New Deal Diplomacy and the
Cuban Settlement, 1933-1934
In April 1933 Sumner Welles temporarily laid aside the mantle of Assistant Secretary of State and embarked on his assignment as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Cuba. 1 His immediate assignment was to effect a political settlement which would save the Machado Administration and to negotiate a trade agreement which would bolster the Cuban economy and stimulate the flow of American exports. The former task proved to be impossible, and the growing unrest resulted in two "revolutions." In August, Machado was ousted, but the new administration held power for only a short time. It was replaced in September by the government of Ramón Grau San Martín. During the fall of 1933 the Cuban scene was marked by violence, labor unrest, and threats that foreign properties would be expropriated. Out of this turmoil, however, there emerged a settlement which lasted for over twenty-five years. Fulgencio Batista, the Cinderella Colonel, was the political pivot in this settlement, since he became the guarantor of a Cuban government friendly to the United States and its interests. The economic aspects of the settlement were embodied in the Export-Import Bank silver loans, the Reciprocal Trade Agreement (with later changes), and the sugar marketing allotment (as embodied in the Jones-Costigan and subsequent acts). The Roosevelt Administration blended these political and economic elements into a system of Cuban-American relations which prevailed until the bearded rebels of Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista dictatorship on January 1, 1959.
Sumner Welles was a career diplomat with experience in Latin