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

No. 2112

Sir: In the last paragraph of the Department’s instruction No. 970 of May 13, 1927, the Embassy was authorized, if consulted by the President, to discuss with him matters pertaining to the Bill of Amendments to the Constitution. I have the honor to report that General Machado indicated a desire to hold such informal discussion and that in pursuance of the authority granted him by the Department the Ambassador went over with the President and other officials called in, such as the President of the Senate, Dr. Vasquez Bello, the provisions of the legislation, care being taken to leave no doubt that no representations were being made but that the statements advanced were merely in the way of a friendly expression of opinion.

On May 29, in response to the request to the Ambassador of Dr. Vasquez Bello, immediately subsequent to General Crowder’s departure the Embassy confirmed its view point in a further discussion of the matter. At that time an informal memorandum bearing no indication of its source was left with the Senator in amplification of the conversation. The memorandum … ended with a resume of the Ambassador’s personal views as to what might constitute an acceptable and workable compromise upon modifications to the legislation. The eight points included under the latter heading as conclusions were:

  • “(1) A six year term for the President, with immediate reelection prohibited;
  • (2) A six year term for Senators with the Senate renewable in half portion every three years, or if unavoidable a nine year term with the Upper House renewed in third part every three years;
  • (3) A six year term for Representatives, the House to be renewed in half portions every three years;
  • (4) Six year terms for provincial and municipal elective officers, the provincial and municipal assemblies however to be renewed in half portion every three years;
  • (5) Representation in the Senate to be increased from four to six Senators per Province or to a total of 36.
  • (6) Basis of representation in House of Representatives to be cut down by one-half, or to be established on principle of one Representative to every 50,000 inhabitants;
  • (7) Prorogue of terms of all elective officers to be limited to the shortest periods in which transition may be made to the new electoral calendar and synchronization of terms thus accomplished; and
  • (8) In addition to the establishment of a Federal District in Habana all the major cities of the Republic to be given the city manager form of administration.”

The President of the Senate voiced appreciation of the Embassy’s courtesy and indicated that generally speaking he was in entire conformity with this point of view. He thought, however, that two of the points enumerated above would not be susceptible of exact incorporation in the bill but that they could be adopted in principle. These were points (2) and (6). Relative to point (2) he believed that it would be practicable to provide for nine year terms for Senators, the Senate to be renewable in third part every three years. The shorter term of six years would, in his estimation, meet opposition because it would actually cut the terms at present in force—eight years. More or less the same argument was advanced concerning the suggestion that representation in the Lower House be based on one member for every 50,000 instead of one member for each 25,000 inhabitants. The adoption of such a prescription would, of course, vacate the seats of a large number of present Congressmen and naturally lose support in the House for the bill. He, however, thought it could be managed to adopt the 50,000 to one ratio for the future.

Shortly after the conversation alluded to a Committee of Senators began earnest discussion of modifications to the Constitutional Amendment Bill. Conferences were also had with a joint commission from the House and Senate in order to reconcile differences of opinion between the Chambers. As a result the Senate Committee has drafted and reported an altered form of the Bill as transmitted herewith in original and translation,16 which will come up for debate in the Senate in the immediate future. I believe that the new Bill is very much more acceptable than the old measure though the prorogue provisions are subject to widespread popular disapproval. …

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I shall naturally closely follow developments relative to the Bill of Constitutional Amendments and report thereon promptly to the Department, especially keeping in mind, should the redraft measure be adopted by Congress, the considerations in which the [Page 525] Department manifests an interest in its instruction under acknowledgment relative to compliance with legal methods in placing the measure before the people for their approval or rejection.

I have [etc.]

L. Lanier Winslow
  1. Not printed. The Spanish text is published in Diario de la Marino, June 9, 1927.