316. Editorial Note

On June 5, Prime Minister Castro sent a cablegram to the Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson, which reads:

“In answer to fears expressed by your Department in regard to the consequence of agrarian reform concerning sugar production of Cuba, we inform your Government that we are in position to sell to the United States of America 8 million tons of sugar at 4¢ of a dollar per pound in 1961. It is unnecessary to liberate restrictions of area of your domestic production. Cuba can produce total sugar consumption of United States thus saving to the American consumer about $300 million. We need your answer before the 15th of June of the present year.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.37/6–559)

The text of a reply by Benson, drafted in the Department of Agriculture and concurred in by the Department of State, was transmitted to Bonsal in telegram 1007 to Havana, June 9. (ibid., 837.2351/6–959) The substance of the reply is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, June 29, 1959, page 959. The reply pointed out that the Cuban sugar quota for the current year was approximately 3 million tons and that the majority of the sugar obtained by the United States was produced by American growers. In any event, the procurement of sugar was made through private, not governmental channels, and the U.S. Government did not know whether private enterprises would want to make commitments far in advance for sugar not yet produced. Agramonte told Bonsal that when Castro received the reply on June 10, he was “somewhat embarrassed at having gone out of normal diplomatic channels in this matter.” Bonsal replied that the major concern was “not so much one of form as of substance.” (Despatch 1399 from Havana, June 15; Department of State, Central Files, 837.2351/6–1559)