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A Preponderance of Politics: The Auténtico Governments and US–Cuban Economic Relations, 1945–1951

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 September 2014

Abstract

This article analyses the bilateral economic negotiations between Washington and Havana during the era of the Cuban PRCA (Auténtico) governments led by Ramón Grau San Martín and Carlos Prío Socarrás (1944–52). This work shows that, initially, the PRCA governments took advantage of the economic bargaining capacity that Cuba had developed with Washington during the Good Neighbor era, but after 1947 this declined as the Truman administration's Cold War foreign policy agenda assigned only a marginal position to Latin America and Cuba. Havana's inability to obtain further economic support from the United States had a powerful destabilising effect, complicating Cuba's economic governance and delegitimising the PRCA politically. The study of this episode enhances our comprehension of a period largely overlooked by the historiography on Cuba and our understanding of the demise of the Auténtico project, the last attempt to transform Cuba's social structures in a progressive and democratic manner.

Spanish abstract

Este artículo estudia las negociaciones económicas bilaterales entre Washington y La Habana durante la época de los gobiernos cubanos del PRCA (Auténtico) encabezados por Ramón Grau San Martín y Carlos Prío Socarrás (1944–52). Este trabajo muestra que, inicialmente, los gobiernos del PRCA aprovecharon de la capacidad de negociaciones económicas que Cuba había desarrollado con Washington durante la época ‘Good Neighbor’ (política de buen vecino), pero que después de 1947 esta capacidad disminuyó cuando la agenda de relaciones exteriores de la administración de Truman durante la Guerra Fría designó a América Latina y a Cuba un papel solamente marginal. La incapacidad de Cuba para obtener más apoyo económico de los Estados Unidos tuvo un fuerte efecto desestabilizador, complicando el gobierno económico y arriesgando la legitimidad política del PRCA. El estudio de este acontecimiento aumenta nuestra comprensión de una época pasada por alto en buena parte por la historiografía sobre Cuba y nuestro entendimiento de la desaparición del proyecto Auténtico, el último intento para transformar las estructuras sociales de Cuba de manera progresiva y democrática.

Portuguese abstract

Este artigo analisa as negociações econômicas bilaterais entre Washington e Havana durante a era dos governos cubanos do PRCA (Auténtico) chefiados pelo Ramón Grau San Martín e pelo Carlos Prío Socarrás (1944–52). Este estúdio demonstra que, inicialmente, os governos do PRCA aproveitaram da capacidade para as negociações econômicas que Cuba tinha desenvolvido com Washington durante a era do Good Neighbor (bom vizinho), mas depois de 1947 esta capacidade diminuiu quando a agenda de politica externa da administração Truman durante a Guerra Fria deu à América Latina e a Cuba uma posição apenas marginal. A incapacidade de Havana para obter mais apoio econômico dos Estados Unidos teve um forte efeito desestabilizador, complicando o governo econômico cubano e pondo em risco a legitimidade política do PRCA. O estúdio de este caso reforça a nossa compreensão de um período ignorado em grande parte pela historiografia sobre Cuba e o nosso entendimento do desaparecimento do projeto Auténtico, a tentativa final para transformar as estruturas sociais cubanas de uma forma progressiva e democrática.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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References

1 Exceptions to this are Ameringer, Charles D.'s groundbreaking work, The Cuban Democratic Experience: The Auténtico Years, 1944–1952 (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2000)Google Scholar; Rodríguez, Mario Morales, La frustración nacional-reformista en la Cuba republicana (Havana: Editorial Política, 1997)Google Scholar; and García, Humberto Vázquez, El gobierno de la kubanidad (Santiago de Cuba: Editorial Oriente, 2005)Google Scholar.

2 See, for example, Dominguez, Jorge I., Cuba: Order and Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1978)Google Scholar; Thomas, Hugh, Cuba, or The Pursuit of Freedom (New York: De Capo Press, 1998)Google Scholar; Gott, Richard, Cuba: A New History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004)Google Scholar; and Vázquez García, El gobierno de la kubanidad.

3 Lecuona, Oscar Zanetti, La república: notas sobre economía y sociedad (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2006)Google Scholar; de la Riva, Juan Pérez et al. , La república neocolonial, 2 vols. (Havana: Instituto Cubano del Libro, 1975 and 1979)Google Scholar.

4 Pérez, Louis A., Cuba and the United States: Ties of Singular Intimacy (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1990), pp. 197209, 216Google Scholar.

