839.00/2749: Telegram

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

55. With reference to your telegram 39, October 5, 5 p.m., in regard to suspicions [suspension] alcaldes pedañeos. Conference with Provisional President contained in a letter from the Minister of the Interior to the President and approved by the latter which is as follows: I consider it absolutely unwise to suppress or suspend the alcaldes pedañeos. For some time past the political leaders have complained of imaginary excesses committed by pedañeos. After careful consideration, however, by this party it developed that the only crimes committed by these men was that they were persuading their political friends to register. This was done by alcaldes [in?] all the different parties. There was not one case where it was proved that these acts were committed with force nor that the alcaldes prevented registration of any citizen of politics different from them. The Department of Interior and police in accordance with your instructions [Page 905]addressed a circular letter to the governors of the provinces in regard to the participation of officials in election matters and in order that there should be no criticism the alcaldes were forbidden to participate. Since then there has been no justifiable cause of complaint against the alcaldes. The suppression or suspension before the elections would surely result in much trouble. The alcalde is the only official that is feared by the country people and with the disappearance of his authority infractions of the law would multiply especially as the Government has not sufficient police to take the place of these rural officials. Three or four months ago the question of alcaldes was discussed at the American Legation and I proposed the issue of Executive order suspending alcaldes for 10 days prior to elections and this was approved by several of the Commissioners. At present I am absolutely convinced that this should not be done not only for the reason of the Commissioners above mentioned but because the purpose that the alcaldes take no part in the voting would be absolutely frustrated as they would still exert their influence with the country people and bring them to polls which is exactly what it is desirous to avoid. The opinion of Colonel Cutts is as follows:

“The available forces of the Dominican National Police are positively not sufficient to even attempt to police the sections now allotted to the alcaldes except on definite calls for assistance. They are hardly sufficient in numbers at present to perform the extra work called for by the elections. It is not considered that the relieving of the alcaldes would make any difference in political effect unless they are physically removed to [from?] their districts.”

The opinion of the Military Government is as follows:

“The alcaldes pedañeos will probably carry out their mission as a legally constituted body to make arrests under certain conditions and act as a factor in maintaining peace and order. This body of men were appointed honestly without regard to their political affiliation during the regime of the Military Government which selected them because of reliability. Since the advent of the Provisional Government I am led to believe that they have been carefully selected from those whom the appointing power considers reliable. Should the alcaldes desire to do any electioneering or to practice any undue influence in their sections it is my opinion that a suspension from office cannot prevent it. The suspension from office of this body of men will deprive the country of their services at a time when the Provisional Government will most need them to contribute to the success of the elections in a legal way. There is no replacement body to use during the period of their suspension. I cannot but feel that suspension of the alcaldes from office during this period will weaken the Provisional Government’s power to preserve order.”

Russell