Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Latin American Affairs (Morgan)

Conversation between President Coolidge and President Machado, Mr. Morgan interpreting, the Cuban Ambassador present but not participating.

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President Machado said that he sought this opportunity to lay before President Coolidge several ideas, not with a view to asking anything but simply because Cuba had always sought the counsel and help of the United States and had in every case profited by the advice and assistance of this country.

President Machado first touched upon the problem of Cuban sugar and pointed out that the present preferential did not wholly protect Cuban sugar in the American market, emphasizing the fact that Santo Domingo sugar could be sold in the American market at the same price as Cuban sugar notwithstanding the preferential. He recognized the fact that this was a question which required considerable study and that perhaps no remedy satisfactory to all parties could be found immediately.

In reply President Coolidge said that the question of Cuban sugar and the needs of Cuba were already receiving consideration in this country. We realized the problem that existed and were disposed to do anything we could to help Cuba. He was by no means sure that an increase in the preferential rate would give a satisfactory result, it might only lead to more over production of Cuban sugar. President Coolidge also pointed out that any change in tariffs would have to have the approval of Congress, in fact it would probably require a new treaty which would have to be approved by both the Senate and House. Congress had not always, he said, shown itself disposed to enact the legislation which we wanted. He pointed out as an example the failure of Congress to change the law limiting the shipment of Cuban cigars by parcel post. However, President Coolidge said, he would have the Department of Commerce make a thorough study of the Cuban commercial treaty and the needs of Cuba in connection with her sugar industry and would then see what could be done.

President Machado then spoke of communistic agitation in Cuba and said that his Government had adopted the policy which he believed was the policy followed by the United States Government in dealing with agitators, they had deported certain ones who were of foreign nationality. Following this, said President Machado, certain labor agitators had come to the United States and addressed themselves to the American labor leaders criticizing and abusing President Machado and his Government.

President Coolidge said in reply that the American Federation of Labor was strongly opposed to communism; that if any agitators came from Cuba to favor the ends of communism they would meet with no sympathy from the American Federation of Labor. President Coolidge appreciated President Machado’s problem in dealing with communism and said that he had personally heard no criticism of President Machado and his Government and that he had the utmost confidence in the present Government of Cuba.

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President Machado then went on to explain in considerable detail the various constitutional reforms now before the Cuban Congress. He emphasized the fact that he did not desire to hold office any longer than was necessary to complete the reform work which he was now carrying out, and which he described in considerable detail. He did not want, he said, a reelection, he was absolutely opposed to the principle of reelection as much for himself as for others. He felt it essential that Cuba should have in its Constitution the non-reelection principle. Furthermore, he did not want an additional four years; he did not intend that the amendments as finally adopted should prolong his term for four years, but only for two. Two years he said were necessary for him to complete his work, and moreover it was absolutely essential that the next election in Cuba should be postponed that long. President Machado went on to explain how the amendment was to be submitted to the people for their approval.

In reply President Coolidge said that he had had no opportunity to study the amendments in detail and could not therefore offer an opinion as to their value or whether they were desirable or undesirable. He said that the United States has in Cuba, as Ambassador, General Crowder who is probably more intimately acquainted with Cuban affairs than any other American and who is, moreover, a warm friend of the Cuban people. If President Machado desired a friendly and impartial opinion as to the value of these amendments the President could only suggest that General Crowder would undoubtedly be glad to consult with President Machado and advise him in a friendly way on this matter. With regard to the general question of the amendments President Coolidge said that the United States felt that this was a question for the Cuban people and their Government to decide; that the United States only desired that the people of Cuba should have whatever Government and Constitution they themselves genuinely wanted.

President Machado then said that there was one other question which he wished to submit, not as President of Cuba, but simply as one friend speaking to another, and he wanted it distinctly understood that he was not bringing this forward in any way as a petition but simply as a thought which he believed merited the President’s consideration. The Piatt Amendment,19 President Machado said, was not injurious to Cuba, on the contrary it was a benefit to Cuba, all the Cuban people understood this; they had nothing to complain of in the way the United States had interpreted and acted upon the Piatt Amendment. Nevertheless, it was an undisputable fact that it did a certain amount of moral damage to Cuba; that [Page 528] certain nations continually charged Cuba with lacking complete sovereignty and independence, many of the nations which criticized Cuba, General Machado said, really enjoyed less independence themselves than Cuba did, but that did not make it any less embarrassing for Cuba. President Machado hoped that some day some modification of the Piatt Amendment could be brought about. He did not ask President Coolidge to do anything now or even to express any opinion, he simply wanted him to have this matter under consideration and some time before he left office turn it over in his mind and see whether he thought something should and could be done.

In reply President Coolidge said that as the Piatt Amendment was a part of a bilateral treaty and was, moreover, an integral part of the Cuban Constitution, it might really be considered as much Cuban as American, it was just as much a Cuban amendment as it was a “Platt” amendment. Nevertheless, the President said, he appreciated the situation of Cuba and the embarrassment caused by foreign criticism and he wished to say that the United States had no desire to force anything on Cuba which was unnecessary or detrimental to the interests of Cuba.

  1. See the Presidents message to Congress, March 27, 1902, Foreign Relations, 1902, p. 320; also the treaty between the United States and Cuba, May 22, 1903, ibid., 1904, p. 243.