422. Telegram From the Embassy in Cuba to the Department of State1

1605. I delivered today to acting Foreign Minister Marcelo Fernandez Font note (number 203)2 protesting illegal actions and abuses of INRA (Deptel 923 [963]3 et seq.) and gave him copy of our press release (Deptel 9644). I also handed him copies of five memoranda on specific cases which have been delivered to Ministry in past few weeks and three memos on new cases.5

By way of introduction I reviewed situation of American private interests in Cuba which after having contributed substantially to country’s economic development, complied with Cuban laws, and provided employment to many people at pay standards that equalled or exceeded best elsewhere in Cuba, now find themselves divested of their properties and treated as if they were enemies and exploiters. Fernandez interrupted to say that as regarded provisions for compensation, Agrarian Reform Law made no distinctions between Cubans and aliens and that all would be paid in bonds since Cuban Government was unable to pay cash. I replied our position on this question had [Page 740] been set forth in our notes of June 11 and October 12,6 to latter of which we had received no reply, and that we had already held certain conversations on this subject with GOC and hoped shortly to resume these discussions. Fernandez said GOC was prepared to resume talks on compensation at any time. This was not however subject of our present protest, I said.

I then read our note, translating it into Spanish. I said this note would not be published by US Government but that a press release on this subject was being published today. I handed him text of release, with Spanish translation. Emphasizing further the extreme importance of protecting American property owners from abuses to which they are being subjected in name of Agrarian Reform, in violation of both Cuban and generally accepted international law, I urged that GOC seek means of preventing recurrences, and suggested as a possibility that a responsible official be named to devote full time to such matters. I told him US official, congressional and public opinion deeply and rightly exercised this matter.

Fernandez said that while government fully defended principles and objectives of Agrarian Reform it did not defend “exceptions” to law and admitted some “errors” might have been made. He said he would bring matter to attention of President Dorticos and send us reply in due course.

Have given out press release here as agreed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 837.16/1–1160. Confidential; Priority. Bonsal had returned to Havana on January 10.
  2. A copy of this note is ibid., 737.00/1–1060.
  3. Telegram 963, January 7, instructed Bonsal to deliver the note. (ibid., 837.16/ 1–760)
  4. Not printed. (ibid., 737.00/1–1060)
  5. None of these eight memoranda has been further identified.
  6. See Documents 318 and 367.