The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Cuba (White)

No. 107


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There seems to be some question as to whether or not the Liberal Party understands that the Department of State has informed President Menocal that the Government has no intention to accede to the request of the Liberal Party for the supervision of the approaching elections. The Department deems it desirable to make this point clear to the citizens of Cuba as well as to bring to their attention the remedies prescribed by the election law for the inspection and recording of the difficulties which will inevitably arise during the next six months.

You are therefore instructed to send to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, a note in the following sense, with the request that it be transmitted to the President of Cuba, and by him given publicity:

“During the last few months the American Legation has received a number of complaints from members of one of the political parties of Cuba, asserting irregularities in the conduct of the election procedure.

In view of the character of these complaints and in view of the further fact that the Legation is likely to receive further representations from members of the different political parties of Cuba, it seems necessary to invite the attention of the Cuban people to the desirability of availing themselves of the remedies so clearly set forth in the Election Law.

The fact that criticism has been levelled, even in these early stages of the electoral process, at Your Excellency’s Government, recalls to mind that when the Liberal Party in 1919 requested American supervision of the approaching elections, it was deemed to be [Page 14] inappropriate to comply with that request, in view of the assurances given by the President of Cuba to the effect that a fair and free election would be held, and because it was felt that the electoral law provided processes which would enable Cubans themselves to investigate, ascertain the facts with reference to alleged irregularities and avail themselves of the procedure prescribed by law for their correction. To this end provision has been made in Chapter 14 of the electoral code for prompt investigations and findings in fact of all complaints against the electoral administration. Under Article 256, paragraph 3, the Central Electoral Board may delegate to one of its own members the duty of making an investigation of the graver charges.

It is not surprising that complaints and assertions of abuses should be made during the electoral period, but it is hoped that each such charge which is entitled to respectful consideration will be investigated promptly, so that, in the interest of fairness to the administration in power as well as to all national Cuban parties, the facts may be known. These charges should be made in writing, properly verified, under regulations to be prescribed by the Central Electoral Board of Cuba, under authority of Article 52 of the Electoral Code. These Regulations should establish the procedure necessary to make available, under ample safeguards, the provisions of Chapter 14 of the Code, to the end that ample opportunity shall be extended to all complainants to invoke the remedies provided in said Chapter.

In 1917 when my Government was confronted with the necessity of passing upon the legality of the conduct of the 1916 elections, there was a vast volume of charges but a startling lack of proof. It was this fact, as much as any other, which caused provisions for investigating and reporting upon irregularities and frauds to be incorporated in the new Electoral Law. Should the legality of the approaching election be similarly questioned, the authority required to pass upon it will be at a very great disadvantage unless each charge of unfairness has been promptly investigated under the provisions of Chapter 14 of the Electoral Law of 1919, and a finding of facts duly made.

It would appear to be unwise to delay such investigation and each offense should be looked into fully and reported upon accurately, immediately after the alleged commission of fraud, otherwise, witnesses will disappear and the difficulties incident to obtaining trustworthy evidence will be greatly increased.

The ability to judge of the fairness of the 1920 elections will depend very largely upon the faithful and opportune carrying out of the provisions for the prompt investigation of alleged unfairness or frauds, so liberally provided for in the new Electoral Law. Little consideration can be given to the assertions of one party against another unless such assertions are substantiated by proof obtained in the manner so clearly set forth in the law under discussion.”

Should President Menocal fail to make public the text of this note within a reasonable time, you will so inform the Department.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Alvey A. Adee