318. Editorial Note

On June 11, Ambassador Bonsal delivered a note to Minister of State Agramonte containing the views of the U.S. Government regarding the Agrarian Reform Law. The note was prepared pursuant to the publication on June 4 of the revised text of the Agrarian Reform Law in Revolucion. The Embassy’s preliminary study of the text failed to reveal any significant changes from the earlier text except for a new [Page 525] provision that improvements and cultivations on appropriated lands would be indemnified. (Telegram 1495 from Havana, June 4; Department of State, Central Files, 837.16/6–459)

In a subsequent analysis, the Embassy noted that the law took little account of the views expressed by the Sugar Mill Owners Association, the National Cattle Growers Association, the Rice Growers Association, and the small tobacco growers of Pinar del Rio. The Embassy had heard that it was a rising tide of opposition to the law that had persuaded Castro to push it through at this point rather than wait until it might be impossible to do so. The Embassy saw no reason to expect that implementing regulations would soften the effect of the law, particularly in view of the fact that the top three figures in the Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) were Fidel Castro, Nuñez Jimenez, and Piño Santos. According to the Embassy there was mixed feeling about the law within the Cuban Government:

“Several Ministers, including Lopez Fresquet and Sori Marin, are known to have opposed law but to have gone along with it rather than be counted out altogether. According to Embassy’s information, matter was never put to Cabinet vote. Some, like Buch, Minister of Presidency, feel that in spite of possibly undesirable features, law can be made to work but that transition will require five to ten years. Lopez Fresquet thinks ruinous economic effects will force modification within six months. Carillo of Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank, talking to Embassy officers last night, played down bad features and enthusiastically acclaimed law as beginning of new era for Cuba. Carillo thinks that creation of thousands of new small landholders will be strongest bulwark against communism.” (Telegram 1500 from Havana, June 4; ibid.)

On June 5, the Embassy suggested that the Department urgently prepare a note to the Cuban Government commenting on the law and that the note should be made public. The Embassy also offered suggestions as to the content of the note. (Telegram 1509 from Havana, June 5; ibid., 837.16/6–559) Further telegraphic correspondence between the Embassy and the Department regarding the wording of the note and the manner of its presentation and release is ibid., 837.16.

The note was delivered simultaneously by the Department of State to Ambassador Dihigo in Washington. The text of the note is in telegram 1016 to Havana, June 10. (ibid., 837.16/6–959) On June 11, the Department released the text as Press Release 417. It is printed in Department of State Bulletin, June 29, 1959, pages 958–959.