5 Proof of the extent to which this crucial turning point has been overlooked by historians is, for example, Lars Schoultz's statement that ‘the bilateral agenda during the Prío years therefore consisted primarily of minor commercial disputes’: Schoultz, Lars, That Infernal Little Cuban Republic: The United States and the Cuban Revolution (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), p. 47Google Scholar.

6 On US–Latin American relations during the Good Neighbor era, see Kimball, Warren F., The Juggler: Franklin Roosevelt as Wartime Statesman (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991)Google Scholar, chap. 6. See also Pettinà, Vanni, Cuba y Estados Unidos, 1933–1959: del compromiso nacionalista al conflicto (Madrid: Los Libros de la Catarata, 2011), pp. 2355Google Scholar.

7 Lecuona, Oscar Zanetti, Los cautivos de la reciprocidad: la burguesía Cubana y la dependencia comercial (Havana: Ministerio de Educación Superior, 1989), p. 114Google Scholar; García, Santamaría, Sin azúcar no hay país: la industria azucarera y la economía cubana (1919–1939) (Seville: Universidad de Sevilla, 2001), pp. 263–4Google Scholar.

8 Brewster, Havelock and Clyde, Thomas, ‘Industrialization of the West Indies: The Manufacturing Sector in the Total Economy’, in Beckles, Hilary and Shepherd, Verene (eds.), Caribbean Freedom: Economy and Society from Emancipation to the Present – A Student Reader (Kingston: Randle, and London: James Curry, 1996), p. 394Google Scholar. Cuba's population rose from approximately 4.3 million in 1940 to 5.7 million in 1952: Base de Datos de Historia Económica de América Latina Montevideo–Oxford, available at http://moxlad.fcs.edu.uy/es/basededatos.html.

9 On Cuba's economic diversification process, see Rodríguez, Gonzalo M., El proceso de industrialización de la economía cubana (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1980)Google Scholar.

10 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Report on Cuba: Finding and Recommendations of an Economic and Technical Mission Organized by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Collaboration with the Government of Cuba in 1950 (Washington: IBRD, 1951), p. 723Google Scholar. On the decline in sugar prices, see Lecuona, Oscar Zanetti and García, Alejandro, Sugar and Railroads: A Cuban History, 1837–1959 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), p. 370Google Scholar.

11 Carlos Márquez Sterling, ‘Los partidos políticos, capítulo IV’, Bohemia, 19 May 1946, p. 15.

12 Ameringer, The Cuban Democratic Experience, p. 22; see also ‘¿Qué hacer con el pistolerismo?’, Bohemia, 23 Jan. 1949, p. 61.

13 Pérez, Louis A., Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 216Google Scholar; Stokes, William S., ‘The Cuban Parliamentary System in Action, 1940–1947’, Journal of Politics, 11: 2 (1949), p. 356CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On the problem of corruption and, especially, empleomanía, see Raul Roa, ‘La isla de los empleados públicos’, Bohemia, 20 March 1949, p. 53.

14 Morales Rodríguez, La frustración nacional-reformista, pp. 47–8; Ameringer, The Cuban Democratic Experience, p. 128; see also ‘Política de salarios, tabla de sueldos y jornales privados’, Cuba Económica y Financiera, Aug. 1948, p. 14.

15 Ameringer, The Cuban Democratic Experience, pp. 125–6.

16 ‘Habana Newspaper El Mundo Published Editorial Comments on the Principal Events of 1947 in Cuba’, 5 Jan. 1948, US State Department National Archives, Record Group 59 (hereafter NARA RG59), US Embassy Havana, 837.00/1-548.

17 US Department of Agriculture, Special Study on Sugar: A Report of the Special Study Group on Sugar of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1961), p. 15Google Scholar.

18 Pérez, Cuba and the United States, p. 205; Ameringer, The Cuban Democratic Experience, p. 27; Thomas, Cuba, pp. 732–3.

19 Pérez, Cuba and the United States, pp. 206, 229; see also ‘Resistencia inflacionista’, Cuba Económica y Financiera, June 1949, p. 3.

20 Thomas, Cuba, pp. 544–5; see also Santamaría García, Sin azúcar no hay país, p. 55.

21 Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Cuban Sugar’, 7 Sep. 1945, NARA RG59, 837.61351/9-745.

22 ‘1946 Cuban Sugar Negotiations, Meeting of October 17 1945’, 17 Oct. 1945, NARA RG59, 837.61351/10-1745.

23 Zanetti, ‘El comercio azucarero cubano’, p. 67.

24 ‘Es buena para Cuba y E. U. la venta pactada’, Diario de la Marina, 12 July 1946, p. 1.

