Chargé Sleeper to the Secretary of State.
Habana, September 8, 1906.
Sir: In continuation of legation dispatch No. 178 of the 6th instant, I have the honor to state that the veterans met on the 6th instant and appointed an executive committee consisting of the following members: Gens. Mario Menocal, Augustin Cebreco, Javier de la Vega, and Enrique Collazo. They also decided to request the Government and the insurrectionists to suspend hostilities pending the peace negotiations. To this the Government practically agreed, and Gen. Gerado Machado and Senator Lazo were dispatched to Santa Clara and Pinar del Rio, respectively, to induce the insurrectionists also to cease fighting. The commissioner to Pinar del Rio reached there while the fighting which I mentioned in my cable of to-day was still in progress, and after the destruction of the bridges of the Western Railway (British), reported in my cablegram of the [Page 471]7th instant, General Menocal believes that General Guerra, who, it is thought, blew up the bridges because it was reported the Government proposed to send to the front an armored train carrying rapid-fire guns, was not fully advised as to the situation here or he would not have taken this drastic measure. Guerra has also, according to report, taken the offensive and offered battle to the government’s forces under Avalos near Pinar del Rio City. If a battle should take place and result favorably for the insurgents it will tend to greatly injure the prestige of the Government and make the rebels more exacting in their demands should they decide to negotiate for peace. Until the 7th prospects for some agreement were bright, but the destruction of the Western Railway’s bridges and Guerra’s recent activity has complicated the situation and made the outlook less hopeful.
The liberal party apparently favors an amicable arrangement of the present difficulties, but there appears to be some divergence of opinion among its members as to what demands should be made preliminary to the negotiation of peace. The majority, however, ask that Congress be convened, an electoral law be passed, and that new municipal elections be held under the provisions of this law. They also demand the resignation of Senators and Representatives elected in December, 1905, and that new elections be held to fill their places.
These demands, as they stand, will hardly be accepted by the moderate party, and Doctor O’Farrill characterizes them as altogether too onerous. Should it be decided not to accede to these terms, and an understanding with the liberals can not be arrived at, it is thought that the veterans may insist upon Palma’s resignation and the appointment of a provisional government.
General Menocal seems prepared to do everything possible to bring about peace, and confidently states that he can count upon the support of the majority of his fellow veterans in any course he may see fit to adopt.
Regarding the safeguarding of American interests, I have to say that, so far as I can ascertain, no effort has been made by the Government to afford the protection which I have from time to time requested through the foreign office. Fortunately, there has been no loss of life or destruction of property thus far, the rebels having confined themselves to the seizure of animals, arms, and equipment. In my No. 172, of the 4th instant, I stated that I did not believe the Government was able to protect American interests in Santa Clara Province, and I now feel that I must make the same statement in regard to the Province of Pinar del Rio, where the rebel strength is now some 3,500 men, more than half of whom are said to be well armed.
With reference to that paragraph of my dispatch No. 178 of the 6th instant ending on page 3 and relating to conditions in Santa Clara Province, I beg to quote from a letter addressed to me by the consular agent at Santa Clara, as follows:
The war appears in one respect to be assuming its most dangerous phase. Parties of the worst class of negroes are rising up under the pretext of being revolutionists, are robbing and sacking shops, and if this lasts much longer will soon be guilty of worse offenses.
The consul adds:
I have just received a letter from the manager of the Cuban Fruit and Sugar Company, of Palmas Altas, near the town of San Marcos. He says “the insurgents are all around us here.”
The consul also states that there is a large amount of American property there in urgent need of protection.
The strength of the insurrectionists in Santa Clara is said to be some 2,500 to 3,000 men. I am informed that they have a fair amount of ammunition and are well armed.
In Habana Province the insurrectionists are said, upon good authority, to be about 1,200 strong and to possess both arms and ammunition.
The rebellion in Matanzas is not and never has been of much importance.
Santiago and Camaguey are still quiet. I inclose copies of letters from Consul Holaday, at Santiago, and J. F. Hanson, at Nuevitas, Camaguey, reporting on conditions in their respective districts.
I regret to say that the Government’s recent call for volunteers has met with only a weak response and that, on the other hand, defections to the rebels, both of members of the rural guard and militia, are of frequent occurrence. The general situation is unquestionably becoming more serious day by day. I inclose herewith newspaper clippings from the Habana daily papers of the 8th instant, touching on the situation.a
I have, etc.,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
- Not printed.↩