The Minister in the Dominican Republic (Russell) to the Secretary of State

No. 722

Sir: I have the honor to forward herewith for the information of the Department a copy of the Quarterly Report of the Military Governor of Santo Domingo for the period July 1, 1921 to September 30, 1921.

I have [etc.]

William W. Russell

Quarterly Report of the Military Governor of Santo Domingo (Robison)

3227–21 L–RWR

Political Situation. There has been little change in the outward attitude of the Dominican people in their non-acceptance of the announced terms of withdrawal of United States Forces from the Dominican Republic as reported in reference (g)28 except that the [Page 850] volume of public protest has diminished somewhat, due partly to exhaustion of non-constructive criticisms and protests based on intentional misinterpretation of the terms of the Proclamation of June 14, and partly to the increase of distress in economical conditions occupying the people’s minds to the exclusion of other subjects. As stated in reference (g), Dominicans appeared dumbfounded by the issuance of the Proclamation of July 27th, announcing the intention of the United States Government to adhere to the terms of the Proclamation of June 14th, and postponing the announced elections indefinitely. The agitators considered that by this move they were deprived of their greatest opportunity to express their protest and non-acceptance by absolute abstinence from voting at the elections. Since the issuance of the last Proclamation responsible Dominicans have become convinced of the whole-hearted desire of the United States Government to withdraw from this Republic and they realize that the statements made in the Proclamation of July 27th puts the matter clearly up to them, in other words that the United States is now waiting and it is the Dominicans’ move. …

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

However, while still maintaining their attitude of non-acceptance, the three important political parties—Progresistas, Partido Nacional and Unionistas—have begun and are completing their organization and are putting their forces in readiness for elections in case a change in the Proclamation favorable to the interests of the Dominican Republic is made. In this connection it should be reported that the chiefs of the political parties and many responsible citizens have informed the Military Governor that they and probably all other responsible citizens realize the necessity of and concur in all the principles contained in the Proclamation of June 14th, but that they object to the wording of these terms in that their vagueness might give rise to a condition similar to that now existing in Haiti, this with reference only to the lack of a definite statement of the authority and responsibility of the Mission of American Officers for instruction of the Dominican National Police Force. After the reorganization of the political parties was well under way the Military Governor held interviews separately with the chiefs and important members of the political parties and the following transcript of notes from an interview with Mr. Federico Velazquez H., President of the Board of Directors of the Progresista Party is typical of all interviews:

“Mr. Velazquez was asked by the Military Governor to lend the cooperation of the Progresista Political Party in an effort to discourage and suppress banditry in the Eastern District and his opinion was asked on the advisability of the chiefs of all political parties sending communications to the local political committees, [Page 851] instructing them to advise their constituents not to encourage banditry in any way as a means of retaining national sovereignty and also to refrain from lending any moral or material assistance to the bandits and to cooperate and help the Military Forces, both Dominican and American, in this suppression. Mr. Velazquez expressed the opinion that the bandits on the whole were ordinary robbers and a bad element for the interests of the Dominican Republic, that they were using the National cause as a cloak for their malicious activities, that they should all be killed, that the best means of suppressing them was by a small nucleuses of Guardia and American forces cooperating with the Municipal Police and other Dominicans in each locality, that it was absolutely necessary to enlist the aid of Dominicans, but that he was doubtful as to the value of the cooperation of the political parties.

