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283. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, April 16, 19591

SUBJECT

  • United States-Cuban Relations

PARTICIPANTS

  • Dr. Felipe Pazos, President of the Cuban Central Bank
  • Dr. Joaquín Meyer, Financial Counselor, Cuban Embassy
  • ARA—Mr. Rubottom

Dr. Pazos, whom I had not known before, and Dr. Meyer, an old friend, were at my side during the luncheon offered today by Governor Herter for Dr. Fidel Castro.2 Dr. Meyer seemed to be somewhat discouraged about the possibilities of Castro’s trip straightening out the misunderstandings which have arisen between Cuba and the United States over the past few months. He said that he was slightly more discouraged today (after speaking to Castro this morning) than he was yesterday prior to the Prime Minister’s arrival.

[Page 472]

Dr. Pazos at first seemed uncertain of himself and did not take the initiative in our conversation. I started off by pointing out to him the widespread sympathy and affection which Dr. Castro had evoked from the American people; that the American people had a great capacity for admiration, and even affection, and that much of this had been directed toward Fidel Castro, even before his victory in the Revolution. I said that, notwithstanding the many facets of the U.S. image, there were certain basic loyalties which all sectors of the U.S. hold dear, and that there had gradually developed an attitude of questioning, and perhaps even a feeling of hurt, on the part of many Americans at some of the statements made by Dr. Castro during the past two or three months. It would be a great misfortune to lose such an opportunity and it was my hope that Dr. Castro’s trip would overcome some of these misunderstandings and that he would be able to see the true nature and character of the United States.

Dr. Pazos fully recognized the opportunity that existed and said that he shared my hope, although stating that there was practically nothing that he could do to steer the course of events. Once he said, “I am only a small god, and it is the big gods who have the power in their hands”.

I referred to the presence of three outstanding economic leaders in the present Cuban Government and the impression that their inclusion in Dr. Castro’s party had made here. He admitted that this might lead someone to the conclusion that they were interested in talking about economic and financial matters. I said that the United States had a great capacity for cooperation, one that had been enhanced in the past year even, and that if he and his colleagues wanted to talk about economic matters, certainly an opportunity would be provided. I said that, irrespective of what the United States itself might do, or the private banks or the international institutions, private capital would still have to do the biggest part of the job in Cuba. Therefore, we were interested in the treatment of private investors who had already established themselves in Cuba and the climate that might await any future investors. He seemed to get the point. At the end of the luncheon, he cautiously suggested that it might be helpful if he could talk with Assistant Secretary Upton and me. I asked him whether he would be joined by the Minister of Economy (Dr. Boti) and Minister of Finance (Dr. López Fresquet), and he indicated probably so. A moment later he seemed to back away from this and said that he would telephone me this afternoon.

Dr. Pazos remarked that one way the United States might help Cuba was with its sugar policy. He recalled that the 1948 sugar legislation had worked quite well from Cuba’s standpoint (only impliedly drawing an invidious comparison of the 1956 legislation to the 1948 legislation). I said that, in the present atmosphere here and elsewhere [Page 473]in the world, I could see practically no chance of any better arrangement for Cuba regarding sugar than that under the 1956 legislation under which she had increased her shipments to the United States about 10% already. Dr. Meyer chimed in with an assent. Nevertheless, Dr. Pazos stuck to his guns with the argument that the United States should permit more Cuban sugar to be sold in this country and that it was not living up to its stature as the great champion of liberal trade unless this was permitted. I concluded this period of our discussions by saying that the United States certainly had championed free trade and that it was too bad that more countries did not join in this effort. Dr. Pazos said that “if things go well” he might stay in Washington longer than Castro himself.

Quotable Quotes

The Cuban Army is divided about fifty-fifty between the old Batista Army and the 26th of July members; therefore it is like the old story of the horse and the rabbit, it being about 50% horse and 50% rabbit.

The Cuban Navy is 100% rabbit.

Washington has probably never seen Latin American military people like the Cubans who have come with the Prime Minister—these soldiers have actually engaged in fighting and not a single one has received a decoration.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.3711/4–1659. Confidential. Drafted by Rubottom.
  2. See Document 286.