25 Zanetti Lecuona, ‘El comercio azucarero cubano’, p. 69.

26 Ramiro Guerra, ‘Notas al margen’, Diario de la Marina, 12 July 1946, p. 1; ‘La historia en marcha’, Diario de la Marina: Revista de la Semana, 14 July 1946, p. 1.

27 Zanetti Lecuona, Los cautivos, p. 141.

28 Ambassador in Cuba to secretary of state, 23 Aug. 1945, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1945, vol. 9 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1969), p. 939.

29 Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Cuban Sugar’, 7 Sep. 1945, NARA RG59, 837.61351/9-745.

30 Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC, 2 Jan. 1946, NARA RG59, 837.61351/1-246.

31 José Manuel Casanova, ‘Epílogo de la negociación azucarera’, Diario de la Marina, 16 July 1946, p. 3.

32 ‘Significant Development on Sugar Legislation’, 9 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-947.

33 Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Sugar Legislation’, 29 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-2947.

34 Guillermo Belt (Cuban ambassador) to George C. Marshall (secretary of state), 20 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-2047; ‘Cuban Embassy's Note to the State Department re Cuba's Share in the United States Sugar Quota: Conversation with Dr. Arturo Mañas', 26 May 1947, attached to Foreign Service of the United States of America, ‘Ambassador Belt's Activities in Havana; and American Chamber of Commerce Resolution re United States Sugar Quota and Treaty of Friendship’, 27 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-2747.

35 Walker to Wright and Braden 20 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-1947.

36 Paul Nitze to David M. Keiser, 11 March 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/2-1047.

37 Belt to Marshall, 20 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-2047; Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Cuban Note Expressing Apprehension Over Sugar Legislation Pending in U. S. Congress’, 20 May 1947, NARA RG59 837.61351/5-2047.

38 Personal elaboration based on data from ‘Entries and Marketings of Sugar in Continental United States from All Areas, 1900 to Date’, in History and Operations of the U. S. Sugar Program, US Congress, House Committee on Agriculture, 14 May 1962 (Washington, DC: U. S Government Printing Office, 1962), p. 3. On Cuba's proposal, see Belt to Marshall, 20 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-2047.

39 Congressional Hearings, Committee on Rules, House, 80 H. R. 4075, ‘Promotion and Regulation of Sugar Industry’, 7 July 1947, p. 16; see also Pendleton, William C., ‘American Sugar Policy – 1948 Version’, Journal of Farm Economics, 30: 2 (1948), p. 235–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

40 Walker to Briggs, ‘Recent Meeting with Mr. James H. Marshall, Department of Agriculture’, 6 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-647; ‘Significant Development on Sugar Legislation’, 1 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-947.

41 Office Memorandum from Walker to Wright and Braden, A-BR, ‘Ambassador Belt's Appointment to see Mr. Braden this Afternoon’, 20 May 1947, NARA RG59, FW 837.61351/5-1947.

42 On Bell's protests, see Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Cuban Note Expressing Apprehension Over Sugar Legislation Pending in U. S. Congress’, 20 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-2047. On Anderson's intervention, see Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Sugar Legislation’, 29 May 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/5-2947.

Ibid.

44 Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Sugar Legislation’, 9 June 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/6-447.

Ibid.

46 Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Cuban Note Expressing Apprehension Over Sugar Legislation Pending in U. S. Congress’, 20 May 1947, 837.61351/5-2047.

47 Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Notes on Proposed Sugar Legislation’, 17 June 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/6-1747.

48 Memorandum of the director of the Office of American Republic Affairs (Briggs) to the under-secretary of state for economic affairs (Clayton), 17 June 1947, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1947, vol. 8 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1972), p. 614.

49 Memorandum of Conversation, ‘Industrial Proposal for the Revision of the Sugar Act of 1937’, 18 June 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/6-1847.

Ibid.

51 The Philippine deficit indicates the difference between the country's assigned quota and its real productive capacities.

Ibid.
Ibid.

54 US Congress, House Committee on Agriculture, ‘Sugar Act of 1948: Report to Accompany’, 3 July 1947, pp. 4–7.

55 Heston, Thomas J., ‘Cuba, the United States and the Sugar Act of 1948: The Failure of Economic Coercion’, Diplomatic History, 6: 1 (1982), p. 2CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

56 Personal elaboration based on data from ‘Entries and Marketings of Sugar in Continental United States’, p. 3.

57 ‘Memorandum Concerning the Legislation to Extend the Sugar Act of 1948 with Minor Revision’, 20 June 1951, Harry S. Truman Library, OF 237, Byrnes James F. to OF 242, Federal Securities Act, OF 241 (Sugar 1947–1953), Box 983.

