The United States and Cuba: Business and Diplomacy, 1917-1960

By Robert F. Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO

The Economic Setting

I

The economy of Cuba was primarily dominated by sugar with tobacco, the second ranking Cuban export, playing a less important role. The story of Cuban economic development during these years was characterized by increased American penetration and control. As a result, the Cuban economy reflected some of the trends developing in the United States. The Cuban economy, however, was affected by the change in status of the United States and the legislative reaction to it. Here was the dilemma of American business interests during the period from 1919 through 1933. As American business became dominant in Cuba the value of Cuba's exports to the American market began to decrease, and the prosperity of Cuba depended on this market. 1

American investments in Cuba increased 536 percent between 1913 and 1928. 2 In 1913 the American stake was estimated at $220,000,000, which was 17.7 percent of all American investments in Latin America. 3 By 1929 this had grown to an estimated $1,525,900,000, or 27.31 percent of the total Latin American ininvestment. 4 American-owned sugar mills produced approximately 15 percent of the Cuban crop in 1906 and 48.4 percent in 1920. 5 By 1928 various estimates placed American control of the sugar crop between 70 and 75 percent. 6

At the close of World War I the sugar industry was booming. As a result, a marked tendency toward integration was accelerated and many sugar companies borrowed heavily to expand production. Some of the larger producing companies bought up both small producers in Cuba and refineries in the United States. 7 The American, National, Warner, and Revere-owned by

-29-

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