6. Editorial Note

On the afternoon of January 16, prior to leaving Washington, Ambassador Smith issued the following statement to the press:

“The purpose of my visit to Washington was to make a full report on all aspects of the political and economic situation in Cuba. After six months as Chief of Mission in Habana, it was felt by both the Department and myself that there were many phases or the political and economic situation in Cuba which should be discussed in person, and I therefore returned here for a routine consultation.

“The United States recognizes the present Government of Cuba and deals with it as a constituted government of a friendly sister American Republic. We maintain a policy of objectivity and nonintervention in the internal affairs of Cuba. The United States Embassy strictly adheres to that policy.

“I am now convinced that both the Government of Cuba and the opposition are fully cognizant of this policy and respect it.

“Our next hope is that the Government of Cuba will restore full Constitutional guarantees. On December 14 the Government of Cuba did publicly announce that it was its intention to lift the suspension of Constitutional guarantees at the end of this new forty-five day period. This period will terminate January 27. After that we hope that elections will be held which will be acceptable to the people of Cuba.

“Four opposition parties have fulfilled their legal requirements and have taken the necessary steps to be prepared for the national elections scheduled for June 1, 1958”. (Department of State, CCA Files: Lot 70 D 149, Nov.–Dec. 1958)

In his memoirs Smith discusses the consultations in Washington and the aftermath of the issuance of the press statement:

“After reading the statement, I was asked, off the record, whether I thought the United States government would be able to do business with Fidel Castro. My reply was that I did not believe the United States would ever be able to do business with Fidel Castro. Then I was asked the reasons for my statement. I replied that the United States Government can only do business with a government that will honor its international obligations and that can maintain law and order. In my opinion, Castro would do neither”. (Earl E.T. Smith, The Fourth Floor: An Account of the Castro Communist Revolution (New York: Random House, 1962), pages 59–60)

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On January 17, the Cuban Minister of the Interior, Santiago Rey, issued a prepared statement in response to Ambassador Smith’s press release noting that constitutional guarantees would be reestablished “as soon as possible when circumstances so counsel”. Chargé d’Affaires Daniel Braddock asked Foreign Minister Guell on January 18 whether the Cuban Government had been disappointed or embarrassed by Smith’s statement. Guell said neither, but pointed out that no date had been set for the restoration of the guarantees. From the tone of Rey’s public statement and of Guell’s remarks to him, Braddock gathered that the Cuban Government was “most anxious not to appear as objecting” to Smith’s statement, but that it would have been “happier had he not made it”. (Telegram 387 from Havana, January 19; Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/1–1958) The full text of Rey’s statement, plus an analysis of Havana press treatment of Ambassador Smith’s statement, is included in despatch 559 from Havana, January 20. (Ibid., 737.00/1–2058)