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

No. 918

Sir: Adverting to the Department’s telegraph instruction dated January 15; 6 p.m. regarding the Reformation of the Present Cuban Electoral Laws and the Legation’s despatch No. 912, dated January 18, 1919, I have the honor to enclose herewith, duplicate copies in translation, of a note from the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs in the premises.

I have [etc.]

William E. Gonzales

The Cuban Secretary of State ( Desvernine ) to the American Chargé ( Bingham )

No. 11

Mr. Chargé d’Affaires: I have informed His Excellency the President of the Republic of your Note No. 763, under date of the 17th instant, which you, Mr. Chargé d’Affaires, addressed to me personally, and in compliance with the instructions given me by His Excellency the President, I shall proceed to answer the note in question in the following terms:

The taking of a new census of population as a necessary preliminary step toward the revision and reformation of the electoral lists, the errors and defects of which have been set forth in sundry documents, has been the subject of continuous appeals by His Excellency the President to Congress and to the political parties of the Republic. In his message devoted exclusively to that subject, dated the 14th of [Page 4] December, 1914, the President pointed out in detail the deficiencies to which I refer, and though on more than one occasion he has requested the Legislative Bodies to assist in the enactment of a law providing for the taking of a general census, or the revision and reformation of the electoral lists, the desired end has not been achieved through the failure of the political opposition to support such a measure.

In his messages of April 3, 1916, and April of 1917, the President renewed these recommendations, without being able to obtain the assent of the said political opposition to the legislative action necessary for the purpose, which could only be accomplished by the co-operation of both the political parties of Cuba.

Lastly, in his message of November 4, last year, the President called the attention of the two Legislative Bodies to the errors and defects of the lists in question and to the need of reforming the Electoral Law in such of its provisions as gave rise to frauds and abuses. The literal transcription of this message is given herewith:

“The elections have taken place in an orderly manner, and without any complaints having been received from any party or candidate of undue intervention by the authorities in the electoral operations. The Central Electoral Board and the Provisional Municipal Boards, in the exercise of the powers which the Electoral Law confers upon them and with the impartiality and independence assured them by their being permanently composed of members of the bench and representatives of the two great contending parties, have dictated the proper regulations and competently dealt with all appeals received, with due consideration, in so far as they were empowered, to the insurance of the liberty and purity of the suffrage. To my Government nothing else was possible, and I have endeavored with special zeal to guarantee public order and the rights of all.

But it is evident and of public notoriety that each day there appear more noticeable and alarming signs of the abuses and corrupt practices which for many years have vitiated the electoral lists, without there being any means within ordinary procedure to correct these defects, since the persons whose duty it is to strive for and attain their correction and reformation scarcely take interest in whether they continue as they are or become still further corrupted. Since 1914, I have, in different messages, recommended this very important matter to the consideration of Congress, explaining the character of the evil, recognized by everybody and repeatedly denounced by the periodical press; and have demonstrated the impossibility of remedying it, according to general belief, without taking a new general census as a basis for new lists. I again call attention to the messages above referred to, and especially to those of December 14th, 1914, April 3rd, 1916, and April 9th, 1917.

The Electoral Law of September 11, 1918, conscientious and well thought out as it was, elicited favorable comment alike from corporations and publicists, here and abroad, but it did not accord, nevertheless, as has been shown in practice, with the needs of our national [Page 5] character and the deficiencies of our political education. Congress would render a valuable service to the country by proceeding to a careful examination and correction of the clauses which are deemed inadequate or liable to ambiguous interpretation.[”]

Notwithstanding that his efforts in behalf of a new census of the population have not met with success, the President has not been discouraged, nor will he be discouraged in his firm purpose of devoting the most careful attention to the matter and his unremitting efforts towards its attainment, as soon as the new Legislature is inaugurated on April 2, next, when advantage may be taken of the favorable circumstance of there being a political majority on the side of the Government sufficiently large to overcome the opposition of obstructionists and elements opposed to the Government, which, as you, Mr. Chargé d’Affaires, cannot be unaware, have frequently reduced our houses of Congress to legislative inertia.

His Excellency the President offers the assurance that he will withhold no effort to secure the co-operation of the leaders of the opposition who, in view of the majority above referred to, will not be able to ignore or resist the forces of the Government, and may prefer to actively co-operate in putting through a work in which all citizens are so deeply concerned.

With reference to the offer to which Your Honor refers, to send a Commission to Cuba to assist in the supervision of the elections, the President regrets not being able to accept it, not only because he does not believe it necessary, expedient or advisable, but that, on the contrary, it would be a disturbing and unsettling element, since its acceptance would seem to indicate a lack of confidence in the reasonableness and good sense of the Cuban public, of which they are able, by themselves, to give conclusive evidence, and the opposition party would see in this measure an expression of lack of confidence in the Government.

Complying with the instructions of the President, I can assure you, Mr. Chargé d’Affaires, that this is the purpose, and it will be carried out, both in regard to the taking of the new census, the drastic and rigid correction of the electoral lists and the reform of the Electoral Law, so far as needed, all in accordance with the message above cited, and that which will be addressed to Congress at the opening of the Legislature, the President being confident that the Presidential Elections will take place with all the guarantees necessary.

His Excellency the President informs me that he is in sympathy with the movement, and in order to prepare public opinion for this important work, Dr. Ricardo Dolz, the leader of the Conservative Party, in his address to the Executive Committee of that political [Page 6] group, delivered on the evening of the 15th of this month, explained clearly the standard and aim to which this party must give its most emphatic support. For a better understanding of the above the entire text of his discourse is appended hereto.1

I renew [etc.]

Pablo Desvernine
  1. Not printed.