58 US Embassy Havana, ‘Cuba's 1948 Sugar Crop Problems’, 30 Sep. 1947, NARA RG59, 837.61351/9-3047.

59 Ramiro Guerra, ‘Actualidad económica’, Diario de la Marina, 7 May 1948, p. 18.

60 ‘Nuestro momento económico y financiero; la cuestión presupuestal bajo el nuevo Gobierno’, Cuba Económica y Financiera, Sep. 1948, p. 5.

61 ‘Additional Information Regarding the Platform of Carlos Prío, Presidential Candidate’, 17 May 1948, NARA RG59, 837.00/5-1748; US Embassy Havana, ‘President Carlos Prío's Message to the Congress, October 10, 1948’, 18 Oct. 1948, NARA, RG59, 837.032/10-1848. See also Morales Rodríguez, La frustración nacional-reformista, pp. 93–4.

62 ‘Detalló ampliamente su programa de gobierno en el Club Atenas anoche el candidato de la alianza, Dr. C. Prío’, Diario de la Marina, 6 May 1948, pp. 1, 28.

63 Ameringer, The Cuban Democratic Experience, pp. 74–5.

64 Ibid., pp. 76–7, 78–9.

Ibid.

65 Ibid., p. 107.

Ibid.

66 ‘El Dr. Prío notificó personalmente a los trabajadores azucareros de la congelación de su salario’, Diario de la Marina, 1 Dec. 1948, p. 1.

67 US Embassy Havana to secretary of state, ‘Foreign Minister Today Stated President Prío Desires Discuss During the Visit’, 29 Nov. 1948, NARA, RG59, 837.001, Prío Socarrás Carlos/11-2948.

68 ‘Matters of Possible Interest with Reference to the Visit of President Prío of Cuba’, 8 Dec. 1948, Harry S. Truman Library, PSF: Intelligence File, 1952–53, Central Intelligence File, Box 212, Memoranda, 1945–1948, Central Intelligence Agency, Intelligence Memorandum no. 94.

69 ‘Habrá abastecimientos en abundancia, dijo el Dr. Prío desde palacio’, Diario de la Marina, 14 Dec. 1948, p. 1; ‘Drafts of Remarks of President Truman to President Prío upon Arrival at Washington Airport’, 7 Dec. 1948, Harry S. Truman Library, OF 159, Box 769; US Embassy Havana, ‘President Prío's New Year Message: Repercussions and Comments’, 12 Jan. 1949, NARA, RG59, 837.00/1-1249.

70 ‘Possible Topics for Discussion with Dr. Carlos Prío Socarrás, President of Cuba’, 7 Dec. 1948, Memorandum for the President, Harry S. Truman Library, PSF 1940–1953, Foreign Affairs File, Box 150, ‘C’. On the claims and the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, see Heston, ‘Cuba, the United States and the Sugar Act’, pp. 1, 9.

71 Ibid., pp. 15, 18.

Ibid.

72 US Embassy Havana, ‘Conversation Respecting Cuban–American Problems during Visit of President Prío’, 30 Nov. 1948, NARA RG59, 837.001, Prío Socarrás Carlos/11-3048.

73 See the examples of the Philippines and India in Cullather, Nick, Illusions of Influence: The Political Economy of United States–Philippines Relations, 1942–1960 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), pp. 86–9Google Scholar; Merrill, Dennis, Bread and the Ballot: The United States and India's Economic Development, 1947–1963 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 48Google Scholar; and Brands, H. W., The Specter of Neutralism: The United States and the Emergence of the Third World, 1947–1960 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), p. 13Google Scholar.

74 Cullather, Nick, The Hungry World: America's Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia (London and Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 76Google Scholar.

75 Bethell, Leslie and Roxborough, Ian, ‘The Impact of the Cold War on Latin America’, in Leffler, Melvyn P. and Painter, David S. (eds.), The Origins of the Cold War: An International History (London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 313–14Google Scholar.

76 Leffler, Melvyn P., A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992), pp. 60, 160Google Scholar.

77 Bethell and Roxborough, ‘The Impact of the Cold War’, p. 311.

78 Schoultz, That Infernal Little Cuban Republic, p. 47.

79 ‘Soviet Objectives in Latin America’, ORE 16/1, 1 Nov. 1947, Harry S. Truman Library, PSF: Intelligence File 1946–1953, Central Intelligence Reports File, Box 215, ORE 1947: 15–39, p. 3.

