467. Editorial Note

On February 22, Minister of State Roa gave Chargé Braddock a note, which the Cuban Government also released to the press, expressing the Cuban Government’s intention to appoint a commission to begin negotiations in Washington on matters pending between the two governments. The note indicated that the negotiations must not be subject to any measure “being adopted, by the Government or the Congress of your country, of a unilateral character which might prejudge the results of the aforementioned negotiations or cause harm to the Cuban economy and people.” (Telegram 2115 from Havana, February 23; Department of State, Central Files, 611. 37/2–2360) The Embassy recommended that the U.S. reply should reject the condition established by the Cuban Government, but should be drafted with a view to winning support from other Latin American countries for the U.S. position, support which the Embassy felt the Cuban Government had aimed to enlist by the note’s tone, timing, and publication. The Embassy felt that the condition was “unacceptable both in practice, given the independence of Congress, and in principle,” given the Cuban Government’s unilateral acts against legitimate American property rights in Cuba. (Telegram 2116 from Havana, February 23; ibid.)

The drafting of a reply was the subject of telegraphic correspondence between the Department of State, the Embassy in Havana, and President Eisenhower’s party, which was then visiting Brazil. In Secto 7 from Rio de Janeiro, February 25, Secretary Herter conveyed the President’s suggestion that Braddock should explain to Cuban authorities [Page 821] the actual relationship between Congress and the Executive branch and the “practical impossibility” of accepting the Cuban condition. The President also thought the point might be made that new legislation was needed to replace the expiring law, and the Executive branch could not simply by decree continue the present legislation. (Ibid., 611. 37/2–2560)

The reply, as finally agreed upon by the Department of State, the President’s traveling party, and the Embassy in Havana, was delivered by Braddock to Roa on February 29. The text of the note, in which the U.S. Government expressed willingness to begin the negotiations but rejected the condition set by the Cuban Government, was issued as Department of State Press Release 92, February 29. Also on February 29, Braddock gave to Roa another note (No. 236) that reads:

“I have the honor to refer to Your Excellency’s note of February 15 replying to this Embassy’s note of January 11 which vigorously protested the treatment by the Government of Cuba of United States nationals who own property in Cuba.

“Your Excellency’s reply has been transmitted to my Government. I am now instructed to state that the Government of the United States rejects the statements in Your Excellency’s note that the Embassy’s note of January 11 contains a ‘grave error of understanding’ and is ‘manifestly thoughtless’. The Government of the United States reaffirms the statements contained in its note of January 11 and in the informal memoranda referred to therein.

“I am furthermore instructed to state that the Government of the United States finds it difficult to reconcile Your Excellency’s reply to the Embassy’s note of January 11 with the expressed desire of Your Excellency’s Government to resolve questions pending between our two Governments through negotiations conducted in a friendly spirit.

“It is hoped that the Government of Cuba will give renewed consideration to the matters presented in all good faith and objectivity in my note of January 11 and that it will furnish specific comments with regard to the illustrative cases which have been brought to its attention.” (Text enclosed with despatch 1218 from Havana, February 29; ibid., 837. 16/2–2960)

In telegram 2184 from Havana, February 29, Braddock discussed his delivery of the notes to Roa and how he touched on the points suggested by President Eisenhower. Braddock said that while Roa was at first somewhat heated in his reaction, particularly to the first note, he calmed down by the end of the conversation. Braddock felt that the Cuban Government would proceed with the plans for the negotiations in spite of the U.S. rejection of its condition. (Ibid., 611. 37/2–2460; published also in Declassified Documents, 1985, 968)

In telegram 2230 from Havana, March 3, the Embassy reported that since the presentation of the note there had been a growing public campaign clearly sponsored by government sources accusing the United States of economic aggression. One Cuban newspaper published [Page 822] on March 3 the purported text of a proposed bill submitted by the Executive branch for amending the Sugar Act in a manner unfavorable to Cuba. (Department of State, Central Files, 837. 235/3–360)