235. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Secretary of State 1


  • Arrival of Ambassador Bonsal in Cuba

Mr. David Lawrence called me yesterday afternoon2 to discuss the matter of delaying our new Ambassador’s arrival in Habana, and mentioned that he had talked to the Secretary about this matter.3 He recalled a Nicaraguan page of history, circa 1904, and then President Wilson’s experience in México. I promptly informed him that the latter experience had set us back seventy years in our dealings with México, and that we had not yet regained the ground that we lost. Mr. Lawrence was also mistaken in his differentiation between de facto and de jure recognition, inasmuch as we have already recognized the new Cuban Government and would be dealing with it formally either through a Chargé d’Affaires or through the Ambassador.

I recommend against any studied delay in the arrival of Ambassador Bonsal. This could very quickly be interpreted as intervention, as we found out in our 1947 experience with President Somoza in Nicaragua, which we eventually had to acknowledge had been a mistake. Actually, Ambassador Bonsal will not arrive until some time early in February and we will have ample opportunity to study the situation between now and then.

The American business community and other informed observers have urged us to get our Ambassador to Cuba as fast as possible. Ambassador Bonsal’s special qualifications are such that he may be able to wield influence of the kind we would like to see placed on the Cuban Government. Unfortunately, this instrument of diplomacy, the most effective of all in the long run, has not been available to us to the degree desirable for a long time there.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 123–Bonsal Philip W. Official Use Only. Drafted and initialed by Rubottom; concurred in and initialed by Murphy, Macomber, and Henderson.
  2. A memorandum of this conversation, prepared by Elizabeth Beers, is ibid., Rubottom-Mann Files: Lot 62 D 418, Cuba (Jan.–Apr.) 1959. Lawrence was the editor of U.S. News and World Report.
  3. Lawrence called Dulles at 4:21 p.m. on January 19 to express views similar to those he gave to Rubottom. A memorandum by Bernau of this conversation is in Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Telephone Conversations.
  4. Henderson wrote the following in the margin: “I can see nothing except inconvenience to be derived from delaying the submission of Bonsal’s name to the Senate.” Another handwritten notation reads, “Sec saw.” Rubottom wrote the following notation in the margin, “Night of 1/20 the Sec’y told me he agreed. RRR”. Bonsal’s name was submitted to the Senate for confirmation on January 22.