Mr. Velazquez was questioned as to the political situation at present and the chances of an early compliance on the part of Dominicans with the steps of the Proclamation. In return he asked if the Military Government was waiting for the Dominican people to announce their readiness for elections and he was shown the statement contained in the last Proclamation issued by the Military Governor to the effect that the elections were postponed until their success might be assured. In reply to a question he stated that all political parties were now reorganizing their forces but not with the definite idea of requesting elections under the present Proclamation without any modifications and he stated that, while he realized the necessity of all the principles of the Proclamation, he did not agree with the wording and thought that several modifications were necessary in order to preclude certain conditions which might exist under the present wording of the terms. One of these conditions, he stated, was the abnormal situation which might exist during the negotiations when there would be a duly elected Dominican Legislative Body functioning at the same time with a chief executive appointed by the American Government. He was informed that such a condition could not arise as the Military Government would continue in full force during all negotiations and a Dominican Congress would not function for any other purpose than the two duties expressed in the Proclamation. He was apparently satisfied with this explanation. Another objectionable point raised by Mr. Velazquez was the responsibility of the head of the Guardia appointed by the President of the United States as to whom he would be responsible to for his actions and whose orders he would obey. He considered it advisable that these two points be cleared up by a modification of the Proclamation. In reply to a question he stated that he did not believe the officers of the American Mission should be amenable to Dominican Courts but that they should obey the orders of the President of the Dominican Republic and be responsible to him to a certain extent for their actions. He was informed that all officers in the United States Military Service are responsible at all times to the United States Government for the consequence of their acts and their good behavior and that any disobedience to Dominican Laws or any improper performance of duty are offenses for which they would be tried by the United States Government by General Court Martial and that any complaints against the officers of the Mission might well be made by the President of the Dominican Republic to the American [Page 852] Minister and the American Minister in turn could make necessary reports and requests to the United States Government, that a Court Martial consisting of American Officers might easily be sent to this Republic for trial of any American Officer in the American Mission. He was further informed that the matter of authority and responsibility of the American Mission were subjects of instruction of the two governments to the negotiators to fix during their negotiations, that he might well feel assured that the United States Government would send none but the highest type of officers to this Republic for instruction purposes, as the honor and the reputation of the United States and the Navy and Marine Corps would be involved. However, if the political chiefs considered that it was necessary that a specific statement be made to the effect that the American negotiators would be specially instructed as to the responsibility of the American Mission to be fixed in their negotiations, it might possibly be done, but that it was not considered essential by the Military Governor, and further that in carrying out the Proclamation and in the negotiation of a Convention good faith on both sides is essential. Mr. Velazquez stated that he was preparing a letter setting forth the objectionable points of the Proclamation but that he did not wish to publish it as he did not desire to increase the present difficulties and agitation. He was requested by the Military Governor to present his views on the Proclamation, setting forth at one time all points which lie thought should be cleared up.

In conclusion, Mr. Velazquez stated in answer to a question that if it was decided to hold elections it would probably require no more than two or three months for the political parties to be ready after the first notice of the election was made. He announced his intention to confer with General Horacio Vasquez, Chief of the ‘Partido Nacional’, concerning the points raised in the preceding interview.”

Note: In connection with the above interview, the Military Governor has received an authentic report that Mr. Velazquez has sent a written communication to his constituents stating that elections would probably be held in the near future and calling on all his constituents to support his party when called. He also expressed a personal greeting to the recipient with an additional request that he use all of his influence, which was known to be great, in his (Velazquez’) interest and in the interest of his party.

In all of these interviews the Military Governor has tried to emphasize the fact that participation in elections does not bind Dominican people in any way to the proposed Treaty terms, but they will be free to cease negotiations in case the negotiators find it impossible to reach an agreement, and pointed out that, as the Dominican Congress will be controlled by the party gaining the election, such party will be responsible to the Dominican people for negotiating a treaty favorable to the best interests of the Dominican Republic.

[Page 853]

The above seems to indicate a slightly changing attitude on the part of responsible citizens in favor of carrying out the terms of the Proclamation as the only means of regaining their national sovereignty and it is probable that they desire an excuse for a change of their announced intention not to vote. When the situation has developed more fully with the probability of an expressed desire of elections made by the political leaders, the Military Governor may be in a position to make certain pertinent recommendations as to a statement to be issued to exactly meet the requirements of the case but no action on the part of the United States Government is recommended at this critical time. In this connection the Military Governor wishes to emphasize the fact that he still remains firm in his conviction that no changes should be made in the principles of the terms of the Proclamation for the reasons that these principles are consistent with and absolutely essential to the proper discharge by the United States Government of its responsibilities in the Dominican Republic and for the additional reason, as indicated above, that all responsible Dominican citizens realize the necessity of and concur in these principles. However, there are certain facts in regard to the present situation that must be constantly borne in mind; the present distressing economical conditions in the Dominican Republic with constantly diminishing government revenues does not make control of the government attractive to the Dominican politicians at the present time; the balance of power between the three important Dominican political parties is such that no one party can win an election and each party realizes that success can only be assured by its coalition with another party; the change of any wording of the Proclamation or the issuing of any statement in regard thereto will certainly meet with Dominican distrust and protest unless such statement or change is in accordance with the wishes of leading and prominent Dominicans here or unless they have been prepared in such a manner that its proper reception by the Dominican people has been assured.

The Military Governor is cooperating with the American Minister and trying to keep constantly in touch with the Dominican viewpoint and attitude in his endeavor to persuade the Dominican people to take the first step towards complying with the Proclamation. He renews his former recommendation that patient adherence by the United States to the terms and principles set forth in the Proclamation of June 14, 1921, is the surest means of reaching an agreement. The Military Government is in readiness to call and hold a fair election at any time that the Dominican people may desire to vote, all of the preliminary work having been done.

  1. Report of Aug. 3, 1921, from the Military Governor to the Secretary of the Navy, p. 844.