The Minister in Cuba (Gonzales) to the Secretary of State

No. 1103

Sir: In further reference to the Department’s cabled instructions of October 23, 9:47 [5] p.m., and in amplification of my cable of November 5, 2:00 p.m.,26 I have the honor to report that on October 29th, I saw President Menocal and presented to him a memorandum embracing the sense of the instructions. When it appeared evident that the President would persist in opposing intervention in either of the forms proposed, I urged as a substitute which might meet the requirements that he extend to General Crowder an invitation to come to Cuba and witness the manner in which the electoral laws he had taken such a large part in drafting were put into effect. General Menocal replied that he would have been willing to do this but for the fact that Fernando Ortiz, who had gone to Washington as the representative of Candidate Gomez, had already publicly announced that General Crowder was coming to Cuba to supervise the elections, and that should General Crowder come here in any capacity, the Gomez faction would herald the fact as supervision of elections by the United States, and as a rebuke by the United States to his (Menocal’s) administration and as support of the José Miguel Gomez faction.

The President stated that he had no personal interests in the coming elections; that he was trying to help Cuba; that Gomez and his lieutenants were lawless, selfish and responsible for the crimes of disorder and revolution and that any act which could be construed into an endorsement of that element would more than nullify the great good results to Cuba and the United States from [Page 80] the defeat of the revolution of 1917—that defeat having been a long step toward stable government. He would welcome observation by the Legation, newspaper correspondents or secret agents, but he would retire from office before consenting to the humiliation to his administration of supervision of elections.

. . . . . . .

I felt certain in advance that the President would not consent to the measures proposed. That was the forecast by the reply26 sent to the Department’s cabled instructions of January 15; 6 p.m.27 It must be observed, however, that while the Cuban Government declined to comply with the terms of those instructions in the form presented, every wish of our Government as to the reform of the electoral laws and the taking of the census has been met. I must observe also, and it is important in this connection, that to my understanding, the cabled instructions of January 15, 6 p.m. do not accurately represent the ideas presented by the Acting Secretary of State in the conference I held with him on January tenth last. Mr. Polk told me the supervision of elections in Cuba was the last thing the Department desired, but on account of repeated allegations of frauds in elections and the insistent demands upon the Department for action, something would have to be done to insure a substantial degree of integrity in future elections—that was an obligation upon the Department. He felt that this end could be accomplished through the cooperation of General Crowder with the Cuban Government, and he desired me to obtain from General Menocal an invitation to General Crowder to come to Cuba and assist in drafting proper laws. He expressly stated that the Department left the details of accomplishing this end entirely with me. And that was accomplished after the declination of the requests made in the instructions of January 15, 6 p.m., which were sent while I was at sea …

That there should be a new census and an iron-clad election law, prepared under the direction of General Crowder, was what the Acting Secretary of State desired in January last, and as to that I fully concurred. That has been accomplished.

At no time have I concurred in the desirability of supervising elections. My view is positive that if Cuba cannot hold fairly honest elections under the new electoral laws, it would be much preferable frankly to take over the Government for a long period and institute the many reforms possible under such conditions, than to undertake the doubtful, endless and thankless task of guaranteeing honest elections. That form of invasion of sovereignty promises little for the future of this country.

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I do not know what representations Dr. Ortiz has made in Washington, but he cannot lay honest claim to be the spokesman for the Liberal Party. Whether Dr. Zayas or Pino Guerra … is the president of that party is to be determined by the courts within the next few weeks. If Zayas is sustained he will be the party’s spokesman; if he is not sustained the Zayasistas, who constitute the body of the Liberal party in Havana Province, will probably abandon the remnant and go by themselves or make new alignments. And already the Gomez-Ferrara Liberal Party of 1916 has been deserted by Varona Suarez, present mayor of Havana, and General Asbert, the latter having considerable following, who organized the Union-Liberal Party. Neither this offshoot from the Liberals nor Doctor Zayas’ following have indorsed the petition of the Gomez faction for supervision of elections.

While uninformed as to the specific grounds upon which the Gomez-Ferrara-Ortiz faction appeal to the tribunal of the United States for an injunction against the Government of Cuba holding an unsupervised election under the newly created laws, I assume they do so on the ground that there were gross frauds in the presidential election of 1916 from which they suffered. But in order to justify a request that our Government undertake so grave an office and subject itself to the risk of criticism by Latin America, these people should come into court with clean or comparatively clean hands.

The new census figures show, what all the world knew, that frauds were committed and they show with equal certainty that it was a contest between the two parties as to which could stuff more fraudulent votes into the ballot boxes. There were, according to my recollection, more than a million ballots counted in the 1916 presidential elections (there were seven hundred thousand cast in the congressional elections last year) and the new census shows there are 452,000 Cubans of voting age. The party of Dr. Ortiz claims to have polled a considerable majority of the votes cast in 1916, and be that true or not they polled more votes by thousands than there are men in Cuba! And Dr. Ortiz has publicly alleged that the army was used to prevent the voters of his party from going to the polls. While neither Dr. Zayas nor Dr. Ferrara supported this allegation, it would be interesting to surmise how many more votes than the population of Cuba would have been cast by Dr. Ortiz’ party had there been a “free “ballot!

I do not for a moment palliate the obvious frauds of the Conservative Party in these elections. The conditions of the then laws and the then inflated polling lists invited ballot box stuffing and both parties participated, but I do feel that the endorsers of the known political morals of Jose Miguel Gomez and the instigators of and participators in two revolutions—the last one made before [Page 82] the final and deciding elections could be held and causing destruction of many millions of American property, are not the proper spokesmen for the Cuban people nor the ones who should assume the role of demanding that the Cuban political house be set in order along lines which they dictate. Their lightly veiled threat that revolution would follow elections in the result of which they might not be satisfied would be well met, in my opinion, by the declaration that while the United States Government would continue earnest efforts to secure fair elections in Cuba, revolution as a remedy for real or alleged frauds would not be tolerated, and as it is well known that political leaders and not the people of Cuba make the revolutions, those leaders would be held responsible. I see only failure in compromising with or attempting to placate representatives of disorder.

It is my firm conviction that the agitation for supervision of elections in Cuba was undertaken and is being persisted in as the only means of justifying the destructive revolution of 1917, as the only way of obtaining from the United States Government a practical acknowledgment of error in supporting the Cuban Government against the revolutionists, and also as the certain means of securing a boom for the presidential aspirations of José Miguel Gomez.

I have [etc.]

William E. Gonzales
  1. Not printed.
  2. Ante, p. 2.
  3. Ante, p. 1.