lasted for almost two hours, the Cubans showed no willingness to recede from their point of view and they repeatedly emphasized that nothing short of a minimum guarantee provision similar to that contained in the 1948 Act would be acceptable to Cuba. They clearly intimated that they felt that the Department had let them down and that it had not opposed strongly enough the domestic beet interests which were responsible for the compromise formula. Ambassador Machado said that he had reason to believe that if the Department had held out the 1948 minimum guarantee provision would have been retained.

In view of the attitude taken by the Cubans at today’s meeting, it seems possible that they will fight the proposed legislation if introduced in its present form. Ambassador Machado said, in this connection, that he had not yet discussed the matter with anyone in Congress but intimated that he might have to do so.

  1. President, Cuban Sugar Stabilization Institute, and Secretary, Cuban Sugar Mill Owners Association.
  2. Financial Counselor, Cuban Embassy.
  3. Charles F. Brannan.
  4. A memorandum of this meeting, dated June 13, by Mr. Cale, is filed under decimal file number 811.235/5–951.
  5. Not printed.
  6. On June 18, 1951, Senator Allen J. Ellender (D-La.) introduced Senate bill 1694, providing for the amendment and extension of the Sugar Act of 1948; its companion bill in the House of Representatives was numbered H.R. 4521. On September 1 Congress approved Public Law 140, entitled “An act to amend and extend the Sugar Act of 1948, and for other purposes”, which was based largely on the so-called “Ellender bill”; for text of the act, see 65 Stat. 318.
  7. In a memorandum to the Secretary of State concerning the problem of determining the extent to which the Department of State could support the Department of Interior’s recommendation for a large increase in Puerto Rico’s sugar quota in view of the Department of State’s obligation to the full-duty countries and Cuba, dated May 23, 1951, Ambassador Nufer had recommended in part the following: “That the Department make its support for any increase in Puerto Rico’s quota of more than 125,000 tons contingent on a corresponding reduction in the quotas of domestic producers, since Cuba’s share should not be reduced by more than 200,000 to 225,000 tons, and we must ask for an increase in the quota of full-duty countries.” (398.235/3–2451)