80 ‘CIA Review of World Situation (Preface to CIA49 Series)’, CIA-49, 19 Jan. 1949, Harry S. Truman Library, PSF: Intelligence File, 1946–1953, Central Intelligence Reports File, Central Intelligence Group, Box 213, p. 6.

81 ‘Address by the Secretary of State before the Second Plenary Session of the Ninth International Conference of American States’, Department of State, Division of Publications Office of Public Affairs, April 1948, pp. 4, 9.

82 ‘Basic Principles of U. S. Policies in Latin American Affairs’, 13 Oct. 1949, NARA RG59, General Records of the Office of the Executive Secretariat, Position Papers and Reports for the Under-Secretary's Meetings (1947–1952), UM Documents, 56-113, 1949–50, p. 21.

83 US Embassy Havana, ‘Conversation Respecting Cuban–American Problems during Visit of President Prío’, 30 Nov. 1948, NARA RG59, 837.001, Prío Socarrás Carlos/11-3048.

84 US Embassy to secretary of state, no. 344, 11 Oct. 1949, NARA RG59, 837.51/10-1149.

85 Office Memorandum, 6 Dec. 1958, NARA RG59, 837.51/11-2648; Office Memorandum, ‘A-1347 of Nov. 26 from Havana’, 1 Dec. 1948, NARA RG59, 837.51/11-2648.

86 US Embassy, ‘Conversation with President Prío’, 17 Feb. 1949, NARA RG59, 837.51/3-149.

87 US Embassy Havana, ‘Latest Developments Respecting Cuban Public Works Loan Project: Memorandum of Conversation with Mr. Oscar Muller’, 4 Nov. 1949, NARA RG59, 837.51/11-449.

88 US Embassy, ‘Opposition Parties Parade in Protest against Proposed 200 Million Dollar Loan: No Disorder’, 1 Nov. 1949, NARA RG59, 837.51/11-149; Ameringer, The Cuban Democratic Experience, p. 107.

89 US Embassy Havana, ‘Latest Developments Respecting Cuban Public Works Loan Project: Memorandum of Conversation with Mr. Oscar Muller’, 4 Nov. 1949, NARA RG59, 837.51/11-449; Department of State, outgoing telegram to US Embassy Havana, 24 Nov. 1949, NARA RG59, 837.51/11-1549.

90 Zuaznábar, Ismael, La economía cubana en la década del 50 (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1986), p. 26Google Scholar.

91 Ameringer, The Cuban Democratic Experience, pp. 121, 130.

92 US Embassy Havana, ‘Cuban Government Concerts 120,000,000 Loan; 45,000,000 Subscribed by Five Cuban Banks’, 22 Aug. 1950, NARA RG59, 837.10/8-2250.

93 Raul Cepero Bonilla, ‘Motivos económicos: perspectivas inquietantes’, Prensa Libre, 30 June 1951, p. 7.

94 US Embassy Havana, ‘Week No. 10’, 7 March 1952, NARA RG59, 737.00(W)/3-752.

95 ‘Survey nacional: el pueblo de Cuba opina sobre el gobierno actual y los posibles presidentes’, Bohemia: Suplemento, 20 May 1951, p. 8.

96 Former Secretary Anderson's words are quoted in Raul Cepero Bonilla, ‘Motivos económicos: un hecho que no se puede ladear’, Prensa Libre, 18 Aug. 1951, p. 7.

97 ‘Memorandum of Conversation by the Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs’, 15 June 1951, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1951, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1979), pp. 1345–7; ‘Memorandum of Conversation by the Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs’, 27 June 1951, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1951, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1979), pp. 1349–51.

98 Wellman (Office of Middle American Affairs), to Miller (ARA), ‘Draft Note to Cuba on Sugar Legislation’, 10 Sep. 1951, NARA RG59, 837.2351/53151.

99 ‘Memorandum for Charles Brannan from the President’, 22 June 1951, Harry S. Truman Library, OF 241, Box 983, Sugar, 1947–53.

100 ‘En defensa de la economía nacional’, Bohemia, 15 July 1951, p. 80.

101 Ibid.; Guillermo Belt, ‘La agonía de nuestro azúcar: parte segunda’, Bohemia, 9 Sep. 1951, pp. 20–1.

Ibid.

102 Rojas, Rafael, La máquina del olvido: mito, historia y poder en Cuba (Mexico City: Taurus, 2011)Google Scholar.

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