The Ambassador in Cuba (Guggenheim) to the Secretary of State

No. 513

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of political events during the past week:

In addition to the newspapers closed on January 9, 1931, by Executive Resolution, several other journals have now been suspended, including Siboney, a third rate Habana Liberal daily, which the President informed me had been suspended on account of violent and indecent personal attacks that he could not countenance upon his political opponent, General Menocal; Independencia, of Santiago de Cuba, and two or three minor provincial papers. There is yet no indication as to when these newspapers will be permitted to resume publication although considerable credence is attached to a rather persistent report that their suspension will continue until a new Press Law, now in preparation, has been enacted.

The Government has taken further vigorous steps to ensure the maintenance of public order. As reported in despatch No. 507 of January 14, 1931,6 a decree has been promulgated7 placing all members of the armed forces on continuous active service and endowing each and every soldier and sailor with the attributes of an officer of the law.

On January 9, the President appointed a Committee of Public Order, composed of the Secretaries of Government and War and Navy and of high military and police officials, and empowered under the provisions of the Law of Public Order of 1870, which law is in full force and effect during the suspension of constitutional guarantees, to carry out measures for the prevention of disorders and other subversive activities.

The following day, the Subsecretary of Government announced that the male parents of minors engaging in subversive activities would be punished by enforced removal of their domicile to a point 120 kilometers distant from their actual place of residence, under authority derived from the provisions of the Law of Public Order and Article 41 of the Constitution.

In order to discourage further disorderly demonstrations in the vicinity of the Presidential Palace, of which there were several during the week ended January 10, the Commandant of the Palace police issued instructions to his subordinates to make free use of their firearms whenever occasion might appear to warrant it.

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Whether because of the suppression of the anti-Government press or due to the extraordinary measures adopted by the authorities, there have undoubtedly been fewer surface indications of serious unrest during the last 6 days. This also appears to be true of the situation in the provinces judging by the absence of consular reports to the contrary.

The sugar grinding season began on January 15 and it is hoped that the resulting decrease in unemployment may exert a tranquilizing influence. There is, however, considerable apprehension that the prevailing anti-Government sentiment may find expression in the wholesale burning of standing cane and the authorities have announced that every possible measure will be taken to protect the cane fields from incendiarism.

There has been no satisfactory progress in the conciliatory negotiations referred to in my telegram No. 3 of January 8, and Ambassador Ferrara8 who has acted as intermediator returned to his post on January 15 without being able to bring the President and the leaders of the Opposition into accord.

Senator José Manuel Cortina has taken Ambassador Ferrara’s place but the President has sent word to the Opposition that negotiations must be suspended until there is a calmer atmosphere in the capital. The Opposition questions the President’s good faith in this message.

According to information published yesterday in La Lucha, there were on that day 102 so-called political prisoners in the Habana jails. This is rather less than the generally accepted estimate which exceeds 200 and probably fails to take into account the persons incarcerated in the Cabañas military prison.


Harry F. Guggenheim
  1. Not printed.
  2. Decree No. 57, January 9, 1931, published in the Gaceta Oficial, January 10, 1931, p. 422.
  3. Orestes Ferrara, Cuban Ambassador at Washington.