323. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, June 22, 19591


  • General Views of the U.S. Government with regard to the Cuban Agrarian Reform Law


  • Dr. Raul Roa, Cuban Minister of State
  • Dr. Emilio Pando, Minister-Counselor of Embassy of Cuba
  • Under Secretary C. Douglas Dillon
  • CMAWilliam A. Wieland, Director
  • CMARobert A. Stevenson, Officer in Charge, Cuban Affairs

The Under Secretary opened the conversation by expressing his pleasure that Dr. Roa’s visit to the United States had afforded him an opportunity to make his acquaintance. He said that he hoped the Minister’s stay here had proven to be profitable and enjoyable. Dr. Roa relied in the same vein and explained that he had returned to Washington only two days after he had assumed his present post as Minister of State in order to take care of matters which had been left pending with regard to his former duties as Cuban Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

The Under Secretary indicated that he was aware of Dr. Roa’s situation and could fully appreciate that as he had not fully entered into his new duties and had no instructions from his government, he [Page 538] would not wish to discuss substantive matters or express an official position on matters presently of interest to our governments. However, the Under Secretary said that he wished to refer to the long tradition of friendly relations and close economic and political ties between the United States and Cuba; to the sincere desire on the part of the United States that Cuba should grow and prosper; and to the hope that this traditional relationship which has been mutually beneficial in the past should continue in the future. Dr. Roa said that he, too, regards the U.S.-Cuban relationship as a special one which has been good for both countries. He recognizes that Cuba will continue to have a special economic and political relationship with the United States.

The Under Secretary said that he wished to make a few general observations with regard to the Cuban Agrarian Reform Law which affects U.S. interests in various ways. The United States is aware of the need for and the benefits to be derived from sound programs of land reform in many areas of the world. It recognizes that in many cases such land reform has increased productivity and greatly benefited the economies of the countries where it has been implemented.

He remarked, however, that there is concern in the United States Government lest a too drastic implementation of the Cuban law might lower Cuban output and slow down economic growth. He added that the U.S. naturally has an interest on behalf of its consumers that Cuba should continue as a source of supply for sugar, since this economic relationship has proved mutually beneficial and satisfactory in the past. Although there are many other sources from which the United States might obtain sugar, there is no disposition or desire on our part to change the U.S.-Cuban relationship in this field.

Mr. Dillon observed that agrarian reform in Cuba is, of course, basically an internal Cuban question and a matter entirely of Cuban sovereignty. With regard to the effect of the reform program on private foreign investment in Cuba, the Under Secretary commented that the manner in which the Government of. Cuba handles the question of compensation for lands expropriated will be extremely important. If American private investors there, whose properties may be affected by the Agrarian Reform Law, receive what they feel to be fair and just treatment, public opinion in the United States will be influenced accordingly. This, of course, is a factor which will have a profound influence on how Cuba may be regarded as an area for private American investment in the future.

Dr. Roa said that he agreed with the views expressed by the Under Secretary and that in his government’s recent note2 he had recognized the special relationship which exists between Cuba and the United States and the fact that this relationship has been mutually [Page 539] beneficial. He said his note expressed agreement with the U.S. that American private investors had contributed to the economic development of Cuba, and he expressed the hope that they would continue to invest in Cuba as their help is needed in the development of the Cuban economy. He recognizes that the United States has a legitimate interest in taking up with the Government of Cuba certain problems which are created by the Agrarian Reform Law and hopes that by further conversations and discussions we may find an amicable and mutually agreeable solution to present problems. He added that he has the highest personal and professional regard for Ambassador Bonsal and hopes that future discussions on points of U.S. concern may continue through normal diplomatic channels, both through the Cuban Ambassador in Washington, Dr. Ernesto Dihigo, and through further discussions between himself and Ambassador Bonsal in Habana.

The Under Secretary said that he was gratified to hear the Minister’s kind words regarding Ambassador Bonsal, as the President had taken special care to select one of our finest diplomats for this post in view of the high importance which the United States gives to its relations with Cuba.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 837.16/6–2259. Confidential. Drafted by Stevenson and approved by Robert C. Brewster, Dillon’s Special Assistant, on June 29.
  2. Document 321.