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

No. 712

Sir: In conformity with the policy agreed upon in our recent conferences and embodied for my guidance in Assistant Secretary White’s “Memorandum of Policy in Cuba” dated May 19, 1931,24 I have the honor to report that since my return to Habana I have twice discussed the Cuban situation with President Machado and on both occasions alluded to the imperative necessity of finding a prompt and effective solution of the present political problem.

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With reference to the Department’s view in favor of the adoption of a plan including the reduction of the terms of Senators and Representatives adequate to satisfy public opinion, the President stated that as far as Congress was concerned, the reduction of the terms of Representatives to four years was feasible, but the ten year senatorial term could not be reduced to less than eight years. A long discussion followed in which the President refused to be convinced on this point and in the course of which he threatened to resign immediately and let the Army run the country, a threat which I do not think he had or has the slightest intention of carrying out.

This was on May 23. Yesterday the President invited me to lunch at his country place and our discussion was resumed. His attitude on this occasion revealed that he had undergone a change of heart, for he assured me that he would immediately propose constitutional reforms, appoint a “national cabinet,” and also use his influence to induce Congress to accept a reduction of terms to four years. I frankly do not know how much reliance can be reposed in this latter promise. The President’s control over Congress is not to be questioned, but the opposition of individual Senators under the leadership of the President of the Liberal Party, Clemente Vazquez Bello, to any reduction in terms of office and to the other constitutional changes that have been proposed, will undoubtedly furnish an obstacle that can be surmounted only with the greatest difficulty and one which might conceivably provide a convenient excuse for the President’s failure to secure the enactment of the necessary legislation.

I have had a few conversations with emissaries of the opposition in the course of which I explained to them that I could have nothing more to do with them unless they would put into writing what they will accept in the Cortina plan, and I sent word to this effect to General Menocal when it was intimated to me that he wished to continue conversations.

I see no present prospect of any agreement among the opposition leaders as to what they will accept. The Nacionalistas met the publication of the Cortina plan with a declaration that they would accept no solution which did not envisage the immediate retirement of the Government. They are undoubtedly encouraged to maintain this position by the hope that the Supreme Court will finally render a decision impugning the constitutionality of the amendments under which the Government and the majority of the Congressmen are now in office. Suits to determine this question were filed in the Supreme Court immediately following the decision regarding the legality of the establishment of the Federal District reported in the Embassy’s despatch No. 695 [696] of May 19, 1931.25

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In view of the attitude of the opposition, in my opinion the wise course for the Government to pursue will be on its own initiative to pass reform measures adequate to satisfy public opinion. This may possibly compel at least a part of the opposition to adopt a less intransigent attitude.

I am enclosing herewith memoranda of my conversations with the President and others regarding political matters from May 22 to May 26.26 A memorandum of the conversation which I had yesterday with President Machado will be transmitted at a later date.27

Respectfully yours,

Harry F. Guggenheim
  1. Not found in Department files.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. See despatch No. 722, June 8, infra.