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

No. 722

Sir: Supplementing my despatch No. 712 of May 29, 1931, I have the honor to transmit herewith memorandum of my conversation with President Machado of May 28.

Respectfully yours,

Harry F. Guggenheim

Memorandum by the Ambassador in Cuba (Guggenheim)

On Thursday, May 28, I lunched with the President at his finca. He discussed everything but the political situation for about an hour before lunch. During lunch, at which two of his Aides and Senator Fernández were present, the President touched casually on some recent political events. In regard to the press, he mentioned that he had come to the conclusion that the only thing to do with the press was to let it enjoy the same freedom as it did in the United States, regardless of what it might say; at the present moment in Cuba the press is completely free.

After lunch, when alone with the President, I asked him what decision he had reached following my last conference with him. He said, “I have decided to carry out the constitutional reforms. During those days in which I am the quietest, I am working the hardest. In the past few days I have had several meetings for the purpose of carrying out these Reforms. There have been innumerable reform plans proposed and a ‘ponente’, Juan Rodriguez Ramirez, has been [Page 63] appointed to consider the different plans. He, together with Hernández Cartaya and Averhof, has been considering the various proposals and I hope to have a plan following very closely the Cortina ideas.” I asked him whether his plan would include the four year term for Senators. He said that he was still working on this question; that he had been unable to get the support of the Senators for this curtailment, but would continue his endeavors. I reiterated my plea that the only way he could hope to get the support of the country and the newspapers, even if not the opposition, to a reform plan would be to carry it out in a thoroughly sincere and unselfish manner; I thought that the public would require adequate sacrifices on the part of the Senate, in addition to a national cabinet. The President referred to the various proposals for a modified parliamentary form of government and said that he felt sure that the United States would not be in favor of Cuba’s adoption of such a measure. I told him that my Government felt that this was a question for the Cubans to work out in their own way; that my personal opinion, as expressed to Cortina, was that it would seem to be the part of wisdom to place such safeguards on their parliamentary system so that the Government would not fall more than a few times—say, during a four year period. I made to the President the same suggestion that I gave to Cortina several weeks ago—that when the President’s reform plan is finished, which I assumed would be in the form of a message to Congress, he call together representative elements of the Cuban people including the press and the opposition as well, and request them to cooperate with him in putting through the reform plan, those elements which would cooperate to be represented in the national cabinet. However, I pointed out that unless the plan were aboveboard and politically generous, such an appeal to public opinion would probably be useless.

I told the President that I would be very glad to hear more about his proposed plan as soon as completed, which he promised would be within a few days.